Balenciaga’s recent campaign depicting young child models holding bondage teddy bears and featuring documents referencing a supreme court ruling on child pornography has sparked outrage.
Balenciaga has since issued an apology and pulled the campaign, but we want to take this opportunity to point something out: this is not an isolated event. This is not a fluke.
This is representative of a widespread movement towards sexualizing children and normalizing pedophilia, and it’s time for us to wake up and put a stop to it.
A Pornographic Culture
The sexualization of children in American culture is easy to see once you’re aware of it. Look around. Children are dressing and acting more and more like little adults, and this trend is a direct result of sexualized media and clothing that has progressively become more acceptable.
With 53% of 11 year olds having their own smartphone, it’s impossible to escape sexualized content in America at any age. It’s on TV, in advertisements, in movies, in books, on magazine covers in the line at the grocery store, on social media…
Clothing brands are some of the worst offenders for sexualized content and particularly for sexualizing children. Balenciaga, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Fashion Nova are just a few that have been caught doing so. When ⅓ of all kid’s clothing for little girls is sexualized, we have a big problem.
There’s a much more sinister ripple effect to this movement.
Any level of sexualized content triggers an involuntary biological response that stimulates the brain exactly like a drug, and like any drug, the same dose doesn’t give you the same high the second or third time around.
At best, our society has been desensitized to a moderate level of sexual content, and at worst, our people–including our children–are being funneled into a constant pursuit of a “stronger hit.”
What we deem as “clean” has wandered miles from where it was even a decade ago. Many people either haven’t noticed, or believe it’s a harmless natural progression. The truth is, our acceptance of more and more sexualized content in media is doing active harm to our society, and especially to our kids.
The majority of Americans are active consumers of porn, and children are being exposed to pornography before they have the capacity to understand what they’re seeing–most by 13 years old and many as young as 7.
What’s more concerning is that the internet has made hardcore and deviant pornography not only accessible, but mainstream. 1 out of every 8 porn titles shown to first time visitors on porn site home pages describe acts of sexual violence, and at least 1 in 3 porn videos show violence and aggression–so much so that it’s impossible to separate consensual porn production from trafficking.
What kind of impact is this having on adults–let alone our kids?
Let’s start with what it’s doing to our kids.
- Despite how toxic and unrealistic porn often is, 1 in 4 young adults list pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.
- 53% of boys and 39% of girls think porn is a realistic depiction of sex.
- More than 39% of boys 13-14 and 1 in 5 boys 11-12 report wanting to copy what they see in porn videos. Horrendous stories of child on child abuse that mimic violent pornography are becoming more and more common.
- Childhood exposure to sexualized media is directly related to internalization of those sexual messages, which manifests in children wanting to wear more sexualized clothing and having lower self esteem.
We are in the middle of a massive, dangerous experiment that no child is immune to, and we won’t fully understand the consequences of it until these kids grow up.
But we do know this much: we are grooming our children to accept sexual violence and abuse.
And at the same time, we are grooming adults to sexualize children.
In porn, the fetishization of children is blatant and unapologetic. Did you know that “teen porn” is in the top 5 most popular genres of pornography on porn sites? These videos commonly depict performers over 18 dressed up to look like children–though there's no way to verify if these performers are over 18.
The relationship between porn consumption and pedophilia is well documented.
“Mainstream pornography sites are changing the thresholds of what is normal and I think it’s dangerous. Of course, most people can watch extreme porn and walk away, but I don’t see those people. What we are seeing on a daily basis is the conflation of easy access to hardcore and deviant pornography and an interest in child molestation. The link is unambiguous.”
--Michael Sheath, Child Abuse Expert
Tim Ballard, Founder of O.U.R Rescue–an organization that rescues children from sex trafficking around the world–has spent 16 years talking to offenders on his missions about how they got where they are. The sad story is always the same. They picked up a playboy as a kid, and when the internet came around they could see whatever they wanted. Soon, “mainstream porn” videos weren’t enough to give them that high they were seeking. Then hardcore porn wasn’t enough, and eventually, they were too desensitized for child rape videos too–and they began abusing children.
There’s no separating our acceptance of sexualized media from this slippery slope, and our children are paying the highest price for it.
The growing problem of child sex trafficking
If you think child sex trafficking is a distant tragedy taking place only in the slums of third world countries, think again. It happens in all 50 states. America is the number one consumer of sex in the world–and that demand for sex demands supply.
Trafficking in the U.S. is often not characterized by a kidnapping and a locked up victim. An emotional bondage that manifests through a careful grooming process–helped along by experiences that have primed many children to accept sexual abuse–is most often used to lure and keep kids in exploitative relationships with their traffickers.
Children in foster care are especially vulnerable to trafficking because they are most likely to lack consistent adult caregivers to (1) do something if they go missing and (2) ensure that their physical and emotional needs are being met.
For these children–who have often already faced sexual abuse and struggle with feeling abandoned, worthless, alone, and hopeless–the empty promises made by traffickers give them the hope that they might have a chance at a better life with them.
Though only a small percentage of trafficking victims are rescued, children in foster care represent the vast majority of those rescued from trafficking in the U.S.
And things are not getting better–they’re getting rapidly worse. Every 9 minutes, child protection services substantiates a claim of child sexual abuse. In 2018, tech companies reported more than 45 million images of child sexual exploitation–more than double the previous year. In 2020, the number of images reported jumped to 65.4 million. Each of these images represent a child who is actively being abused.
Balenciaga’s recent “slip up” is an open door for us to WAKE UP to the pre-boil we’re sitting in. Saying the water is getting warmer doesn’t do justice to our situation.
A growing number of children are actively being raped every single day, multiple times a day. It’s time to take a strong stand against the culture that has created hell on earth for too many kids.
At House of Providence, we are here to pick up the pieces. We are here to tuck the victims into bed at night and walk with them by the hand towards healing, towards life being worth living again.
And as long as there is need, we will always be here to do that.
But we need people like you to recognize the power you have to hold these brands accountable–to create an upstream solution to protect our kids.
We need people who are willing to draw a line with us, and to stand firm in holding that line.
We need people who will continue to say “sexualizing children is never okay,” come what may.
We need people who will STOP spending money with companies that not only promote sexualized content, but even use slaves to produce their products.
We must use this event as a catalyst to wake up to the downright disturbing and dangerous, society-wide grooming that’s happening right under our noses. We cannot afford to wake back up when the water really starts boiling.
Too many little lives hang in the balance.