Sunday, 15 November 2009

The kids aren't alright...

So, sex education is to become compulsory after the age of 15. I am aware that this is now old news, but there have been many waves of opinion from various MPs, journalists, TV presenters, teachers etc.

My absolute favourite of these was Mary Wakefield's column in last Saturday's Independent. Now I usually am fairly tolerant of broadsheet columnists because their editors are generally cufflinked facists. But Wakefield has some rather interesting (read stupid) points to make as far as sex education in schools is concerned. I quote:

"Where's the need for sex ed in the 21st-century Britain? There's sex on movie screens, on billboards, in magazines; sex in pop songs trickling down iPod wires straight into auditory cortices of every sentient tot."

Ok, she has a point about sexual content being easily accessed, but that's as far as my agreement goes. With a culture that shifts at the pace ours does, there surely has to be the flexibility in a child's upbringing. It's just a fact of life now that children aren't as innocent as they were. They are exposed to unconventional things much earlier in life with the evolution of the family unit; divorce, same-sex marriages, step siblings. Of course it would be lovely if we could raise our kids as beautiful cherubs right up until they hit adolescence and THEN teach them how to live as an adult, but the truth is that kind of excuse just won't wash today.

I read a very interesting article in the Times, it's a long one so I'll just link it HERE. Dutch kids at the age of 12 display blase attitudes as they talk about anal sex, masturbation and the age of consent. They live in a place where the red light district isn't just a Saturday night cat-call, it's a way of life. So you'd expect there to be far more debauchery among their young, right? Wrong. They have the lowest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, with the average age of a teen losing their virginity being around 17. I don't need to remind ANYONE of the figures for Britain.

And look at the way we do things - parents would rather plonk their kids in front of Eastenders or Coronation St, where we see young actresses often portraying young mothers being glamourised in relevant awards shows with accolades going to the "sexiest soap star". I agree that parents should be wanting to protect their children from certain things, but I find myself right back at my previous point that times have changed, and I cannot stress that enough.

Children are impressionable. If they see an adult become awkward and protective at the mention of anything sexual, they are going to be even more confused about it, far more likely to avoid placing that adult in the same situation again, and god forbid they might actually want to approach a parent with a query about why they see big brother pitching a tent more often in the morning than any other time of day.

Knowledge doesn't mean action. Just because people might know how to fire a gun doesn't mean they're going to sod off and massacre a small town in rural England. Until we can sit down with children and treat them in accordance with the way our lives are led in the 2000's, there is still going to be debate on the soaring figures of teen pregnancies, STIs, and horrified broadsheet journalists' hearts breaking at the lost innocence of childhood.

Grow up, it's only sex.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Girls are no longer girls

Anyone who was anywhere near adolescence in the late 1990s will remember the girls pictured to the right. B*witched. One of the many pop acts of the 90s that make me smile whimsically when I see them, or hear them mentioned. While watching some old music videos recently, this one cropped up and it really did just strike me how different girl groups are just 10 years apart.

For example. Girls Aloud. Yeah, it was fairly inevitable that I was going to use them as the benchmark. While pop music isn't really my passion of choice, I do appreciate a good pop song and there's no doubt that Girls Aloud have had more than a few during their stint in the UK music scene. Clearly more of a longevity thing than B*witched. But my pang of sadness was for the lost innocence of girliness. Putting on your jeans, hanging out with friends, singing about tying boys up in treehouses (yes, bad analogy). Look at Girls Aloud.

I don't even need to post a picture of them, they're eponymous with sexiness, seduction and desire as far as a lot of people are concerned. Surrounding their pop careers is the unstable and delectable details of their personal lives, how they stay "skinny" and what footballer is flavour of the week. Magazines fawn over what they are wearing, how skimpy the outfits. I accept that times will evolve. Things change. But I can't get past the obviously sinister undertones of placing so much emphasis on physical appearance.

For example, Cheryl Cole's solo debut on the X Factor was nothing short of vocally weak. She sounded out of her depth, and I get the feeling that most X Factor winners would blow her out of the water. But she was hailed as a success, the leading line being "Cheryl looked hot..." or some other derivative of the stupidly tiny outfit she was wearing clinging to her rail-thin frame.

When B*witched performed on Top of the Pops, or SMTV live, yeah it was cheesy. But it was music. Four girls singing (or, ahem, miming) while jumping around having a bloody good time. But yes... now it's about the show. If you can mime, while looking smoking in a latex one piece, then you're practically halfway there. Doesn't help with halfwits like Simon Cowell being a fickle tart.

I know I sound like a fat, bitter and jealous woman. I have to say that the only thing I am jealous of is the bank account that these waifs come home to. I'm a normal sized woman (size 10 thank you very much) and I'm not bitter that I didn't chase fame.

On second thoughts I can breathe fire through my nostrils....