Today sees the publication of the report by Reg Bailey from the Mothers Union on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood. Commissioned by David Cameron, it recommends cinema-style ratings for music videos and for those with sexual and violent content not to be shown before the watershed; the ASA to discourage billboards with sexualised imagery from being placed near schools and nurseries; a single website where parents and others can register concern about particular products; lads mags to be moved to the top shelf or sold in covers, and retailers to stop selling clothes or items for children with suggestive slogans. It will be up to retailers to comply with the guidelines rather than them being enforced by law.
This will be the fifth major review into early sexualisation in this country, and I hope that by keeping the issue on the agenda it does serve to bring about change. But I also hope that the report doesn't just focus on what sexualisation is doing to girls, as if they were the only ones damaged by it or who need to be protected. Like Nadine Dorries' ridiculous suggestion that abstinence should only be taught to teenage girls, parts of the media seems to think that boys are completely unaffected and it's just our sweet little girls who are getting corrupted. We need to recognise that boys' attitudes and expectations are affected by early sexualisation too, and if we want healthier relationships, self-image and lifestyles for children and young people then just focusing on girls misses the mark.