My nine year old daughter just came back from a week of sleep-away camp. She came back swearing. She told stories of camp counselors doing the bump-and-grind during the camp dance. They watched sexy PG-13 movies on the bus to camp. As she talks to us about the little vignettes of her time there, there is overall a sense of a "party" atmosphere that is more appropriate for college kids than eight- and nine-year-olds. I am not sure what I expected, but I didn't expect this.
For years I've noticed that our culture has become more and more anesthetized to sexuality, and in particular I have noticed kids being exposed to stuff that just seems way too mature for them. When I see little girls in princess outfits doing hip-grinding moves on the dance floor at dance recitals and Club Med for kids shows including scenes from Cabaret and other adult films, it just seems Wrong. We don't do TV, but I catch it from time to time, and I can only imagine what it's like for a kid growing up watching what's out there. Somehow I am not surprised girls are reaching puberty earlier and earlier - being exposed to all this sexual energy has got to kick hormones into gear.
Is this really what we want for our kids? Aren't we confusing them? Are we doing right by them by providing absolutely no boundaries or guidance around this? Does anyone even care any more?
I hear myself, and I wonder, jeez, am I just being a prude? But I don't think so. I think there is a time and place for everything. Intuitively I sense that there is a sacredness to childhood, that you are in a certain place emotionally and otherwise, and that this is not the time to be exposed to sexuality.
One of the signs of a dynsfunctional family is kids being forced into adult roles - it is abusive and confusing for the child. This overexposure to sexuality feels like an form of sexual abuse -- boundaries are being crossed that should not be crossed and leave kids feeling more "adult" than they should.
What's upsetting is that many parents and adults in general don't seem to think much of it. It's not that they have explicitly chosen to expose kids to sexuality, they just don't seem to think much about it one way or the other. Whatever.
The sexual revolution of the sixties brought us a lot of great things. I think it's healthy for adults to talk about and experiment with sexuality. I think it's wonderful that people are learning not to be ashamed of their sexuality. But let's keep it with adults. I think the sexual revolution also has been misinterpreted by many into "anything goes" attitude, and I also think this is being taken advantage of by advertisers, musicians, and anyone else with something to sell to sell products through sex, and if it exposes kids to inappropriate sexuality, well, that's just collateral damage. And over time it's just becoming more and more the norm.
I don't have an answer, sometimes you're just in a sea of culture that is moving in a certain direction, and you just have to manage as best you can. But I do feel the need to say something, as in this case it feels like silence is a form of consent. I do live in this culture, but this aspect of it, I don't agree with.
And no, Ariel is not going back to that camp next year.