Summary by Emerald O’Brien
Emotional grooming is not limited to human relationships. Media messages are grooming many teens and some adults. The goal of any con game is to manipulate, persuade, or coerce someone into doing what the groomer wants.
Many advertisers and media executives admit that they’ll do whatever it takes to get and keep your attention. A high-ranking Abercrombie and Fitch popular pre-teen and teen clothier and magazine mogul commented to The New York Times, “I pay little attention to the critics who feel that youth ought to be locked in boxes until they’re 50. All I care about is the target audience and how that person is feeling at the moment.” The 1999 holiday “Naughty and Nice” issue included nudity, descriptions of sexuality, and an interview with a porn star. Another Christmas edition included a picture of four girls in bed with a young man holding up his boxers. Other issues have included photos of a nude female, breasts exposed, embraced behind by a naked man, and a lesbian couple kissing at their ”wedding” (Plugged In magazine December 2001)
The AMA reports that, in one year, the average child spends about 1,500 hours in front of the television compared to 900 hours in school. Teens are exposed to an estimated 3K ads a day and 65% of teens have a TV in their bedroom. 15K sexual references, allusions, and jokes. Only 170 of these will deal with abstinence, birth control, STD’s or pregnancy. According to an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, teens are learning that the pursuit of sex is relentless and exploitative. Sex is often portrayed as nothing more than a sporting event that amounts only to innocent fun with no emotional or physical consequences. The harmful effects of such prolonged exposure to “erotic media leads teens to:
- Accept the perception that “everybody’s doing it.”
- Lose hope in sexual exclusivity,
- View promiscuity as the “natural state.”
- View sexual inactivity as a health risk.
- Become cynical about love.
- Believe that one can achieve superior sexual pleasure without affection toward your partner.
- View marriage as confining.
- View having and raising a family as unattractive.
(D. Zillman, Influences of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents and Young Adults’ 2000.)
Why do media and advertisers target teens? Consider these numbers: According to the U.S. census, there are nearly 42 million 10-19-year-olds in the U.S., the largest generation ever. (https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/facts-and-stats/changing-face-of-americas-adolescents/index.html) Teens spent an estimated $105 billion and influenced their parents to spend another $48 billion. 34% of teen purchases are clothing, and another 22% approximately, $30 billion is spent on entertainment. Today’s teen population has a large amount of disposable income.
Media conglomerates know this and purposefully target this money. Teens literally are buying the lies. (Strassburger and Donnerstein, Children, Adolescents, and the Media; Issues and Solutions, Pediatrics Journal, 1999.)
How can we counteract Media Messages?
- Take every opportunity to tell youth and model for them, your values and beliefs regarding the purpose of friendship dating, marriage, and sex.
- Teach youth that the best preparation for marriage and family is learning friendship skills, how to be a good friend, and how to have healthy boundaries.
- Pay attention to what kinds of media your youth are consuming and do your homework, listen to their music, look up song lyrics, watch their TV shows, preview videos. Say “no” to inappropriate media.
- Teach youth critical thinking skills that enable them to evaluate media and compare media messages about sex, dating, and relationships to your family values. Create opportunities to watch TV, movie, or a music video together and practice critical reviews.
- Have teens look for and name any of the nine grooming tactics seen and discuss how these sexual con games would damage relationships in real life.
We can help youth learn the skills they need to enable them to think critically, reflect, and reject lies about sex. These skills will help them to create and maintain healthy friendships and good relationships. The kind of relationships that promote respect protect innocence, value purity, and dignity.
It is so hard to find anyone talking about this, to the point that when I type in “sexual grooming in the media” some of the first search “hits” are about how to lose your virginity. I want to thank you for actually bringing this up, but I also want to point out that you have barely begun to notice the tip of the iceberg. One reason for this I think is because the article is millennial focused. I say this because you are talking about teens, and millennials were teens when this started getting bad. But if you are talking about today’s teens (article is from 2020), then you are too late. I am generation Z, myself, so hear me out. I recently came to the heart piercing realization that my entire generation was groomed by society at large (media, my own complacent parents, my own groomed peers) FROM BIRTH. I say from birth because we were inundated with sexual imagery in our own living rooms, with our own parents sitting idly by, ever since we could open our eyes and see a television screen. Why are you focusing on teens in this article? Our grooming started not with Abercrombie ads (though I do remember the giant half naked pictures of men and women embracing while trying on clothes in their changing rooms as a preteen), our grooming started with the “mild” sexual degeneracy that played out on TV BEFORE WE WERE EVEN IN GRADE SCHOOL. By the time I was in second grade, my friend had shown me porn. You clearly have no idea how bad it really is. My experience, come to find out, from talking to others is more representative of the general population than you would imagine. “Family values” always seemed like an afterthought, because in the grand scheme of things, they were! They were seen as vague concepts that were meant to sound nice and were not really what people believed, even if they say they did. No matter how much you talk about family values, your kids spend all day in a culture that is 4 generations out from the sexual revolution. Boomers never should have let the culture go down this road if they didn’t want their grandkids groomed from birth. After losing my virginity I remember feeling like I hadn’t lost my virginity because I felt the same. Now I realize I felt the same because I never even knew what it was like to truly be a virgin in the first place. I never knew a time when I was truly sexually innocent. How would I? Sex was literally everywhere I went for as long as I can remember, literally. Movies like “Chicago” were played on daytime television, I remember seeing that when I was about 4, and they actually played that movie at my middle school as a reward for those who got good grades, and this was in a so called “conservative” town. My mother noted one time she didn’t think I was paying attention or knew what it meant, so it was okay to have it on. There was no escaping it, I couldn’t even ride the bus to and from school without hearing blatant sexual vulgarity sung under a positive light over the radio. Sexual degeneracy WAS in fact the “norm”. As early as first grade, at a “nice” school, I remember boys trying to sneak a touch. And I’m not mad at them, they were groomed as well, we were all groomed and grooming each other. If you hear one thing, hear this: My generation had our innocence stolen before we were even old enough to remember having it. That is how bad things are. Please contact me if you want some insight to write an article that would actually help. No amount of what you are talking about will be even a drop in the bucket compared to the intensity of grooming we recieve. The scales will not even BEGIN to tip until a full cultural reformation happens, which will likely not come from today’s parents but from today’s victims. The first thing boomers and Gen X must do if they want to help is simply admit the extent of their flagrant negligence and complacency, and apologize out of true remorse and acknowledgement of their own part in it. Otherwise, any attempt to return to sexual purity will be seen as disingenuous, which it is.