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Entries in Puberty (2)

Thursday
Oct252012

Porn Before Puberty? Film Explores Childhood, Parenting in Sex-Saturated Culture

Sexy Baby(NEW YORK) -- "Is this slutty?" Danielle, having just put on a skirt, asked her friend Winnifred. Lady Gaga's "Monster" played in the background. "Just dance but he took me home instead/Oh oh there was a monster in my bed," the girls sang along.

"That's a good length," Winnifred answered. "It's short, but in a cool way, not, like, a slutty way."

Winnifred and Danielle are modern-day 12-year-olds. But they're not playing dress-up -- they're getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert.

Winnifred carefully curates her online profile, pushing her budding sexuality to jack up her Facebook "likes."

The documentary Sexy Baby, which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows Winnifred's adolescence from age 12 to age 15, and delves into the world of porn before puberty. Winnifred's journey in the documentary reflects that of many pre-teens today, and through her eyes parents worldwide get a glimpse into the hyper-sexualized culture their children are facing today.

"I know I look like I'm down to f---," Winnifred says in the film.

The film explores how much social media adds fuel to the hormonal fire. Winnifred posted a revealing picture of herself with her bra showing. Why?

"It's awkward, and we're getting messages from everywhere that are saying, 'If you dress this way, you are going to be either treated well or you're gonna feel powerful,'" Winnifred told ABC News' Juju Chang.

Sex is power, and that's how a lot of girls and boys seem to feel these days.

Winnifred's mother, Jenny Bonjean, is a feminist who says she's trying to raise an uninhibited, empowered girl.

"My message to my daughter is, sexuality is a wonderful, beautiful thing. You should embrace it. ... It's not the only type of power you're gonna have. Unfortunately, it is in the culture the first power that they feel ... where 13-year-old girls can have influences on grown men," Bonjean-Alpart said.

"You don't think they realize that?" she continued. "It feels good to have power. ... You don't want to abuse it. Don't take it for granted. You need to find a balance."

Winnifred's father, Ken Alpart, described the two reactions he and his wife have to balance.

"We don't necessarily want her to dress certain ways," he said. "At the same time, we are raising our child to be an independent thinker."

Jenny Bonjean argued that early freedom could help prevent extreme acting out later on.

"We all know those women that went to college that had really, really strict parents who didn't let them experiment with anything, and they went wild in college. ... Girls gone wild, you know, is a phenomenon, and so many of those girls come from households, in my opinion, where they were tamped down on."

The risk is that allowing a child too much freedom to express her sexuality can lead her to act on it.

"I can put a very sexualized photo of me on Facebook and make it so my parents don't know, but every guy at my school does," Winnifred said. "So that does become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you make yourself look a certain way, people are going to expect you to be that way."

"I can make your bed rock," Winnifred, then 12, sings in the film. The song is rapper Li'l Wayne's "Bedrock."

Did she and her friends know what the song was about?

"We did realize how obscene it was [when we sang it in the film]," Winnifred told Chang. "I think because it was so mainstream, it wasn't shocking to us. ... If you hear that song f---ing three times a day for two weeks, they're easy to understand -- even when you are 12 or 13."

Music is just the beginning. Pornography itself has become mainstream and ubiquitous -- accessible even to kids.

"When I can reach into my back pocket [for my smartphone] and basically pull out some porn ... you can't really blame a bunch of children for not understanding how to deal with that," Winnifred said.

Winnifred said that when she was in eighth grade, boys watched porn on their phones at school.

According to the award-winning filmmakers of Sexy Baby, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, one in every five kids between ages 9 and 11 has watched porn. They hope their film will start a conversation between parents and their kids about how to maneuver the sexualized social media world.

The film includes a former porn star named Nicole who is an unlikely voice of reason about what porn sex is and isn't.

"It's definitely not making love," Nicole says. "Making love is the kind of sex that you wanna cry afterwards, just because it's so beautiful, and so emotional, and so powerful."

According to Sexy Baby, 30 years ago, 40 percent of adults said they watched porn, and now it's 80 percent.

Nicole, the former porn star and stripper, told the filmmakers she used to have to drive far and wide to find an adult store at the mall to buy her strip-club outfits. Now, she said, she can walk into any mall, look in the windows and stripper clothes and shoes are everywhere.

Perhaps ironically, given the "pornification" of America culture, the filmmakers are editing a tamer version of Sexy Baby for educational use -- to spark the healthy dialogue they see as vital.

Winnifred agrees. "I think if parents are able to talk to their children, and their children are able to feel comfortable talking about what real love and real sex later on is, I and most of the kids I know would trust our parents over two porn stars that we've never met."

Watch the full story on Nightline Thursday night at 11:35 p.m. ET


'Sexy Baby' is playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will be available on iTunes and Movies on Demand Nov. 6. A 60- minute educational version for children 14 years old and up is available too. For more on the documentary, go to sexybabymovie.com.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Eating Disorders Strike Younger and Younger

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Anorexia and its sister-disorder, bulimia, have historically been thought of as striking white, middle- to upper-class teenage girls.  But a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns doctors that eating disorders are happening to younger girls -- and boys -- at an alarming rate.

"People tend to have this idea of who gets eating disorders, but an eating disorder doesn't discriminate between age, gender, race, or class," says Johanna Kandel, founder and director of the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"Some research says that as much as ten percent of those with eating disorders are under the age of 10.  What I'm finding at the alliance is that the number of parents seeking help for their 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds is escalating rapidly," she says.

A 2009 analysis found that in the last decade, hospitalizations for eating disorders more than doubled among children under twelve and now account for four percent of all such hospitalizations.

"Pediatricians need to be aware of the early symptoms of eating disorders because they are the medical professional that a child is mostly likely to see in any given year," says Dr. Jim Lock, director of the Eating Disorder Program at Packard Children's Hospital.  "They are the gatekeepers."

It used to be that the onset of an eating disorder tended to be around mid-adolescence, around age fifteen or around the time of first menses at about age thirteen.  So why are there a growing number of girls who are showing signs of bingeing and purging as young as eight?

It could be hormonal, Lock says, as the onset of puberty has been occurring earlier over time, but a big trigger might be the dropping psychological onset of puberty as opposed to the physiological one.  In terms of interest in appearance, clothing, social behavior and sexualization, girls at twelve are experiencing what girls at fourteen were experiencing just a decade ago, Lock says.  Culturally, the cues to be concerned with appearance are being delivered to girls at younger and younger ages.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio