back to article Sexy is as sexy does: UK.gov struggles with sexualisation

Last week saw a series of announcements from the government and others on sexual matters. These were intended as usual to protect children, but have mostly served only to highlight the eagerness of politicians to buy into the infantilisation of adult culture, rather than do anything that shifts responsibility for child behaviour …

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  1. Gordon is not a Moron

    I don't believe it

    I found myself agreeing with 'Call me Dave' Cameron on something. People need protecting from Lily Allen, and the sooner she is stopped the better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      nuke her from space

      It's the only way.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely not

    "and government opting for (sexy) presentation over evidence-based research"

    Isn't this the basis of modern politics, while we wait for Simon Cowell to become our supreme leader and introduce X-factor approach to all things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      X-Factor politics?

      You mean voting for things you like? That would be quite a departure from the current trend!

      Actually, all hail Cowell and his democracy-defending ways!

  3. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    Remember, Nanny Knows Best!

    Now don't you worry your pretty little heads about all this dirty filth and smut out there, Nanny's going to wave her magic legislative wand and make it all go away!

    And don't worry that other people might get caught by this, obviously they're just perverts who obviously can't be trusted and we'll be getting around to them soon...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lul wut

    "Changing attitudes will take time but it is essential if we are going to stop the sexualisation which contributes to violence against women and girls."

    Does it contribute to violence against women and girls? I'd like to see some proof, I rather suspect there is none.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    And of course...

    the biggest influence of all is parents treating their little darling as a barbie doll and telling thme how wonderful and sexy they are and how to pose for the camera, let alone entering them in beauty pagents and pushing modelling as a career.

    Then there is also the issue of parental example?

    Anonymous 'case some of my rellies may recognise themselves.

  6. Chris Hatfield

    Restricting the sales of lad mags is INSANE

    An excellent article. I loved the comparison with Dr Linda & her "glamarous" site.

    If you walk through Amsterdam, pr0n is everywhere. S3X is written in 5 foot neon signs. Still, families walk through and NO-ONE BATS AN EYELID. The Dutch have among the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.

    It's very interesting how Alan Johnson rejects ACTUAL REAL science e.g. Professor David Nutt's findings vs this tripe.

    When I was a young lad I had a healthy interest in things like Loaded and FHM. I am not now a woman-beater.

    On Friday, I was amazed to hear every single news bulletin mention this retarded "independent" research.

    (oh and another thing: Even if lads mags are restricted, there's the internet. Young lads will find jugs there instead.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      More than just jugs, too

      I mean if you don't want your kids looking at bare breasts fair enough.

      But forcing them into a realm where you'll find anal double fisting and CBT just as easily as pictures of bouncing boobs probably isn't the way to do it. And those are now illegal as well, aren't they?

      AC so I don't have to delete my internet history

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Linda Papadopoulos

    psychological advisor to Big Brother - now there's credibility if ever there was

  8. Paul 4
    Joke

    Ye but...

    I'd still do her. And that Biron woman too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Joke?

      It ver troof innit? I would too. What a babe

    2. Rattus Rattus

      Really?

      I sure as hell wouldn't. She's not remotely attractive. She looks kinda scary, actually.

  9. Alpha Tony
    FAIL

    Big. Fat. Pffffft.

    Don't get me wrong - I tend to agree that children are growing up too fast these days. They become fashion conscious far earlier than we ever did - The pressure is on them almost from the start to stop being children and start being little adults (ie consumers). I don't think anyone could say this is a good thing (apart from the companies selling designer crap).

    This pressure on kids to grow up inevitably leads to their becoming sexually aware (and even active) far sooner than they would otherwise.

    Having said all of that, the government and the media need to stop trying to blind us with pseudo-science. There seems to be a dangerous belief that if something is considered undesirable it is justifiable to use half-truths and shaky statistics in condemning it. All this does is undermine the argument that you are trying to make and the public’s understanding and trust of science altogether. (see: Climate controversy, government drug policy etc. etc.)

    For example Dr. P's statements last week that there was a 'clear and proven link between sexual imagery and violence against women'. Horseshit is there. No such link has ever been proven. It’s difficult to imagine how you COULD even prove something like that conclusively. .. But that doesn’t stop her from making the claim and then all the newspapers and politicians repeating it.

    This sort of bollocks is actually dangerous because it erodes the public’s trust and understanding of science and leads to potentially tragic results, like the MMR vaccination hoax.

    1. Richard 81
      Thumb Down

      We've seen it all before.

      It's like the link between prostitution and human trafficking.

      - Get asked by politician who believes something is wrong, to provide statistics on just how wrong it is.

      - Collect data on the real problem

      - Bend the data to fit the politicians beliefs

      - Get paid

      - Rinse

      - Repeat

    2. Captain Save-a-ho
      Troll

      Link between sex and violence

      As I understand current neuroscience, there is a functional link in the brain between both, as they originate from the same region of the brain (Frontal Lobe). The trick is that the Frontal Lobe is responsible for a lot of our brain functions where decision-making is concerned, which is really the issue. Your assessment is correct, in that any link between sex and violence does not indicate one leads to the other. The link occurs because most people derive pleasure from both, which sounds contradictory but in fact just indicates the base need that humans have for both. The "dopamine" link between sex and violence does not mean that one leads to the other. On the contrary, one can be a substitute for the other because of that need to "feel good".

      I found this discussion by an M.D. to be useful in brushing up on the subject...

      http://publications.cpa-apc.org/media.php?mid=681&xwm=true

  10. Mike Bell
    Big Brother

    Move Along, Nothing New

    Anyone who wants to know where we are going should re-read George Orwell's 1984, in particular his references to the Junior Anti-Sex League. These ideas were thought about sixty years ago.

  11. Robert Ramsay
    Pint

    Please...

    ...could we just get rid of *all* marketing?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    @Chris Hatfield

    > I am not now a woman-beater

    .... so when did you stop?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So then Chris says

      "No, I didn't stop, I..."

      "So you ARE still a woman-beater! And a liar to boot! BURN HIM!

  13. Dougle
    Megaphone

    It's everywhere

    What if they read a dictionary and find all the sexy words in there, with a graphic description!!! burn them!! (the books not the kids)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    Have you ever noticed on most of these reviews,....

    The practicioner is nearly always a woman (or a man who hasn't gotten wood since the war) and the target of blame is your average white male?

    I'd start a liberation movement for the equal representation of men in psychological studies (and amongst news-readers!) but all the potential catchy names have been taken by groups of male strippers and disgruntled fathers. And I think calling it "Fight Club" might just play into their hands,...

    1. Velv
      FAIL

      The first rule of Fight Club is.... ?

      The SECOND rule of Fight Club is....

  15. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!
    FAIL

    And the Tories wonder why they are losing their lead....

    Lilly Allen's albums (on Amazon, anyway - I guess they'd be the same @ HMV?) is labelled "Explicit" against every track. Which is basically saying "look, this isn't suitable for kiddies".

    Well, gee - aren't you Parent Of The Year, Dave? You see something marked "unsuitable for children" and decide to make a press release to the effect that you don't think it's suitable for children? And I thought NuLab made some stupid press releases.

    1. Adam Foxton

      And Grand Theft Auto too

      After over a decade of people saying it's evil

      After Rockstar being publically dragged through the courts

      After the generally not-mum-friendly TV adverts

      After the warnings on the boxes

      After the box covers

      Parents will still buy their "little darlings" a copy.

  16. asiaseen

    Oh dear

    I must get my eyes checked. I read it as Dr P's "independent rearview"

  17. Connor
    FAIL

    Theories and Opinions Dressed as Facts

    I love the way that Government pays these psychologists obscene amounts of money to give us their opinions, which normally defy common sense, and then base legislation on it. Psychology is not science, it is all theory, theories that are then backed up by lopsided, small and generally meaningless 'studies'.

    Water boils at 100C, THAT is a scientific fact. Sexualistation contributes to violence on women and girls isn't a fact, it's an hypothesis. As is everything from the death penalty not being a deterrent for murder (yet the murder rate has tripled since its abolition) and that smacking children causes emotional harm in later life (despite the vast majority of older society functioning quite well having been smacked for decades).

    To demonstrate how meaningless psychology is, a study in the US found completely different results, that males were just as likely to be attacked as by females:- http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/feb10/univviol21210.html

    But it is in vogue here to blame it on the 'useless' men.

    1. Luther Blissett

      Fluid facts and meaningful science

      > Water boils at 100C

      Only for some people, specifically those not living up a mountain. It would of course be most inconvenient for gonzo reporting, discussing, policy making, etc to specify all the conditions under which any fact, physical, psychological, social, mathematical, etc, is the case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ yet the murder rate has tripled since its abolition

      Indeed. The proles just don't know their place anymore!

  18. lukewarmdog
    Badgers

    Over thinking

    The simple solution is to stop having kids.

    Then all of this goes away.

  19. Graham Bartlett

    Stop sexualisation of girls/young women?

    It's easy. Forget about banning men's mags - girls don't read them.

    No, ban *WOMEN'S* magazines. Cosmo, and the literally dozens of weekly mags which have cover stories like "I slept with my dead husband's grandad". The most a men's mag ever has is pics of unclad women on the front. But it's *women's* magazines that tell girls what to expect as an adult - and what those magazines describe is without exception a morals-free sexual free-for-all, with a bit of rape and violence thrown in. All written by women, aimed at women. And all with the message that as a woman, you're expected to be a sex object and/or the victim of male violence.

    Then add the fashion mags, with clothes modelled by pre-pubescent anorexics. All written by women (and gay men), aimed at women. Then add the celebrity magazines with headlines like "Britney's slob-out horror" when some girl's put on a few pounds and gone out without makeup. Mostly written by women, all aimed at women. All with the message for girls that unless you're an anorexic freak, you're ugly.

    If I had kids, I'd rather they read FHM, or even Nuts. The worst you'll get from there is the message that men and women are interested in sex, and it can be very very nice indeed. Oh, and that men mostly prefer women with natural-looking bodies, not anorexic freaks. And that men are mostly interested in fast cars, sports and shiny gadgets.

    1. Davey Bee

      Excellent

      Thx GB. One of the best posts in ages on El Reg

    2. LaeMing

      Couldn't agree more.

      THIS is the stuff that should be sold in brown paper bags from shops fronting back alleys requiring ID to get in. Not on every supermarket checkout. For the reasons stated by the OP.

  20. breakfast
    Megaphone

    Age of innocence

    Or we could just make sex more of an open thing and less of a secret mystery of prudery and prurience and not worry if children know what naked people are like because actually most people are naked under their clothes. It would be interesting to hear from some people with more of a background in developmental psychology or anthropology how children get by in societies where people tend to be naked or minimally dressed most of the time and whether this causes them all to be constantly emotionally scarred by it.

    This whole "SEX IS EVIL!!! LOOK AT ALL THIS SEX! SEE HOW EVIL IT IS!!!" approach that seems to have the majority of the media drooling and rolling their eyes like cartoon imbeciles at the moment is, I'm reasonably confident, not part of the solution.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mystery

      "What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?" - Chief Wiggum

  21. Dazed and Confused

    Evidence based research

    The problem with relying on evidence based research is that they keep finding evidence that does comply with current political objectives. This can not be accepted and we are therefore forced to cut their funding. Reducing funding leads to job losses amongst academics and the sorts of bad publicity our PR people tell us we don't need.

    So we have decided to avoid evidence as a basis for policy making.

    Since the statistics office have managed to get there own PR dept. and won't allow us to lie using stats, we have been forced to avoid statistics as the basis for policy making.

    This leads us to the most tried and tested approach. Personal prejudice and out right jealously.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    age restictions

    I'm sure when I grew up there were age restrictions on the sale of top shelf magazines. I'm sure the limit was 18 back then. Didn't seem to make much difference. I suppose I was 12 when I first went down to the big Smiths in the High Street with an older mate (13) to go shopping. The grey haired lady behind the counter just smiled knowingly at the two of us and said "Would you like a paper bag for that?"

  23. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    In a very Sid James' manner...

    Phwoarrrr!!!!!

    I tend to instantly forget whatever comes out of her mouth the instant she speaks it and all I can generally think about is getting my hands on Dr Paps baps.

  24. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Serious journalism

    Hopefully these rules will only apply to ordinary people ?

    Real journalists from Mr Murdoch's red topped mighty organ will still be able to publish pictures of Samantha 16, and her opinions on important topics of the day.

  25. Joe K
    Big Brother

    Genie is out of the bottle

    I find it hilarious that they think kids can be prevented from seeing a nipple till they are 18, if enough legislation is thrown around.

    Every phone, every games console, nearly every mobile device, including the itouch/phone, can instantly go right on the internet for unlimited hardcore of every type.

    Yet lets continue to waste millions on Ofcom monitoring those phonebabe channels for the occasional nipple/muff, and drag our culture over to the puritanical American style.

    I though we were European?

  26. John Ozimek

    The problem with this "research"

    The main issue i have with the research in point is that it doesn't actually seem to prove three central planks of its argument.

    1. children are more sexualised now than they were in some theoretical golden age. Hmmm. As opposed to 20 years ago when 12 as a marriageable age was the norm in rather more states than it is now? Or in the days of good old Queen Victoria, when child prostitution was rife?

    Or the 1930's, when the incidence of incest amongst pubescent children was a good deal higher than we believe it to be now on the grounds that large families often shared a very small number of beds and bedrooms. Nah. I'd say that the starting point is "not proven".

    2. There is a direct link between this alleged sexualisation of children and images in popular culture. Again, very tempting as theory - but very little direct evidence out there to show this one way or another: and the same prob exists when it comes to showing links between violence and imagery or rape and imagery.

    You can easily show that people claim to be desensitised: but there are few if any decent studies that demonstrate their claim actually translates into real behavioural change.

    3. The best way to stop "this sort of thing" is through government regulation. Not even researched, as far as i can see: although there are strong counter-arguments that what we consider to be sexualisation is actually the commercialisation of sex and the way that government sets up regulation of this area transfers power from small producers to big commercial enterprises...thereby re-inforcing the prob its aiming to solve.

    Oh, yes: as for dictionaries...i learnt (ancient) Greek and Latin at school. I still remember, as a smutty school boy, looking up rude words in the Greek to English dictionary...and finding them not so much translated as obfuscated by the use of latin terms like "pudenda" (literally: things to be ashamed of).

  27. JeffShortland
    Thumb Up

    I like breasts.

    Whats so bad about that?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Can't believe it

    Another yank worshipped by the British media and political class who clearly is a fraud in real terms, whatever her American qualifications. Looks and sounds like yet another yank on the make in a credulous UK that is unable to hear past the accent or realise the cultural and mental differences. Can we drop the cultural/linguistic/etc. cringe and go back to being British, N. European and proud of it?

    As said by others, it is clear common sense. Just cut out the pressure to make children into pubescent young adults and the pressure on adults to dress, behave and talk like pubescent teenagers. Let those teenagers be pubescent and grow out of it.

    Also as said, what evidence proves, not suggests, proves these links between whatever and violence or, for that matter, excessive goodness?

    As for the government ministers etc., bearing in mind the complete lack of relevant experience and the drive for self publicity amongst most of them, why do the papers even bother to report their existence, let alone their views? They have been shown to be able to do incredible harm to society and to freedom any number of times. The evidence for the ability to do good in recent times is rather thin.

    One does wonder why, with all the serious researchers around, they chose an American, television/entertainment magazine type to do serious research in Northern Europe.

    1. Pablo
      Grenade

      Hey!

      Don't blame this one on us, she was born in Canada can earned her PhD in England!

  29. Luther Blissett

    Hair in the yperreal

    It's just a bit surprising the blame is not being laid on airbrushes, since we all know that it's guns that kill people.

    Once upon a time airbrushes were what kept pubic hair out of public view everywhere except designated sites (art galleries). Now that pubic hair is out of public view even on public viewing occasions, the airbrush has gone hyperreal, it's prime application being as before to render the unaesthetic innocuous. But in this case what I have just called "unaesthetic" covers politicians and advertising models. This echoes points made above, if arrived at from a different direction.

    +1 to Graham Bartlett's proposal to ban womens magazines. I would go further and ban rape as a crime - I challenge anyone to conceive a situation in which rape is not ipso facto assault, and therefore could be prosecuted under one or other of the range of crimes covering tresspass to the person. I would also point out the concept of "psychological GBH" is a legally established one for the purpose of sentencing.

  30. Aaron Em

    Less sexualized? Not hardly.

    "...a future in which children may be slightly less sexualised..."

    Most child molestation happens at home. I can understand why politicians, with both their institutional cowardice and their personal propensity to be given to levels of cravenness which would put a teacup poodle to shame, do not wish to address that problematic fact, but if we're really talking about how to bring about a future in which children don't tend to have, you should pardon the phrase, more intimate working knowledge of sexuality than most of their elders, then that's the place we should start.

  31. Britt Johnston
    Boffin

    causes of precocity

    Mobile phones are contributing at least as much as sexualisation to the demise of modern youth.

    If proof is needed, can I have a grant please?

  32. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I'm reporting that Madonna costume to the Cones Hotline (going back a bit!)

    Lad mags ought to be on the dirty top shelf, we all know what they're for. Except for football titles like MATCH and (unless it now means something different) SHOOT. And, yes, some of the women's magazines should be restricted too. I think they make most of that stuff up anyway.

    Pop videos with sexual poses, I think that's... all of them...

    But let's DE-commercialise sex for adults, and for under-age-x, whatever x is, have it be something to look forward to, not to get a head start on.

    And don't snigger like that.

  33. Maty

    lad's mags?

    In the interest of research, I popped over to the Cosmopolitan website to see this month's magazine offerings.

    The Cosmo bachelor search, sexy beauty secrets and bedroom blog are well featured. Sex position of the week is apparently 'Magic mountain' which er ... bangs on about 'the mischievous thrill of doing it doggy style'. With pic, for those ladies unable to grasp the concept.

    This is of course about modern women becoming confident with their own sexuality. Nothing like that revolting porn consumed by human animals with testicles.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "5 minutes with Dr Linda"

    Yeah, baby.

    That site is so sexed-up.

    How can that lady keep a straight face?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hogwash

    This is garbage on nearly every level.

    1. Just because a person dresses in a sexy way, and wears lipstick, does not "sexualize" them. And even if they do not dress in a sexy way, my mind can "see through" their clothes and sexualize them how ever I can image.

    2. Kids are sexual beings. You can't hide the fact that kids have genitals, boys get erections from the earliest ages, and teenagers are raging rampant hormone-filled lust monsters.

    3. Childhood is all about growing up. Wearing your mum's make-up, making willy jokes, and pretending you know what shagging means. The failure is the adults, who are too embarrassed to explain anything.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actual harm

    If adults were genuinely concerned about the well-being of kids, the government would ban smoking and drinking anywhere in sight of a child. Today, you can legally smoke in your car with your children suffocating in the back.

    Alcohol and tobacco kill at least 40,000 people each year, and I suspect the next generation will not much different.

    Education, education, education. Alcohol, drugs, tobacco and sex.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    They'd do better by de-sexualising little girl's magazines

    It's somewhat disturbing to see how the magazines aimed at pre-pubescent girls are heavily sexualised. Most covers scream lurid headlines along the style of 'Are you a great kisser?', ' How to get any boy you want', etc. Is it any wonder we have 12 and 13 year old girls dressed and acting like wannabe hookers when these magazines are giving step-by-step guides to french kissing and hand-jobs?

    Paris, cos, well.........

  38. myhandle

    Do you find yourself start to resent the whee ones

    Over time, the people who don't have children themselves and perhaps some that do will start to look at children with disdain as they start to represent the excuse used to fuck with all of the reasons and freedoms that make adults like being adults.

    I can't see the resulting trend doing children any favours.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would be me you're referring to

      Frankly, neither seen nor heard.

  39. John Ozimek

    Fact Alert

    I do believe the good doctor is of cypriot canadian descent...not american. unless the person suggesting that was speaking in continental terms.

  40. myhandle

    GB's post is right on the money

    Loved the bit about women not reading men's magazines. Funny thing is the that's sexy psych girl is a regular on Cosmo.

    And yeah, I'd do her as well, she's so sexy and hot. Though I'd have to put a tinfoil hat on her head to protect her evilness from distorting me.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Finally had to go take a look at her!

    Either she's cross-eyed, or I am....

    1. Captain Save-a-ho
      Coat

      No problem with the eyes

      That's what we like to call a one-bagger, mate...

      Damn, where is that coat?!?

  42. Tim Almond
    FAIL

    Byron Review

    I was prepared to hit the Byron Review hard after reading some of the headlines about it, but actually it struck me as a report which tried to take a serious look at all the evidence surrounding video games and the threats on the internet. On video games, for instance, Byron concluded that the evidence was pretty shaky about links with violence in the real world.

    This, however, is utter trash. There are links to groups like the Parents Television Council which was founded by a man who was part of the Buchanan for President campaign. There's a quote about pornography which says:-

    “…men are still encouraged through most pornographic materials, to see women as objects and women are still encouraged much of the time to concentrate on their sexual allure rather

    than their imagination or pleasure.”

    This references "Walter, 2009". You might think this is some academic report which had studied this, right? Wrong. It's by Natasha Walter, the feminist writer in an opinion piece in The Times.

    The evidence seems to have been mostly taken from feminist groups like Object and the White Ribbon Campaign.

    It's a report that's exactly what Harperson would want.

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