Raging against the river
Gaga going for it.
Sexualisation of children, of women, of men - it gets a lot of coverage in the meeja, but lately, whenever I open my mouth to join the outraged masses, I suddenly feel like I've been transformed into a black and white newsreel caricature, standing outside an Elvis Presely concent with a silly placard protesting his pelvic-movements.
Now, this is not to dismiss what is a very real and possibly damaging issue, and it's one that certainly needs to be discussed often and at length with kids, but, really, what the hell can we do about it?
A couple of nights ago I gave a talk at Sydney's Ivy with sexologist Nikki Goldstein and, as she talked about the sexualisation of children and society, I had a vision of a lone figure standing in a raging river before being swept away.
Goldstein made some pertinent points about educating kids and we then moved on to different topics (what constitutes a slut, being one) but the thing that really resounded with me that night was just how futile it is fighting against culture.
Whether we like it or not, whether it's good or bad, whether it's damaging to children or it isn't, the "sexualisation of society" and of children is here to stay: it's our culture, just like violent movies and greedy politicians.
In his book The FBI Files on Elvis Presley, Thomas Fensch claims that, after a 1952 show in Wisconsin, an urgent message on the letterhead of the local Catholic diocese's newspaper was sent to FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover.
"Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States," read the letter in part.
Presley's "actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth ... After the show, more than 1000 teenagers tried to gang into Presley's room at the auditorium ... Indications of the harm Presley did just in La Crosse were the two high school girls ... whose abdomen and thigh had Presley's autograph."
You read that now and just have to laugh, but the concern and outrage expressed were just as sincere and futile as that of commentators nowadays decrying the latest lascivious music clip or advert.
Sure, you can shoot down the more egregious examples, such as this recent Roger David ad which has just been banned by the Advertising Standards Board because it presents a young woman as a sexual object and, possibly, a slave.
But really, there'll be another 200 ads pushing up against this envelope in the next year simply because it's who we are, it's culture, it's what we've become and most people under 30 have absolutely no issue with it.
I know that a lot of the sexualisation of young girls and boys disturbs me, but probably no more than Ben Gross of the New York Daily News who opined back in 1952 that popular music "has reached its lowest depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley ... Elvis, who rotates his pelvis ... gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos".
I also know I'll try to shield my children from what I can, but the best I'll be able to do is be honest with them about sex and sexuality, instil integrity in them and hope they can be smooth pebbles in the current of culture - let it wash over them, rather than be carried away.