Modern life is full of photo imagery and advertising. Businesses and big brands are pushing to get every consumer dollar they can. Marketers realise that sex sells.
Now that sexual imagery has infused our public places (and especially our TV shows and computer screens), our culture has been changed. These changes have brought with them new pressures for girls (and to a lesser extent, boys) to be sexy, beautiful and appealing. In the media, females become like shiny accessories and objects of desire, while fashion trends embrace ever more daring styles.
It is only human to want to be liked and accepted by our peers, so when we are bombarded with messages that tell us that the way to be accepted is to look a certain way, to dress a certain way, take a photo a certain way – it is no wonder we want to get on board.
We are often tempted to think these things are harmless and have little bearing on our actions, beliefs and values. But such was the concern of the Australian Senate, that it ordered a report into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media in 2008, calling it a 'significant cultural challenge'.
Our culture persuades us to ground our identity in our appearance and our appeal and our sexuality. But Christ tells us we are loveable beyond appearance, height, weight, and intelligence – beyond any of that. We are not one-dimensional (for example, 'sexy') figurines, but whole and complex people called to holiness and purity, and to be set apart from the idols of our culture (2 Corinthians 6:16–18). We are not to be ‘conformed to this world’ (Romans 12:2) but encouraged by God’s word to modesty and self-control.
As ‘saints of the light’ (Colossians 1:1–12) we are given a new identity in Christ. In baptism, we are sons and daughters who are able to call God as ‘Father’ as we are taught in the Lord’s Prayer. This relationship allows us to know who we are aside from media and cultural pressures. This identity in Christ gives us the freedom to see each other as gifts of God rather than as objects to be consumed.
- ‘Getting Real – Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls’ by Melinda Tankard Reist, book available to purchase here
- ‘Too Sexy Too Soon: How hyper-sexualised messages harm kids and what you can do about it’ by Melinda Tankard Reist, DVD available to purchase here
- ‘The Failure of Sex Education in the Church – Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity’ by Linda Bartlett
- ‘Courtship Matters’ YouTube lecture with academics Leon and Amy Kass (1 hour)