The American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls recently released a report presenting all of the research on the topic. In addition to discussing the influences of sexualization (the media, our culture, girls and boys – all of which really can be traced back to the culture) and the repercussions of sexualization (all negative, and includes girls and boys), the report discusses ways to combat the sexualization of girls. My favorite section discusses sex education. Here is what the APA has to say on the subject:
A central way to help youth counteract distorted views presented by the media and culture about girls, sex, and the sexualization of girls is through comprehensive sexuality education. Although guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education vary, all include the presentation of accurate, evidence-based information about reproduction and contraception, the importance of delaying intercourse initiation for young people, and the building of communication skills. Most relevant to combating sexualization, many also address media, peer, and cultural influences on sexual behaviors and decisions and promote a notion of sexual responsibility that includes respect for oneself and an emphasis on consensual, nonexploitive sexual activity.
This kind of sex education may reverse the negative effects of the sexualization of girls. It is also likely to have other positive effects and unlikely to have adverse consequences. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher’s (2001) report on sexual health and responsible sexual behavior indicates that the most effective sex education for preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is comprehensive. Research indicates that comprehensive programs do not increase the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners, nor do such programs lower the age of first intercourse.
Good, solid advice. Perhaps a few choice national and state politicians should read this report, or maybe even just talk to the Surgeon General, and finally get off their high horse about abstinence only education.
You can download the whole report, along with some conversation starters for parents or educators to use with teenagers at this website: APA Report on the Sexualization of Girls