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July 16, 2009 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Do you let your small children run around naked? "The sexual component of nudity — and a fear of pedophiles — is what makes some adults object entirely to letting children be naked. Jenny Louie said her husband is so uncomfortable when their 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, is naked that, even if she is alone in her bedroom, in Los Angeles, he will immediately close her shutters."
posted by Xurando (190 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Link NSFW!!! NSFW!!!

kidding
posted by chinston at 6:28 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


"The sexual component of nudity — and a fear of pedophiles — is what makes some adults object entirely to letting children be naked. Jenny Louie said her husband is so uncomfortable when their 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, is naked that, even if she is alone in her bedroom, in Los Angeles, he will immediately close her shutters."

The sexual component of nudity???!? What? The kid's 4 fuckin' years old. I'd be more worried about the sick parents than any risk of the child encountering a paedophile.
posted by gman at 6:28 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of parental conundrums, this is the sort of thing that has a reasonably good chance of warping your kid regardless of which stance you take. Just the fact of Mom and Dad Taking a Stance on Nakedness is probably worth at least one turn at the psychiatrist's office.

We like to err on the side of laziness, so I guess baby Llama can run around naked when she's old enough to not poop on the couch. Knock yourself out, kid.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2009 [17 favorites]


I thought everyone in the UK was irretrievably paranoid about this sort of thing. But a couple of weeks back we took some friends and their kids to the South Bank on what turned out to be a fairly hot day. There is a fountain that creates jets of water that shoot up from below and create four "temporary" rooms in a square (if you go in, you can either get out by walking through the water or waiting until the pattern "opens" up the room again) and it was mayhem - kids and adults in their clothes, kids in their swimmers, and all manner of half-dressed and undressed kids- everyone too busy enjoying themselves to care much about what was the done thing.

Which was kinda refreshing to see that people do actually still know how to have fun and that not everybody assumes that random strangers are there to DO BAD THINGS.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Llama can run around naked when she's old enough to not poop on the couch. Knock yourself out, kid.

Seriously. I don't let my kid run around naked, but not because I'm afraid for the kid. I'm afraid for everything under the kid.
posted by mhoye at 6:33 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Llama can run around naked when she's old enough to not poop on the couch.

Not then, either, unless she's recently (i.e. within 10 minutes) bathed. Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself? Ew.

[NOT GERMOPHOBIC]
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on July 16, 2009


Our rule is that we wear clothes to eat dinner. Unless we're eating outside. Or Daddy's not there for dinner, because mommy doesn't even care to that extent.

Kids like to be naked, that's all. Adults who are uncomfortable around naked toddlers creep me out a lot more than naked toddlers do, really.
posted by rusty at 6:39 AM on July 16, 2009 [18 favorites]


Also "please don't poop on the lawn" is another rule. You wouldn't think it would be needed, but in that you would be mistaken.
posted by rusty at 6:41 AM on July 16, 2009 [25 favorites]


I wouldn't let an adult sit naked on my couch. But if I had a small child I wouldn't care. And I don't fit my cat with diapers every time it moves near the soft furnishings.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:41 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I allowed my kids to have naked time all they wanted- but when guests visited, it was never naked time. I didn't particularly care if my great aunt or my grandmother saw the kids naked, but my aunt and grandmother seemed to.

We do what we can to make guests comfortable; I'd certainly never have let them play naked with *other* people's children unless all adults were present and cool with it. Wearing shorts for a couple of hours to accommodate guests isn't a hardship!
posted by headspace at 6:41 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


DU: Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself?

Obviously you've never been involved in an orgy.
posted by gman at 6:42 AM on July 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


I ran around completely naked every summer until I was five. Then, I chose to wear a pair of underwear and nothing else, until I was about 8 (at 8, I turned really weirdly modest and this sort of behavior stopped for me entirely, but that's another story completely). I just remember that it was hot and uncomfortable in all that clothing, and that I wanted to run around outside. It wasn't sexual at all. I just associated nakedness with comfort and freedom. We lived in the country and my younger brother (3 years my junior) and I ran around outside like that all the time. I don't remember it being weird at all, and there are lots of pictures of me picking blackberries in nothing but my birthday suit.

Weird, huh?
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2009


I have a feeling this guy would hate "The Vagina Dance" which sometimes graces the HotBot household.
posted by shothotbot at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think one of the things that is particularly interesting about this is that often naked is less sexual than clothed; naked four year olds aren't sexual (to the vast majority of people), they are just naked four year olds. What is much more problematic to me is the kids who are nine to twelve and wear sexualized bathing suits. I don't just mean two piece bathing suits (I had one when I was about seven and it was great because it meant I didn't have to take off my entire bathing suit to go to the bathroom so it definitely cut down on peeing in the ocean), I mean ones that are cut in an inappropriate way. I find it disturbing when I go to the beach or the pool and there are ten and eleven year olds wearing what are clearly bikinis and not just bathing suits in two pieces; they have strings on the sides and the tops are cut as if the kids should have breasts (which they don't). The issue to my mind here is not pedophiles (paedophiles for our British friends), the issue is that the kids are then seeing themselves as sexualized. It's baffling to me that people make a big deal out of naked toddlers but not out of kids attempting to display themselves sexually.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:47 AM on July 16, 2009 [54 favorites]


P.S. Part of my point being that naked toddlers don't see themselves as sexualized but apparently clothed eleven year olds do.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2009


I wouldn't let an adult sit naked on my couch.

Me either. I'd have them in some other position.
posted by bz at 6:49 AM on July 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


When my sister was a little kid she ran around naked so much we nicknamed her "The Nudie Queen."
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:50 AM on July 16, 2009


Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch?

Sure. There's a pretty significant layer of cat and dog hair to give them a nice little buffer, like flouring a chicken before baking it. On a humid day, God, the itchiness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:51 AM on July 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


It's baffling to me that people make a big deal out of naked toddlers but not out of kids attempting to display themselves sexually.

Although I haven't thought of it like that before, I realize I agree with you. I have seen the types of bathing suits to which you refer and now know why I thought they seemed a bit odd.
posted by bz at 6:52 AM on July 16, 2009


Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself?

This one time, my partner and I were naked. On his couch. In broad daylight, even. He began to fall asleep there with me in his arms and I was all, "Do you really think we should fall asleep NAKED on your COUCH?" And he said, "Um. Yes."

You should try it. It'll get rid of all your couch related hangups. It's really quite lovely.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:53 AM on July 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


In an age where so many of us lucky Westerners have so little to fear we, our media & our elected officials feel the need to brew up some panic just to keep us on our toes?
posted by i_cola at 6:53 AM on July 16, 2009


ah, the first world
posted by infini at 6:54 AM on July 16, 2009 [17 favorites]


It's a case for the Paedofinder General!
posted by kolophon at 6:54 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Adults who are uncomfortable around naked toddlers creep me out a lot more than naked toddlers do, really.

What about adults who are uncomfortable around naked toddlers because they don't want to be perceived as a creep? Are they still creepy?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:56 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


{I have a spare set of covers for my sofa / couch}
posted by i_cola at 6:58 AM on July 16, 2009


Naked babies are one thing, but four year olds are old enough to be taught to keep their clothes on. It's not a sexualization thing, it's a socialization thing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:00 AM on July 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


sexualized bathing suits

This is indeed a weird and disquieting trend. Baby llama's day care is at Grammie's, and yesterday Grammie sent a picture of her in a kiddie pool with a new bathing suit, with these very large holes cut in the sides. Grammie jokingly described the suit as 'provocative' and I did have a moment of 'yeeeeeeeeeesh'.

It isn't something I'd make a big deal out of, to Grammie or baby llama, but I wouldn't have bought it. Nakedness - meh, who cares -- but I don't think my toddler needs to pretend to make anyone go va va vooom.

A lot of girls' clothes is about what mom believes her kid is. Tomboy? Princess? Boys' clothes seem to have a basic sameness. But girls' stuff is all over the map and somewhere on that map is a country called 'my daughter will be sexually attractive to boys' which says a lot more about mom than anything else.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:01 AM on July 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't remember being naked much when I was a kid. But now that I'm an adult I do it pretty much all the time. Hell, I'll go out on the back porch to water the plants naked, and I live in an apartment building in the middle of the city. I think that might be some kind of reaction against the puritan vibe Boston gives off.
posted by egypturnash at 7:03 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself?

That's an opening for so many dirty puns and double entendres .....
posted by blucevalo at 7:05 AM on July 16, 2009


People are so mixed up. Religion and society mores kill their natural instintinct. Guilt is the only reaction left.
posted by tellurian at 7:06 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not a sexualization thing, it's a socialization thing.

Depends on the socialization. If they're living in a commune, not so much.
posted by blucevalo at 7:07 AM on July 16, 2009


Disclaimer: By "they" I mean they and their parents and/or family in a community and in closely supervised situations, of course. I'm not promoting communes, and I'm not promoting child nudity.
posted by blucevalo at 7:11 AM on July 16, 2009


People are so mixed up. Religion and society mores kill their natural instintinct. Guilt is the only reaction left.

That and eating a nice big bag of Doritos.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


@Mrs Pterodactly, A Terrible Llama -

I couldn't agree more, and I think you nailed it - it's not toddler nudity but the eroticized clothing for slightly older kids (read: girls) that squicks me out. I went to watch my daughter (8) in her jazz/contemporary dance recital and found a lot of the outfits & moves to be disturbingly sexualized. A lot of very "Little Miss Sunshine" moments. Yuck.

See also: Dishwalla, "Pretty Babies"
posted by kcds at 7:16 AM on July 16, 2009


slightly older kids

It's even worse--little llama's only one year old! She can't even walk yet.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:18 AM on July 16, 2009


Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself?

Uh, yes?
posted by bookish at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2009 [16 favorites]


I was kind of disturbed a few weekends ago at a friend's party. The young son of one of the guests spilled juice on himself. His mom stripped off his shirt to get him a new one, and the child instantly starting trying to cover himself. He was very agitated and upset by his nudity, to the point that his mother requested that we avert our eyes until he got a shirt put on. This kid was 2.

Never in my life have I seen a toddler that was uptight about wearing clothing. All the kids that age I've been around have been naked babies. Really, I'm way more freaked out about the kid that was that uptight about having his shirt off than I am about the little ones running naked like little barbarians.
posted by teleri025 at 7:23 AM on July 16, 2009 [6 favorites]



I don't remember being naked much when I was a kid. But now that I'm an adult I do it pretty much all the time. Hell, I'll go out on the back porch to water the plants naked, and I live in an apartment building in the middle of the city. I think that might be some kind of reaction against the puritan vibe Boston gives off.

-- egypturnash

In theory if some small child looked out a window and saw you, you could be arrested and become a sexual felon, being forced to register as a sexual offender in any town you live in, to be treated as a pariah by your neighbors for the rest of your life. It's scary--it's like Les Misérables.
posted by eye of newt at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nudity is great, and certainly not sexual by default. The sexualization is in the eye of the beholder.

It's just easier to hang out around the house naked, watch tv naked, sleep naked. Whatever.

By teaching kids that naked = DANGER, folks are also teaching kids to be ashamed of their bodies. I'm not saying that nudity should be the standard, in any case. And of course, kids who get to spend time naked might need to have a good talk about boundaries, context, and touch.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


We like to err on the side of laziness, so I guess baby Llama can run around naked when she's old enough to not poop on the couch. Knock yourself out, kid.

My toddlers (17 months) get naked time in the hallway of our house every day, before they get their bath. (There is no furniture or rug in the hall. There are also no windows, which didn't occur to me until this moment.) They LOVE it. But naked time generally means someone's cleaning up an accident. It happens. No big deal. We keep an eye on them and make sure they don't decide to fingerpaint poo all over the walls.

I doubt I'd let them have naked time in the backyard at this point, not so much because I'd be concerned about prying eyes but rather because they fall down a lot. When they go swimming, they wear swim diapers and swimsuits because we don't want them to heed nature's call in the inflatable kiddie pool, and even covering their exposed areas with SPF 70 sunscreen doesn't keep them from tanning.

Young children are by nature pretty immodest, and while parents do unfortunately need to protect them from the outside world, I hope my wife and I will be able to find a balance when we teach our kids privacy and modesty that won't make them feel ashamed of their bodies.

Also, I have to say that it was nice to see this article talk about nudity and kids from so many different angles and in a non-judgmental manner. A few months ago, Clyde Mnestra made a comment that I wish I could favorite again and again: "Parental guilt is almost bottomless. Be wary of adding to the latter without being mindful of the former."
posted by zarq at 7:27 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: totally agreed on the creepy hoey clothes for young girls.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:27 AM on July 16, 2009


I'm not saying that nudity should be the standard, in any case. And of course, kids who get to spend time naked might need to have a good talk about boundaries, context, and touch.

Yes, exactly. I couldn't have said it better.
posted by blucevalo at 7:28 AM on July 16, 2009


I support free range children. More nakidity=fewer diapers.
posted by Gungho at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's an opening for so many dirty puns and double entendres.

Heheheh. You said "opening."
posted by rokusan at 7:32 AM on July 16, 2009


I wouldn't let an adult sit naked on my couch. But if I had a small child I wouldn't care.

So you don't let naked adults on your couch unless there's a small child around.

YOU'RE ON NOTICE!
posted by mazola at 7:36 AM on July 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sometimes kids' lack of awareness can be hilarious, if not necessarily for the parents.

My brother is in the army and at the time was spending a fair bit of time away from home -an army base in Germany. His wife is a doctor. They lived on an army patch. As is the custom, when their next door neighbour moved in, they popped round to the houses nearby and invited everyone over for a drink one early evening.

At the time, my niece was struggling slightly to get potty trained. Just as my sister-in-law arrived at the neighbour's her phone rang and some medical emergency meant she had to go. So she left, leaving her eldest and the not-quite potty trained younger daughter in the care of her au pair.

Fifteen minutes later my sister-in-law returned to find that her daughter had very proudly *just* laid a turd on the concrete step leading from the house to the garden, and that everyone was trying their best not to make a big deal about it. So she apologised quickly and rushed into the kitchen to fetch some paper towel and some cleaning fluid.

She came back to find everyone gasping with surprise, and her daughter patting the neighbour's labrador on the head, calling it a "good doggy", with the turd nowhere to be seen.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2009 [32 favorites]


Last time I was in Denmark, maybe 10 years ago, there was a documentary on TV that showed naked male and female humans at different stages in their development -- baby, toddler, child, pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult, middle-aged, retirement age, elderly... something like that anyway. There was nothing sexual about it, it was informative, just showed the people standing there while the narrator described the changes the human body typically went through at each stage. It was received by the Danes, as I recall, about how any documentary about factories or tigers or whatever would be received in the US: interesting to some, but mostly meh.

I can only imagine the wailing, gnashing of teeth, cries for prosecution, and death threats that would occur if the exact same (ok, re-dubbed in English) documentary were aired in the US.
posted by LordSludge at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


In Finnish culture nudity (for kids, teenagers, adults) is not automatically sexual. It's standard to go to the sauna naked with your parents and siblings, regardless of the age of the participants. The same goes for your friends. With friends it's often the same gender in the sauna at the same time, but not always. I find the idea that the first naked person you see (in real life, that is) is going to be either an accident or in a sexual context. (That's why I find the often recounted stories of badly drawn, sideways vagina naked lady really bizarre...)

I've grown a lot more prudish in my years in England and it takes a while to get used to the more relaxed attitudes back home when I visit.

I'm not saying that it's better or worse necessarily, but it I like to think it reduces (though definitely doesn't eliminate) the amount of hangups people have about nudity.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:41 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Could somebody please show me the evidence that having your toddlers wear clothing around the house will do irrevocable damage, whereas that letting them run around naked is this sort of unquestionable good? Because that seems to be taken as an article of article of faith around here, and I'm kinda not buying it.

But yeah, totally agreed, little girls wearing obviously sexualized clothing is WAY creepy. I mean, if I had a 12-year-old daughter and she was wearing short shorts with a brand name written across the backside, I'd think of myself as a failure as a parent, at least to some degree.

And it's not just the risque stuff either -- it seems like I'm always seeing t-shirts for babies, toddlers, and "tween" girls that have "sassy" phrases on them like "baby tramp." WTF is up with that? I guess some people think it's cute.
posted by Jake Apathy at 7:45 AM on July 16, 2009


Naked babies are one thing, but four year olds are old enough to be taught to keep their clothes on. It's not a sexualization thing, it's a socialization thing.

What's the concern here, that four year olds that are given too much opportunity to be naked are going to be unrestrainable nudists when they grow up? My inclination is heavily toward letting a four year old be a four year old — because when four-year-oldness is gone, it's gone forever.
posted by BaxterG4 at 7:45 AM on July 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nthing this: Also: totally agreed on the creepy hoey clothes for young girls.

The Washington Post ran an article about it a couple of years ago, and linked to the "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls".

I have no idea if Abercrombie still sells preteen-sized thongs. I do remember there was a big outcry over it.
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find the idea that the first naked person you see (in real life, that is) is going to be either an accident or in a sexual context.

That should be: It's strange to me that the first person you would see naked is either an accident or in a sexual context.

I'm blame my clothing for the mixed up sentences and grammar in the previous comment.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:47 AM on July 16, 2009


“I think there are societal realms of appropriate behavior,“ Dr. Katz said. “If a kid was having a birthday party and was 7 or 8 and suddenly decided to take off all his clothes or something like that, that would not be seen as an appropriate thing to do. Not because of the nudity per se, but because it’s so unexpected.”

This is an interesting remark. Of course there are "societal realms of appropriate behavior," but despite what this psychologist claims to be saying, the "not be seen as an appropriate thing"ness of the situation (at least in the United States) would be exactly the nudity -- not the "unexpectedness." Because in general, kids do things that are "so unexpected" almost all the time -- that's the nature of being a kid.
posted by blucevalo at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2009


Keep 'em covered up.
posted by j.effingham.bellweather at 7:51 AM on July 16, 2009


Could somebody please show me the evidence that having your toddlers wear clothing around the house will do irrevocable damage, whereas that letting them run around naked is this sort of unquestionable good? Because that seems to be taken as an article of article of faith around here, and I'm kinda not buying it.

I didn't see anyone here saying either of those things, at least not to such an extreme. Nor did the article advocate that.

However, children are naturally curious about their own bodies, and that's a normal phase of their sexual development. (See this PDF.) Suppression of such curiosity by a parent can negatively affect how a child feels about themselves and their sexuality, just as placing a child in gender specific roles can affect their socialization. Studies have shown that when positive attitudes towards sexuality are instilled in children, they are less likely to have behavioral problems related to sex as adults. Comfort with nudity at a young age may be a part of that, but even so is not the only influence. It's multifactorial, and the process is what matters.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people don't really understand how a pedophile's mind works, so the very basic assumption is, "If you see the body part, you sexualize the body part." Most parents I know can think of nothing more horrible happening to their child...

There is certainly nothing wrong with nakedness or the appropriate names of body parts or how they work or what they feel like and all that jazz. We do avoid letting our 4 and 5-year-old sons get naked in front of anyone inappropriate. Appropriate=parents, in the doctor's office, etc That's part of the "context" and "good touch/bad touch/say no-run away-tell someone" curriculum. I try not to make a habit of parading around the house after a shower without a robe, but I don't scream and dash if I get caught.
posted by njbradburn at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2009


Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself?

If those adults knew the things I did on that couch before they got there, they probably wouldn't sit on it in the first place.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:07 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


[WARNING, "LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE" SPOILERS LATER IN THIS COMMENT]
Mrs. Pterodactyl said: "What is much more problematic to me is the kids who are nine to twelve and wear sexualized bathing suits. I don't just mean two piece bathing suits (I had one when I was about seven and it was great because it meant I didn't have to take off my entire bathing suit to go to the bathroom so it definitely cut down on peeing in the ocean), I mean ones that are cut in an inappropriate way. I find it disturbing when I go to the beach or the pool and there are ten and eleven year olds wearing what are clearly bikinis and not just bathing suits in two pieces;"
Why is this not also in the eye of the beholder? Are the bathing suits "sexualized" simply because the child is older? Is there a cut of suit that is always inappropriate on a child, regardless of the age?
>> the tops are cut as if the kids should have breasts (which they don't).
How so? I truly don't get how a bathing suit for a child can be cut as if the child has breasts. If it's a bikini, the top either lies flat, or it doesn't. Are you saying that an extra square inch of sternum showing on a 7-year-old is more sexual than the tankini top that you approve because it was what you wore as a child? That is what baffles.
>> the issue is that the kids are then seeing themselves as sexualized.
How can you possibly know this? Did you take a poll? If the child is acting out sexually, that's one thing... but you seem to be saying that merely wearing X suit = child is seeing herself as sexualized.
>> It's baffling to me that people make a big deal out of naked toddlers but not out of kids attempting to display themselves sexually.
Again, are you asserting that the sheer fact of the cut of the bathing suit that the child wears makes the difference between a happy, non-sexualized kid... and a kid intentionally trying to display herself sexually? As opposed to inappropriate attention from adults, making the difference?

I don't mean to sound angry, Mrs. Pterodactyl, because I'm not. But your position, and that of some of those who have jumped into the thread to agree, convey to me the following ideas from you:
1. There is a line on a bathing suit cut that you deem appropriate, and those who are on your side of it are morally responsible and are not over-sexualizing children. And that on the other side of it are the perverts and creeps trying to turn their daughters into whores, and merely wearing the suit means the child is therefore behaving whorishly.

2. Therefore (if I'm following you), the cut of the bathing suit and the parents' intentions are the real problem... not the observer who thinks, "That particular child in that particular bathing suit makes me uncomfortable."
And this doesn't fly, to me. Either nudity ≠ sexuality (until someone acts inappropriately), OR there are in fact levels of dress and undress that, for the mere fact of their existence, create an inappropriately sexualized situation. And it doesn't seem like one should get it both ways.

"Little Miss Sunshine," for example. Who behaved inappropriately? I think we can all agree it wasn't Olive. Her outfit itself wasn't the problem... it was the way she was taught to strip it off.

When Abercrombie purposely tries to use sex to sell clothes to children, that's one thing. And sexual messages on clothes for teens and children are clearly over the top. But when a 10-year-old girl wears shorts that You the Viewer would personally not let your own child wear because You the Viewer feel uncomfortable -- about nothing more than the amount of skin being shown -- that's about You the Viewer. Either the judgmental prudes and pedophiles-lying-in-wait are wholly responsible for their behavior, OR they are not.

But to put down any line of, "...but these items of clothing over here, this makes it perfectly acceptable to view children sexually" is a slippery slope that veers perilously close to "that 8-year-old was asking for it," to me.

I guess the line that I'm drawing for myself here is that it's one thing to think, "Wow, that girl's bathing suit is pretty skimpy. For my own kid, I'd be worried that she's attracting the wrong kind of attention, so it would give me more peace of mind as a parent if she wore a bikini with more coverage, and if she balked about that, we would talk about it in a healthy, careful way so that she personally doesn't feel judged."

It's another to think, "Wow, that girl's bathing suit is pretty skimpy. She is acting out sexually and intentionally displaying herself as a sexual object, in order to attract sexual attention from grown men."
posted by pineapple at 8:13 AM on July 16, 2009 [12 favorites]


Could somebody please show me the evidence that having your toddlers wear clothing around the house will do irrevocable damage, whereas that letting them run around naked is this sort of unquestionable good?

Not an unquestionable good. More like an obvious non-issue.

Putting clothes on your kid is fine. Letting your kid get naked is fine. INSISTING THAT YOUR KID WEAR CLOTHING EVERY SECOND BECAUSE OMG WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK is silly and counterproductive.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2009


Why is this not also in the eye of the beholder?

It is, but that's slightly besides the point. A skimpy cut bikini is designed to showcase certain, ahem, assets. Putting on a child often just looks plain weird.

Or to take this to extremes. A full body rubber gimp suit could be worn wholly innocently by a child, but it has signify something relatively solid to adults, regardless of what the wearer knows, or intends.

In the case of the skimpy bikini, it's not how much flesh it shows. It's that the suit is cut in such a way to still keep the wearer covered while showing x and y. In that sense it is often more sexualized than wearing nothing at all up top.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:24 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Boy-girl twins here, almost four years old.

They used to run around naked. Then they got old enough to know what naked was, and started running around shouting "naked time!" and occasionally taking off their clothes when friends were over. The they stopped doing that, but still run around naked and we make 'em go put underwear on if they're going to be sitting on the leather couch because it's summer and we don't want them to get parts of themselves stuck, kind of like how we'll let 'em out of the house naked but they have to wear shoes if they're going to run on the concrete. Sooner or later they'll develop their own sense of shame, and meanwhile they do have an understanding of what they can and cannot touch on another person, or allow to be touched on themselves, without their express permission (easy to teach when you have a naked son and a naked daughter running around together.)

No point to be made here, just providing a data point.
posted by davejay at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


See, I grew up in a very pro-naked house. I rarely dressed in actual clothes as a child, at least in summer. My parents also tended to be naked in front of me, at least up until a certain age (11?), when I (mostly) stopped seeing my dad naked. My mom still wanders around the house naked when I'm there.

I briefly became very modest as a pre-teen/teenager and was completely embarrassed by my parent's nudity and relaxed attitude towards it. But after I got out of the house I loosened up a lot to the point I rarely wear clothes at home now, and have attended clothing-optional events.

At the Pagan clothing-optional festivals I've been to, there have always been children running around naked, or semi-nude as well as lots of fully or partially naked adults. It's a complete non-issue. (Obviously, the parents of the children are present.) Once you relax about the naked human body, it looses most of its naughty/dirty/sexual nature. I would say that usually takes 2-3 days to adjust to.

And you don't even want to know how many naked people have sat on my couch.
What? I Febreze...
posted by threeturtles at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, one other thing: when they go swimming, they wear Bans swimsuits that cover their bodies (short-sleeve shirts, long shorts) -- for sun protection rather than nekkid protection.
posted by davejay at 8:30 AM on July 16, 2009


a new bathing suit, with these very large holes cut in the sides.

I had one of those when I was 10! I loved it, actually, because it left me with tan circles all up and down my sides, which looked completely cool - when I was naked in the showers later with my girl friends. We always showered after the beach together naked, sometimes with an annoying baby brother or sister tossed into the mix. This was the 70s; we didn't have sunscreen yet.

I let my kids run around naked all they want. By the time they were four ish they weren't all that interested - at that age it was more difficult to separate them from the costume of the day, actually. I've never gotten this weird thing about naked kids; it's so much easier in the summer outdoors with toddlers to just forget the clothes. Saves money on diapers, too, and it's good for them. Babies need to be naked a little every day or they get diaper rash - thus the classic naked butt in the air baby pic that I can pull out whenever my teenage children need a little blackmail reminder.

I do have a friend who brought her four year old daughter and her friend, a boy, to the museum once. She lost sight of them momentarily and when she turned the corner into the Greek and Roman gallery, discovered a pile of clothes on the floor and two very naked kids imitating statues. The guard was laughing too hard to complain.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2009 [16 favorites]


In the case of the skimpy bikini, it's not how much flesh it shows. It's that the suit is cut in such a way to still keep the wearer covered while showing x and y. In that sense it is often more sexualized than wearing nothing at all up top.

Right! Because there's no reason to attach scraps of fabric to a bathing suit to cover just a kid's nipples unless you believe that those nipples are sexual (IE bad).

Some of my best summertime memories were of swimming in our backyard kiddie pool with my cousins or the other neighborhood kids at four or five in just my underwear, because bathing suits were itchy and uncomfy. No one seemed to care. It makes me sad that anyone would.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:39 AM on July 16, 2009


'Tis better to be nude, than a prude. Even if you're a dude.
posted by Goofyy at 8:43 AM on July 16, 2009


My little nephew (household of super-positive nudity) when he was about 4 had what he called "The Penis List" - a very clear list of the people (kids and adults) who could and could not see his penis. He came up with this totally on his own, and really stuck with it for such a little happy-nudie-butt.
posted by tristeza at 8:49 AM on July 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


i feel lucky to have been born in the 70s, and been able to hang out hippy-style on the beach with naked people as a child. this recent paranoia about the inherent sexuality of nudity is depressing.

for my part, i think this artificial discomfort with nudity and sexuality creates opportunities for predators by placing all sexual matters behind a veil of shame. besides, it's not some leering perv with binoculars that's most likely to mess with your kids, it's someone in your family. someone you leave your kids alone with without thinking about it.
posted by klanawa at 8:49 AM on July 16, 2009


What is it with white people and their need to be nude?
posted by blahblah at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't even understand that comment.
posted by gman at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2009


Don't be too naive; actual pedophiles will go to great lengths to acquire pictures of naked children. It's icky. There's no way I would put pictures of a naked child on Flickr, no matter how innocent, because the idea of somebody using the picture for sexual gratification just freaks me out. Allowing my child to be naked in a location where there are lots of people, also something I wouldn't do. If your young child is a. potty-trained, and b. naked at the beach, pool, neighborhood, it won't affect my opinion of your parenting. Well maybe slightly to the positive.

Same with sexy clothes for little girls. Why make your child sexually appealing? It's kind of odd; more conservative types of parents tend to be the ones who have little girls in makeup and sexy clothes. When I was a little girl, I mostly wanted to wear clothes that I could climb trees and ride a bike in.

At home, my kid used to really love to run around naked, esp. as a toddler, esp. after a bath. Makes for great pictures, later to be shown to prom dates. He was thrilled to discover that he could go outdoors and pee on a tree. His dad likes to go to the beach, hike down to a private area and sunbathe nude. When my child was a pre-schooler, occasional nudity was part of family life - If I was in the shower, he could come in and brush teeth (or, more likely, use and flush the toilet, cause it's fun when Mom shrieks like that) and he might come in my room while I was getting dressed. No big deal. Except, how come the only time your kid remembers to flush is when you're in the shower, giving you a blast of hothot water?

Some time ago, there was a study that showed that kids who grew up in families where nudity was acceptable were less likely to have sexual dysfunctions. It's a vague recollection; the study got a lot of play in the press, but I have no details, sorry.
posted by theora55 at 8:56 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sooner or later they'll develop their own sense of shame

EXACTLY! It's not something we need to go out of our way to make happen, do we? (Right?)
posted by BaxterG4 at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2009


It could be the fact that I had conservative parents from India (a place where even public kissing is taboo), but I'm totally against the idea of 4 year olds running around naked in the house. Am I one of the only MeFites who doesn't see why they can't just cover up? I'd be freaking out that they'd be getting nekkid in preschool or kindergarten. Admittedly, I can't really articulate at length why it seems dumb to me, it's mostly just a visceral reaction, so maybe this is my hangup to get over.
posted by naju at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Discussions like these just bring home to me that I seriously can't ever have children. My sense of walking around in a world fraught with the possibility of disaster is strong enough already - I can't imagine adding to that the endless, endless opportunities I would have to fuck up the mind of a child. Too much clothing, too little clothing, too safe, too unsafe. I'm freaking out just thinking about it. I don't even want a cat. How the hell do you parents do it? I am in awe.
posted by marginaliana at 9:02 AM on July 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think sexy bikinis on kids is a whole other issue than young kids running around naked. Running around naked is usually a statement of freedom and comfort, not some sort of sexual declaration. More often than not, when young preteen and teen girls pick out a string bikini, it is to mimic what they think sexy is supposed to look like. They aren't thinking i want to attract some grown man, but they do want to present an image of hot or cool or sexy. Don't even get me started on mothers who start dressing their girls like hoochies from toddler age.

Last beach vacation we took, there were topless girls (under 12 or so) running around everywhere having an absolute blast, playing games and digging in the sand. There were also preteen girls in tiny bikinis who didn't want to get their hair wet and walked around and posed like they were in some video. I would be much more comfortable with my girls in the first group than in the second.
posted by domino at 9:06 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Admittedly, I can't really articulate at length why it seems dumb to me, it's mostly just a visceral reaction, so maybe this is my hangup to get over.

I think attitudes vary widely, and that doesn't make them "hangups". What is normal for you and your parent culture may seem different to someone raised in another, but that doesn't make yours "right" or "wrong". There are parts of the world where uncovered breasts are taboo and others where they aren't. I think it's inappropriate to stand in judgement of anyone's sexual mores, as long as people aren't being harmed by them.

I'd be freaking out that they'd be getting nekkid in preschool or kindergarten.

Speaking strictly about North American culture now, I think there are times and places where various degrees of nudity may be considered appropriate. In front of one's kindergarten class isn't one of them. At that point, a kid is 5 years old and should be able to comprehend the difference.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I moved from a farm to the city when I was seven, and remember having to be told that I had to wear clothes.

Frankly, without air conditioning here in LA, I'm not sure how anyone keeps their clothes on. I only put on clothes for company because I don't think my friends are the types that would also strip down, and no one wants to be the only naked person at a party.
posted by klangklangston at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think that the problem is naked children so much as it's dirty-minded adults. If there is a lesson that kids should learn re: nudity it should be the added potential of injury, sunburn, etc. Sensible, practical and worthwhile concerns. Anything else is just the usual conflicted BS so many grownups tend to bring into every aspect of life. Prudes and perverts are two sides of the same coin, both obsessed with sex in a particularly unhealthy way.

A neighbor of ours is a professional photographer. I haven't seen it myself but my wife tells me that she has a nude portrait of her two year old daughter on her living room wall. Of course the first thing that came to mind for me was all those stories of people being prosecuted as pedophiles for taking pics of their kids in the bathtub or whatever. I hope our neighbor will be spared from any of that nonsense.
posted by metagnathous at 9:13 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I find most concerning in this article is the father who says "I don’t want to see her naked..." Has he never bathed his child? Changed her diaper? Dressed her? And if so - at what age did he begin feeling like this was inappropriate?
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Three kids, from one to seven years old here. We're pretty casual about clothing in the house, at least when it comes to the act of dressing, but for general hanging about, or mealtime, or open windows, we generally insist on clothes. Not in a "OMG cover that up!" way, but in a "it's impolite to be naked in public" way. Similarly, we discourage nose-picking and crotch-scratching.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:16 AM on July 16, 2009


Discussions like these just bring home to me that I seriously can't ever have children. My sense of walking around in a world fraught with the possibility of disaster is strong enough already - I can't imagine adding to that the endless, endless opportunities I would have to fuck up the mind of a child. Too much clothing, too little clothing, too safe, too unsafe. I'm freaking out just thinking about it. I don't even want a cat. How the hell do you parents do it? I am in awe.

Don't be. Seriously. Speaking purely for myself, I have this underlying, mild yet constant feeling of dread that something I will not be able to control will affect my kids adversely, or that I'll do something incredibly stupid which will have lasting repercussions. People keep telling me I'll get over it but that hasn't happened yet.

You try your best, trust them as much as is reasonably possible and try to trust in yourself.

Then again, I'm still a relatively new parent. So what do I know?
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on July 16, 2009


...and no one wants to be the only naked person at a party.

Unless they're getting paid.
posted by SixteenTons at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2009


I've got the interesting stepmom position here, of course. My stepdaughters were really mellow about running around the house naked or in underpants when they were younger (especially if it was hot out), but *I* was always pretty uncomfortable with that because if there was ever the slightest, innocent indication from one of them that they'd been naked around me, there would have been the chance for their psycho mom to label me a pedophile and call out the DCF dogs. Same for them seeing me naked--and I'm talking about in circumstances like changing out of a bathing suit in the dressing room at the beach, let alone casual hanging around the house. Not doing it. (OK, that's partially because I look horrible naked and the kids really don't need to see that, but definitely because of the accusation potential as well.) I'm sure psycho mom wouldn't think anything of changing in front of her kids, because they're all "girls" and it's no big deal, but I'm a different matter.

If there's someone sick and insane in your life (and it seems to me that an increasing number of people have someone like this!), you don't take chances. In a way, I don't blame that father who's uncomfortable with his little daughter running around naked. Given society's suspicion of male caregivers and the growing intrusiveness of--well, everybody--he's probably trying to keep himself safe. I get that. It's sad, but I get it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]



Tell you what squicked me out. The first picture I saw of Jon Benet Ramsey. If she had been naked in that picture I would not have thought two cents about it. But that picture. I can still see it. Parental dumbness.
posted by notreally at 9:27 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and about the naked adults (and kids, I suppose) on the couch? That's why you're always supposed to carry your own towel. See, I learn things from David Sedaris.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:31 AM on July 16, 2009


Pineapple,

How so? I truly don't get how a bathing suit for a child can be cut as if the child has breasts. If it's a bikini, the top either lies flat, or it doesn't. Are you saying that an extra square inch of sternum showing on a 7-year-old is more sexual than the tankini top that you approve because it was what you wore as a child? That is what baffles.

My issue with bathing suit cut is especially when the top is cut into triangles (like this -- I have also just, God help me, done a Google Image Search on children’s bathing suits so I can only assume I’m on a list somewhere now). My concern is with the shape that implies that there are or could be breasts underneath. My issue is not with the actual amount of skin shown, it’s with the impression created by the fit.

>> the issue is that the kids are then seeing themselves as sexualized.
How can you possibly know this? Did you take a poll? If the child is acting out sexually, that's one thing... but you seem to be saying that merely wearing X suit = child is seeing herself as sexualized.


This is absolutely a fair point and I should both have thought it out more carefully and expressed it better. I am concerned that it creates a sexual atmosphere around kids and makes them look at themselves differently as well as creating a negative set of expectations from their peers.

1. There is a line on a bathing suit cut that you deem appropriate, and those who are on your side of it are morally responsible and are not over-sexualizing children. And that on the other side of it are the perverts and creeps trying to turn their daughters into whores, and merely wearing the suit means the child is therefore behaving whorishly.

Um, that seems like a fairly big leap from what I said. I think that there is a trend towards oversexualizing children, especially pre-teen girls.

2. Therefore (if I'm following you), the cut of the bathing suit and the parents' intentions are the real problem... not the observer who thinks, "That particular child in that particular bathing suit makes me uncomfortable."

I think the cut of the bathing suit IS the problem, yes. I don’t think that most parents have consciously negative intentions in these situations (there might be SOME parents who are “perverts and creeps trying to turn their daughters into whores” but, purely anecdotally and without having taken a poll, that seems to be a ridiculous minority), but I think that, intentionally or otherwise, the effect these bathing suits have is to create sexualized beings out of kids who (in my opinion, and I am not a developmental psychologist, a pediatrician or anything like that) are not at a point in their lives when sexualization is healthy for them, be it in their own minds, the minds of their peers or the minds of those around them.

But to put down any line of, "...but these items of clothing over here, this makes it perfectly acceptable to view children sexually" is a slippery slope that veers perilously close to "that 8-year-old was asking for it," to me.

I’m having some trouble seeing how you extrapolated this from my comment, to be honest; my overall point is that it is NOT acceptable to see children sexually, and I am baffled that you could read that as a slippery slope leading to, uh, justified pedophiliac rape [upon proofreading, I apologize for the sensationalistic paraphrase, but that is how I am interpreting the comment].

I guess the line that I'm drawing for myself here is that it's one thing to think, "Wow, that girl's bathing suit is pretty skimpy. For my own kid, I'd be worried that she's attracting the wrong kind of attention, so it would give me more peace of mind as a parent if she wore a bikini with more coverage, and if she balked about that, we would talk about it in a healthy, careful way so that she personally doesn't feel judged."
It's another to think, "Wow, that girl's bathing suit is pretty skimpy. She is acting out sexually and intentionally displaying herself as a sexual object, in order to attract sexual attention from grown men."


I don’t have kids yet, but the first part is definitely what I think, and I think that it’s a reasonable point that is well-stated (especially “if she balked about that, we would talk about it in a healthy, careful way so that she personally doesn't feel judged."”) I apologize if my comment made it appear that I think that these kids are intentionally displaying themselves as sexual objects. That is definitely NOT what I intended; rather, I meant to convey my perturbation that kids are being presented as sexual and might internalize this, making them appear as sexual beings to themselves as well as to outside observers.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:31 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not then, either, unless she's recently (i.e. within 10 minutes) bathed. Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself? Ew.

It couldn't be any worse then pets. At least people ordinarily wipe their asses and shower every once in a while. Presumably you would be aware of your own kids' grooming habits.

Regarding kids in "sexualized" clothes. I don't really think the younger kids think of it that way, and the older ones are interested in trying to attract kids their own age. I don't think there's anything unusual or strange about that. Why wouldn't they think of themselves as 'sexual' beings? I mean, they are going through puberty, this is when kids start psudo-dating, etc. They're probably not even thinking about adults at all.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 AM on July 16, 2009


pineapple: "1. There is a line on a bathing suit cut that you deem appropriate, and those who are on your side of it are morally responsible and are not over-sexualizing children. And that on the other side of it are the perverts and creeps trying to turn their daughters into whores, and merely wearing the suit means the child is therefore behaving whorishly.

2. Therefore (if I'm following you), the cut of the bathing suit and the parents' intentions are the real problem... not the observer who thinks, "That particular child in that particular bathing suit makes me uncomfortable."

And this doesn't fly, to me. Either nudity ≠ sexuality (until someone acts inappropriately), OR there are in fact levels of dress and undress that, for the mere fact of their existence, create an inappropriately sexualized situation.

Personally, I don't have any particular hangups about child nudity and I think that an overabundance of shame/prudishness can be more damaging than allowing them to parade around naked.

But I disagree with your argument. You're essentially creating a heap fallacy: because it's absurd to draw a specific line such as the one you described, you seem to be arguing that the threshold does not exist.

Kids are perceptive and adaptive. Maybe the initial sexualization of a skimpy bikini on a ten-year-old is on the part of the parents, or entirely in the minds of the people who see it... but the reaction it gets is not going to be missed by the ten-year-old in question. Perhaps they'll have a shame response and dress more modestly in the future (and possibly have some level of body issue when they're older). Perhaps they'll revel in the attention and dress more provocatively in the future. The idea that they'll be oblivious is the least likely scenario.

Now obviously I'm not blaming a ten-year-old kid for the idiosyncrasies of their sense of propriety, and neither is anyone else, so I'll thank you not to create ridiculous straw men like "that 8-year-old was asking for it."

My point, instead, is that this is a complicated issue with interrelated societal pressures on all three parties -- the parents, the child, and the observers -- and treating it like a mathematical model requiring strict thresholds and some apportionment of "blame" not to exceed 100% is counterproductive.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:33 AM on July 16, 2009


A seven minute teaser from the Bill Henson Art Debate.
posted by gman at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2009


'Tis better to be nude, than a prude. Even if you're a dude.
posted by Goofyy at 8:43 AM on July 16 [+] [!]


.. unless you get sued.
posted by teresci at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite comics is one in Carol Tyler's Late Bloomer called "Uncovered Property" about the perils of going topless (well, really the perils of being told why girls can't go topless.)
posted by vespabelle at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2009


and no one wants to be the only naked person at a party.

It is very lonely. Also cold.
posted by The Whelk at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2009


theora55 said: "Why make your child sexually appealing? It's kind of odd; more conservative types of parents tend to be the ones who have little girls in makeup and sexy clothes."

For me, the point is "what constitutes 'sexually appealing'?" There are freaks out there for whom children in regular play clothes and no makeup -- nothing that anyone could consider overtly adult -- are sexually appealing. Must we now pander to that as well?

If we want the right to draw this line and be able to say, "I deserve to decide what is and isn't 'sexually appealing' in the apparel and appearance of other people's children, and my opinion equals some standard," then we also have to accept that we are participating in this overall kneejerk American shame culture where a pedophile lurks behind every tree and every 8-year-old is a Lolita-in-training.
domino said "I think sexy bikinis on kids is a whole other issue than young kids running around naked. Running around naked is usually a statement of freedom and comfort, not some sort of sexual declaration. More often than not, when young preteen and teen girls pick out a string bikini, it is to mimic what they think sexy is supposed to look like. They aren't thinking i want to attract some grown man, but they do want to present an image of hot or cool or sexy. Don't even get me started on mothers who start dressing their girls like hoochies from toddler age."
As respectfully as I can say this: this is just more drive-by moralizing and projection:
  • "I think sexy bikinis on kids is a whole other issue than young kids running around naked."
  • Operative phrase being "I think." You are the one who thinks the bikini is sexy on that child. The problem is you, not the bikini. I don't think the bikini is sexy.
  • "More often than not, when young preteen and teen girls pick out a string bikini, it is to mimic what they think sexy is supposed to look like. They aren't thinking i want to attract some grown man, but they do want to present an image of hot or cool or sexy."
  • Cites? Examples? Anecdotal proof from your own preteen daughter? Why is everyone suddenly an expert on the way 12-year-olds think, esp. when at the beach? Why can't she be wearing the string bikini because it's what her friends are all wearing, and the pre-teen urge to fit in trumps all? Why can't she be wearing the string bikini because she wants to get more sun? Why can't she be wearing the string bikini because it's more comfortable under the life jacket? (I could go on all day, really, with a dozen reasons that a kid might select a piece of clothing, and not one of them is "to look sexy.") What is "sexy", anyway? To you, it's the 12-year-old's string bikini, apparently. Why does the fact that you don't like the way the girl is dressed become her problem?
  • "Don't even get me started on mothers who start dressing their girls like hoochies from toddler age."
  • By all means, get started. What does this even mean? What is "dressing a girl like a hoochie"?
This is like the invisible backpack of white privilege; until Americans stop judging (and practically criminalizing) the perceived sexual appearance of children based on nothing more than their own moral spectrum, and start trying to at least become aware of how much ingrained transgressive shame we carry around and then foist on other people, all the time, we are part of the problem.

Which is fine -- be part of the problem, if that lets you sleep better at night. But acknowledge that's what you're doing.

Upon preview: Mrs. Pterodactyl, I appreciate your clarification. Still, if either of those two bathing suits you linked are what you perceive to be overly sexual and designed to draw attention to a pre-pubescent child's non-existent breasts, then all I can say is that we will never see eye-to-eye on this. I simply disagree that the cut of a bathing suit can imbue sexuality or sexual objectification on a child.

Re Riki tiki:
"because it's absurd to draw a specific line such as the one you described, you seem to be arguing that the threshold does not exist."
The line was Mrs. Pterodactyl's, not mine. I was very, very careful to explain right up front that this was how I was perceiving her comments, which she has since clarified. Please be sure to only ascribe to me that which I actually feel and believe, versus that which I am debating for the sake of the conversation.
"Maybe the initial sexualization of a skimpy bikini on a ten-year-old is on the part of the parents, or entirely in the minds of the people who see it..."
My point exactly. I never said the child would be oblivious to the response she gets. But it's the response that is wrong, not the child in the first place.
"I'll thank you not to create ridiculous straw men like "that 8-year-old was asking for it."
I'll thank you to try to seem less self-righteous, if you want to continue to have a reasonable conversation about a tricky social topic on a public forum. High-flown comments like this discourage discourse. Further, if you are confused about what a straw man is, please look it up, but I was explaining to Mrs. Pterodactyl how I interpreted her comments. Please be sure to only ascribe to me that which I actually feel and believe, versus that which I am debating for the sake of the conversation.
"My point, instead, is that this is a complicated issue with interrelated societal pressures on all three parties -- the parents, the child, and the observers"
As has also been my point.
"and treating it like a mathematical model requiring strict thresholds and some apportionment of "blame" not to exceed 100% is counterproductive"
I agree, and I'm sorry that you interpreted my comments this way. But regardless of how the situation ends, it begins with "Adult A making a judgment about the proper 'amount' of sexuality in the clothing of Child B," and we need to acknowledge that that's the origin of the problem.

For thoughtful adults to ponder the idea that maybe we can work toward improving the present social climate discussed in the NYT piece by acknowledging that it does zero good to merely blame particular pieces of apparel for the inappropriate thoughts and actions of others (including themselves) is tricky and mine-filled... but if we can keep from kneejerking into "NUH UH YOU'RE THE PERV, PERV"... we should be alright.
posted by pineapple at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


This conversation is difficult because we're talking about a wide age range and a lot of weird social subtext-- people have mentioned one-year-olds, eight-year-olds, ten-year-olds. They're wildly different stages of development, sexually and socially.

Personally, my hope for the baby llama is that she feel no compulsion to act or portray herself as something other than herself, that she's not trying to please or gain approval from everyone. I just want her feel strong and like herself. I want her to enjoy being a kid, and feel safe doing it. I don't want her to have to rush through childhood. Who doesn't want that for their kid?

As for older kids -- an eleven year old doesn't have the capacity to understand grown up sex, but at eleven, getting my first bra and my first period pretty much summed up all that I hoped for in life, and to have a boyfriend like that awesome David Lee Roth. But "sex", even someone touching my non-existent breasts, was a milliion miles away. Everything was very abstracted and shadowy and mixed up with wanting to be an adult and wanting autonomy but being frightened of the big nebulous world of adulthood at the same time.

This subject has a lot of little threads to it that make talking about it really complex. There's the impulse of parents to project their images of what they want the children to be onto the children themselves. There's a society that over-values superficiality and appearance. There's this very sexualized world we share, where indulgence, food, drink, whatever, is seen as paramount to being cared for, rich, successful. There's an unwillingness on the part of lots of adults to acknowledge that children have a sexuality of their own.

I don't really have a point. I'm just following the thread and realized it looks more like a spider web than a thread. People are talking about different things in some cases, I think.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


More often than not, when young preteen and teen girls pick out a string bikini, it is to mimic what they think sexy is supposed to look like. They aren't thinking i want to attract some grown man, but they do want to present an image of hot or cool or sexy.

So what? Kids want to be like grown-ups. If a young boy wants to wear a sports jersey, is that a huge deal? No? Then why all the weird concern when girls try to imitate adult women?

Could our culture be a healthier place for girls and women? Yes. But nearly pubertal girls trying to act like adult women is completely natural.
posted by kathrineg at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


dlugoczaj: Oh, and about the naked adults (and kids, I suppose) on the couch? That's why you're always supposed to carry your own towel. See, I learn things from David Sedaris.

I love Sedaris, but I'd give the towel credit to Douglas Adams.

As parents, we definitely tried not to be uptight about nudity, and there is definitely a "naked time" period where utter glee is taken in just running around in birthday suits. Our sons, who are younger (four and seven), could take or leave clothes. I like them dressed eventually, but only because I like to think we might actually go out rather than relaxing around the house all day. Meanwhile, our daughter, now eleven, only a year or so ago started to develop her own sense of modesty. But either way, they know it's not a big deal.
posted by pzarquon at 10:04 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I think sexy bikinis on kids is a whole other issue than young kids running around naked."

Operative phrase being "I think." You are the one who thinks the bikini is sexy on that child.


I don't understand how you're interpreting this this way. I don't know what directly you're responding to, the thread is moving so fast, but in no way is that an accurate representation of the preceding sentence.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2009


and to have a boyfriend like that awesome David Lee Roth

Oh, man. You weren't the only one. I wrote some fairly hard-core porn about him at age 14 or so, which no one except me has ever seen. Oversexualized? Yep, always, by my own mind and by no one really paying much attention to what I read. Assaulted, sexualized by others, or overly influenced by the media? Nope (well, maybe except for the Penthouse Forums that I sneaked from my dad, or by David Lee Roth waving his crotch at the camera one too many times).

And then I grew up to be quite prudish. One just never knows.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:09 AM on July 16, 2009


And then I grew up to be quite prudish.

Possibly a delayed response to the ass-less pants.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2009


I love Sedaris, but I'd give the towel credit to Douglas Adams.

Yeah, but in Adams' list of all the reasons a towel is awesome, he doesn't come right out and say it's to keep pubic hairs off someone's couch if you're naked, and Sedaris does. Looks like his "Naked" essay isn't anywhere I can link to immediately, though, so you'll have to trust me on this.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:12 AM on July 16, 2009


naju said: "It could be the fact that I had conservative parents from India (a place where even public kissing is taboo), but I'm totally against the idea of 4 year olds running around naked in the house. Am I one of the only MeFites who doesn't see why they can't just cover up? I'd be freaking out that they'd be getting nekkid in preschool or kindergarten. Admittedly, I can't really articulate at length why it seems dumb to me, it's mostly just a visceral reaction, so maybe this is my hangup to get over."

I want to underline what zarq said earlier -- your culture of origin is your culture of origin, and shouldn't be considered a hang-up. There's simply "where does my opinion fit on the scale of the norm in [$COMMUNITY]"...where that community could be India, MetaFilter, the local preschool, or a nude beach in Saint Tropez.

We all have to acknowledge our own preferences and mores, and stand by them. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I just think it's wrong to imply, or to refuse to acknowledge, that "my highly individualized preference on this issue is not a result of my personal upbringing and psychosocial development, but is instead some clear-cut community and moral standard to be applied across the board to all children, families and situations."
posted by pineapple at 10:13 AM on July 16, 2009


We never really made a big deal about it one way or the other, with our son - we'd get him dressed in the morning, he'd stay dressed all day. If he'd expressed a desire to be naked, we probably would've let him, but he never did.

He's eight now, and has become very protective of his undressitudeness. Closes the door when he gets dressed, became *very* upset when he realized he would have to undress in front of the doctor at his physical. We didn't do anything to encourage or discourage this, it's just the way he turned out.
posted by Lucinda at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2009


This just in: American adults are uncomfortable with with the naked human form. In any context.

Film at 11.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:29 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


A Terrible Llama said: ""I think sexy bikinis on kids is a whole other issue than young kids running around naked." "Operative phrase being 'I think.' You are the one who thinks the bikini is sexy on that child."

I don't understand how you're interpreting this this way. I don't know what directly you're responding to, the thread is moving so fast, but in no way is that an accurate representation of the preceding sentence."
We'll have to agree to disagree, then, because to me the point is crystal-clear. domino said in that one particular, self-contained sentence, "sexy bikinis on kids." Using myself as a data point, I don't believe that a kid can ever wear a sexy bikini. "Sexy" is subjective, and is in the eye of the beholder. I wanted merely to drive home that "sexy" is 100% subjective, just like "beautiful, ugly, slutty, pure, proper, trashy." These are terms that American adults use to refer to children's appearances, and it's just part of our baggage as a culture (thanks, Puritans!).

Maybe domino meant that "revealing bikinis that grown women wear in order to emphasize their figures shouldn't be worn by children," but that's not what was said here in this thread. And it's careless language like "children wearing sexy bikinis" that contributes, in small part, to the problem.

And fwiw, I agree with you, ATL, that this topic isn't very linear. I personally have been on a derail from the NYT story, to niggle over the idea that a bathing suit causes problems -- which is very much a side issue in a bigger mess of complicated discussion, and shouldn't become the meat and potatoes of the thing.
posted by pineapple at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2009


So what? Kids want to be like grown-ups. If a young boy wants to wear a sports jersey, is that a huge deal? No? Then why all the weird concern when girls try to imitate adult women?

The concern is not about trying to imitate adult women. If little girls want to wear sports jersey (there are female athletes, too, you know), or business suits or fancy dresses or any of dozens of other modes of dressing like the grown-ups no one has a problem with that. The problem is overt sexualization of pre-pubescents who don't fully understand the adult world of sexual attraction and aren't helped giving in to the pressure (whether internal or external) to present themselves as sexually mature and available.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


pineapple: This is like the invisible backpack of white privilege...

What the what?

I respect that you do appear to be trying to have a level debate about this subject, pineapple, but this sort of thing is why people are misunderstanding you. Maybe you are drawing a legitimate comparison between the "invisible backpack" concept and, I assume, our underlying assumptions about propriety. There's a hint of a valid analogy there, I'll admit, but it's like you killed a spider with a shotgun. Bringing "white privilege" into this debate, even as a one-off comment, adds so much rhetorical baggage to an issue that has (so far) had nothing whatsoever to do with race.

Similarly, your characterization of others' arguments as part of "a slippery slope that veers perilously close to 'that 8-year-old was asking for it'" added the entire loaded language of rape and consent debates to a discussion of simply visual sexualization. If you'd been trying to make a more comprehensive point about how increased sexualization of young girls increases the chance of sexual assault, and that people might assert that they deserve a share of the blame for that assault, then maybe it would have been relevant. But since we weren't having that discussion, and no one made any comment vaguely resembling such an assertion, it served only to make your comment seem like willful misinterpretation and an assault on a straw man. And yes, I know what the term means.

Reading your clarifications of your points, I find myself sympathetic to your views though I don't entirely agree with them. I guess what I'm saying here is that if you'd presented them without the loaded, emotional, adversarial analogies then I probably would have understood you better from the get-go.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


As a disclaimer, I am Mr. Pterodactyl and my wife and I have discussed this issue a fair bit.

I simply disagree that the cut of a bathing suit can imbue sexuality or sexual objectification on a child.

This kind of reasoning makes little sense to me. Half the point of a lot of clothing is to make the wear a sexual object. It's crafted to be sexually appealing, at least in this particular culture. Thus, the effect of the article of clothing is to make the wearer seem like a sexual object to the average viewer, no matter what the wearer's reason for wearing it is.

You're right to say that the effect is in the eye of the beholder, but that doesn't make it any less real. When a 10 year old wears an outfit that imitates an outfit that an adult wears for a sexual purpose, it sends a sexual message. Now, you might disagree that the bathing suits Mrs. Pterodactyl send that message, but what if the child wanted to wear a child's version of this(NSFW). If you honestly don't see that as imbuing sexual objectification, even on a child, I'm not sure we inhabit the same reality.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


This just in: American adults are uncomfortable with with the naked human form. In any context.


Can I nominate this to receive the 2009 Metafilter "Most Demonstrably Wrong Generalization Award"?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Remember the Nirvana cover for Nevermind...naked swimming baby boy? I walked into a record store and they had the poster on the wall with the baby penis airbrushed out?! Like that would either offend or tempt someone? Whoever thought it was necassary to do that needs serious therapy.
posted by xjudson at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2009


Llama can run around naked when she's old enough to not poop on the couch.

Not then, either, unless she's recently (i.e. within 10 minutes) bathed. Would you let an adult sit naked on your couch? And then sit on it again yourself? Ew.

[NOT GERMOPHOBIC]


Um, yes, yes you are, DU. You're afraid of germs, to a degree that is not backed up by reason, but instead is caused by irrational feelings.

The bottom side of human posteriors are not actually a major vector for diseases. Anuses don't easily come in contact with what you're sitting on (thank goodness; that would hurt!). And frankly, if you've ever raised a toddler, you may recall that their hands tend to be covered with whatever touches any other part of their body at all. Ergo, if you aren't constantly changing their gloves, they might as well be naked.

Kids are germ mops, yet somehow we survive. Go figure.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a clarification, I'm not saying a child version of the bathing suit I linked to even exists, just that if it did, it would send a sexual message. Meaning that the categorical statement that bathing suit cut can not imbue a child with a sexualized image is wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2009


The concern is not about trying to imitate adult women. If little girls want to wear sports jersey (there are female athletes, too, you know), or business suits or fancy dresses or any of dozens of other modes of dressing like the grown-ups no one has a problem with that. The problem is overt sexualization of pre-pubescents who don't fully understand the adult world of sexual attraction and aren't helped giving in to the pressure (whether internal or external) to present themselves as sexually mature and available.

I don't get why girls can imitate any aspect of adult behavior UNLESS it involves sexuality. Girls are expected to severely curtail their behavior and dress because it makes people uncomfortable for them to express themselves in certain ways. So the burden of ongoing sexism again falls on girls. I think that's bullshit. Most girls will always want to dress like adult women. It is part of experimenting with oneself and yes, one's sexuality. As long as there's not someone forcing them to buy and wear a sexy bikini, who cares?
posted by kathrineg at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most girls will always want to dress like adult women.

Should read: "Most girls will eventually want to dress like adult women."
posted by kathrineg at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2009


She came back to find everyone gasping with surprise, and her daughter patting the neighbour's labrador on the head, calling it a "good doggy", with the turd nowhere to be seen.

posted by MuffinMan

Ewwponysterical.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pater Aletheias: "The concern is not about trying to imitate adult women. If little girls want to wear sports jersey (there are female athletes, too, you know), or business suits or fancy dresses or any of dozens of other modes of dressing like the grown-ups no one has a problem with that.

Well that's not strictly true. Many parents do have problems with their sons wearing clothes they personally believe to be effeminate, or their daughters mimicking adult roles that they believe to be "unladylike." One could argue that the revealing swimsuit issue is simply a microcosm of a larger pressure to guide children to the "appropriate" adult roles, and is only a more animated debate because talking about sex is just not something America Does Well.

The problem is overt sexualization of pre-pubescents who don't fully understand the adult world of sexual attraction and aren't helped giving in to the pressure (whether internal or external) to present themselves as sexually mature and available."

Again, playing devil's advocate a bit here, but while they aren't helped, how are they harmed and to what extent is that harm specific to being pre-pubescent? Lots of fully-grown adults find the adult world of sexual attraction inscrutable and put themselves through hell to try to fit into it.

I think one of the most important lessons we can teach them is that being sexually attractive does not mean you have to be sexually active, since kids that age are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of sexual activity. But beyond that lesson I don't think there's necessarily an intrinsic danger associated with sexualized clothing.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2009


Maybe domino meant that "revealing bikinis that grown women wear in order to emphasize their figures shouldn't be worn by children," but that's not what was said here in this thread. And it's careless language like "children wearing sexy bikinis" that contributes, in small part, to the problem.

No really, that's exactly what domino said, unless you want to put the most awful interpretation possible on the statement and imply that s/he thinks kids are sexy. In domino's sentence, "sexy" describes "bikini," not "kid." See Bulgaroktonos's link for a (rather extreme) example of a sexy bikini.

I'm sure domino can defends him/herself, but your statement seems to strongly imply that domino thinks a child in a bikini is sexy, which is a pretty horrible thing to say.
posted by Mavri at 10:59 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord, my 6 year old would go naked all the time if I'd let him. And the things that boy will do to his penis...well, who knew they were that stretchy? Foreskins for the win, I guess.

I've had to institute some rules, only because we live in the suburbs, don't have a privacy fence, and our yard adjoins a park and fishing pond, so there are always people just outside the fence. So, the rule is; as naked as you want to be in inside *our* house, and at his Aunt's house and my mother's house, he can be naked inside the house and outside in the yard and pool as he wants.

But in public, or in our back yard, which might as well be public, he has to wear pants. He also knows that it's inappropriate to remove clothing anywhere but home (or family's homes). Also, if we're having playdates here, everyone's clothes have to stay on. Not because I care about having a houseful of naked children, but because other parents seem to care...and I don't see any reason to go around shaking other people's sacred totems.

So, naked...it doesn't faze me. But I agree with other posters that sexualized clothing for kids pre-puberty is just wrong. I'd rather have my 5 year old goddaughter naked and running around than it some string bikini that says "juicy" on the ass. That's just wrong.
posted by dejah420 at 11:08 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd rather have my 5 year old goddaughter naked and running around than it some string bikini that says "juicy" on the ass.

Ew. Unfortunately, at 5, it still might say "juicy" for a very different reason. That IS just wrong.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2009


Riki tiki said: "Maybe you are drawing a legitimate comparison between the "invisible backpack" concept and, I assume, our underlying assumptions about propriety. There's a hint of a valid analogy there, I'll admit, but it's like you killed a spider with a shotgun. Bringing "white privilege" into this debate, even as a one-off comment, adds so much rhetorical baggage to an issue..."

Only for those who elect to read it that way. That you yourself admit that internalized subconcious preconceptions about race is a "legitimate comparison" and "a hint of a valid [analog]" to internalized subconcious preconceptions about sexuality is enough for me. Race and gender/sexuality are equally complicated issues. If you feel the need to give one some sort of higher priority that bars us from mentioning it here, that's your deal, not mine. I will assume that other readers understood the comparison without projecting the "rhetorical baggage" that you elected to ascribe to my point. This is the kind of kneejerk stuff I'm talking about as not being helpful to the discussion. "SHE SAID THE WORD 'RACE' OH NOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Bulgaroktonos said: "Thus, the effect of the article of clothing is to make the wearer seem like a sexual object to the average viewer, no matter what the wearer's reason for wearing it is." ...."You're right to say that the effect is in the eye of the beholder, but that doesn't make it any less real. When a 10 year old wears an outfit that imitates an outfit that an adult wears for a sexual purpose, it sends a sexual message."

And I've never said it can't send a sexual message, or that the effect isn't objectification. Please note that all you're addressing here is the EFFECT, when what I've been trying to dispute is the CAUSE. I've said all along that the clothing and the child are not the origin of the problem, as some have argued here.

Now, if you want to trot out ultra-sexual clothing like in the porn photo you linked, and say, "See, since this clearly sends a sexual message, therefore the kids' bikinis that Mrs. Pterodactyl linked do also," that's your call to make. I see the two as apples and oranges; the two items of clothing aren't even in the same galaxy. And frankly, I see equating them as rather disingenuous -- but I can respect that, to your family, they might be equivalents.

But they aren't equivalents as a result of some commonly held, little-c-catholic American moral standard. "Murder is wrong" is a catholic American moral standard. "Girls shouldn't wear bathing suits with triangle tops" is a much grayer area, and shouldn't be treated like a similar absolute.

Mavri said "your statement seems to strongly imply that domino thinks a child in a bikini is sexy, which is a pretty horrible thing to say."

Then by all means, let me clarify, with no implication or room for misinterpretation: I don't know domino, I don't know how he thinks, and I have no interest in speculating about his opinions on what constitutes "sexy bikinis on kids." I feel that his choice of words was careless, and that in general his comment was unhelpful drive-by moralizing. Can we not have that more nuanced conversation?

What makes a sexy bikini is in the eye of the beholder, and talking about what clothes look sexy on children is a perilous path where we should all choose our words extremely carefully -- not simply because it matters at MeFi but because it matters when we are talking to and around children about sexuality. If a 10-year-old overhears an adult refer judgmentally to her sexy bikini, does she know that "sexy" is applying to the piece of clothing and not her self and body?

Truly, any further "YOU THINK DOMINO IS A PERV" accusations that arise after this, I will have to just assume are flamebait.
posted by pineapple at 11:14 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can I nominate this to receive the 2009 Metafilter "Most Demonstrably Wrong Generalization Award"?

Seconded. Proven by the views expressed by American commenters in this here thread. :)
posted by zarq at 11:14 AM on July 16, 2009


Truly, any further "YOU THINK DOMINO IS A PERV" accusations that arise after this, I will have to just assume are flamebait. -

How about pedantry? Can we just accuse you of pedantry, instead?
posted by kaseijin at 11:19 AM on July 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


...see...it's funny because not only reference parsing the meaning/usage of the word 'sexy,' but, you know...it sounds sorta like that other word... you know...that one...

(quietly slinks backwards out of room)
posted by kaseijin at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2009


kaseijin said: "...see...it's funny because not only reference parsing the meaning/usage of the word 'sexy,' but, you know...it sounds sorta like that other word... you know...that one...

(quietly slinks backwards out of room)
"

It is funny. I got it. :)
posted by pineapple at 11:27 AM on July 16, 2009


Oh, Christ, the amount of bullshit in this thread!

Pineapple, take some damn responsibility for what you say—You're adopting a shouty tone and dismissing people's valid concerns about how minors are sexualized because you've got some stupid bug up your ass about how this is all, like, these invisible backpacks, man. Get off your bullshit third-wave high horse and quit pretending subjectivity is a one-way argument.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


Ew. Unfortunately, at 5, it still might say "juicy" for a very different reason. That IS just wrong.

I want pants for my kids that will read "FULL" when their diapers need to be changed. If I'm going to buy a pair of pants for my daughter that emblazon something across her rump, it might as well be useful information.
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


klang, surely you've seen me actually be shouty in a thread before? This sure ain't it.

I'm not dismissing anyone's anything. I'm just 1) not blaming the clothing, and 2) I'm acknowledging that I bring my own personal set of issues into the discussion, and therefore I don't make the rules that everyone must follow and live by.

Those two perspectives just don't seem to be very prevalent in this conversation.
posted by pineapple at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2009


I have to disagree with you about what you said, Pineapple, you said that the cut of a bathing suit can't imbue a child with sexuality. That's talking about the effect of the clothing, now maybe what you meant to say is "putting a child in a sexual provocative outfit can't, alone, make the child an internally sexual being" but there's a world of difference between making someone as a sexual being to themselves, and "imbuing them with sexuality" something is imbued with sexuality as soon as it's reasonable to have see a sexual message as what's being conveyed.

I also think the pretty clear intent of my linking to the porn was to say "you must admit that if a child wore this, it would send a sexual message regardless of it being a child" therefore, there's somewhere on the spectrum, where even you agree that a particular outfit sexualizes the child to a reasonable viewer. That means that the kind of categorical statements you're making about whether bathing suits can be inappropriately sexual on a child are wrong, even if only at the extreme. I never said they equivalent, in fact, I was pretty clear that they were not.

I'm also not sure why you're so keen to separate cause and effect. The question is what, as a parent, should you allow your child to wear. If a particular type of dress causes other people to view your child as a sexual being, when they're not, then I think you have an obligation to keep your child out of that circumstances. It doesn't matter that you're child isn't causing it per se, they will still feel the ill effects of being seen and treated as a sexual being when they aren't prepared to deal with those effects. Now, obviously, this standard doesn't implicate concerns about genuine pedophilia, because those people will see your child as a sexual objection purely by virtue of being a child. What it does implicate are outfits that would cause a an ordinary person to see your child as a sexual being. Now, maybe you think that those people are unreasonable, but your opinion doesn't matter, what matters are the opinions of the other people who view your child.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:38 AM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


What makes a sexy bikini is in the eye of the beholder, and talking about what clothes look sexy on children is a perilous path

...which is what other people are telling you. Your second phrase implies the fallacy inherent in your premise.

Like it or not, we're embedded in a society (or, rather, several for this readership) that associates certain modes of dress with certain sexual states of receptivity. Your argument might be true in the case of a theoretical unsocialized child, but try telling your grandmother that a thong bikini is neither appropriate nor inappropriate for a four-year old and you will have a pointedly non-theoretical discussion.

It doesn't matter that clothing is a priori asymbolic, it matters that children take their reactions from the reaction of the people, their parents, their neighbours, embedded in the society in which they are being raised. Say that clothing doesn't have meaning in the abstract really isn't an interesting argument. Everything is socially constructed.
posted by bonehead at 11:39 AM on July 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


He also knows that it's inappropriate to remove clothing anywhere but home (or family's homes).

Dejah4204's comment reminds me how annoyingly useful that vile word "inappropriate" actually became during the early bits of child rearing.

It's odd how it's often a weasel euphemism among adults. But was accepted as a simple directive from parents to young kids that some behaviors were terrific with us (or certain relatives) but were to be avoided elsewhere, for long-winded reasons.

I just mean kids generally didn't attach any darkly suggestive subtext to the whys.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:39 AM on July 16, 2009


klangklangston said: "Get off your bullshit third-wave high horse and quit pretending subjectivity is a one-way argument."

By the way, is this code for "this conversation can ONLY have two sides, one black/evil, one good/white, and therefore everyone commenting is either a perv who sexualizes children, or is a good and moral citizen"?

'Cause, gosh, if I'd wanted to participate in that kind of discussion, I would have sought out one of those awesome police brutality threads that MeFi does so well.

Bulgaroktonos said "What it does implicate are outfits that would cause a an ordinary person to see your child as a sexual being."

Yes, but we don't all agree on what those are, and it's intellectually dishonest to say, "My standard is THE standard."

bonehead: agree with you heartily.
posted by pineapple at 11:41 AM on July 16, 2009


Sounds like another case of people taking their cues from sensationalist news rather than actual statistics, but news stories about how much danger kids are in while traveling in vehicles make for boring headlines.
posted by mattholomew at 11:49 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I simply disagree that the cut of a bathing suit can imbue sexuality or sexual objectification on a child.

I don't think anyone was saying that the cut of the suit makes the child sexy. I think the point is that, on adults, certain cuts are widely accepted to be sexier than others. A thong and a string bikini compared to the elbow and knee length suits common a century ago, to make an overly obvious example. So, if some bathing suits are generally considered sexier than others, then dressing a child in that suit will communicate some element of sexuality to an observer. It doesn't imbue the child with sexuality, but it is a juxtaposition of two things that people are (rightly) hesitant to combine- 'sexy' and 'child'.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong about it, just as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with putting lipstick and fake eyelashes on a child, or high heels, or anything else. The trouble is that in our society such things are often considered to convey sexuality, and as such aren't all that appropriate for a child.
posted by twirlypen at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2009


You don't actually.

Please note that all you're addressing here is the EFFECT, when what I've been trying to dispute is the CAUSE.

My point is that you can't separate causality from instance in this context. The effect and cause are self-reinforcing and indivisible. Arguing that a separation exists is theoretically possible, but pointless as no one can actually find an example of such.
posted by bonehead at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's also intellectually dishonest to say that I've said something I haven't, in fact, it's just regularly dishonest, too.

I've never said what the standard should be for what children should be allowed to wear beyond saying that if it causes an ordinary person to view them as a sexual being, you've entered into the problem area. My argument was merely that the standard isn't YOUR standard, it's the standard of the people around you, because the ill effects flow from them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:54 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sister was complaining this weekend about how much trouble she had last Halloween fulfilling my then 5-year-old (but extremely tall for her age) niece's request for a bunny costume. Up to a certain size full-bodied, fluffy bunny outfits were easy to come by. Once you got up to a certain size though, the vast majority of bunny outfits tended to consist of a leotard, bow-tie and bunny ears.
posted by The Gooch at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found it interesting: Vacationing on the island of Ibiza, we saw bare chested girls and adult women, but there was an age group of about 12 to 18 that wore tops.
posted by Drasher at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2009


Not all that strange, if you take a look at García Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba."
posted by blucevalo at 12:03 PM on July 16, 2009


Pineapple, there are cultural mores that indicate "sexiness" as understood in a given culture. Fishnet stockings, red lipstick, high heels, thongs, slutty halloween costumes.

Also, humans have erogenous zones,and highlighting them is sexually appealing.

Yes, it is the adult who projects the sexy construct onto the child, but it is also the adult who dresses the child in a manner that mimics an adult trying to be sexually provocative.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget that Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen" was banned at many schools/libraries back in the day. Sheesh, my parents didn't want me reading "Where the Wild Things Are," because they thought it was too weird. (The preview is really cool,even if it takes years for it to be released.)

Of my four offspring, only one was a resolute nudist (until he entered his modesty period and prompted his younger brother to need privacy to change his pants at an age when said older brother would still have been still running around "wearing my nudes.") It was when the fundamentalist christian twins from around the corner covered their mouths, giggled and said "Ew! He's naked!" that my dander rose. We're talking about a two-year-old, for crying out loud. Get thee to the nunnery.

I read this NYT story at 3:30 this a.m. And the earlybird comments, some of which were interesting, although MetaFilter comments are always way more. I have never posted anything but questions, and I was tempted to take my virgin voyage, but instead I thought it would be fun to see how long it would take for it to be up there. And here we are. Boy, people have a lot to say about nudity, and childhood, and pedo/paedophilia issues have been cropping up all over.
posted by emhutchinson at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2009


Hmm. I grew up in a pro-nudity house in a nudity-phobic culture. I agree with St. Alia that child (and parent) nudity is a socialization issue. What you don't want is for your child to find out from their peers that there is something Different and Wrong about their attitude towards nakedness. Don't underestimate how skilled little kids are at enforcing cultural norms.
posted by GraceCathedral at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2009


What you don't want is for your child to find out from their peers that there is something Different and Wrong about their attitude towards nakedness.

I don't quite follow, GraceCathedral.

Why nudity should be considered "Wrong" is certainly a good subject for defensive debate.

But pro-nudity is indeed "Different" from neutral-about-nudity or anti-nudity, isn't it?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:25 PM on July 16, 2009


I think the question about girls in bikinis is pretty simple. Who does it harm? No one. So why shouldn't they do it? They're really just playing dress up, or trying to attract boys their own age. What's the problem with that?

I do really think that part of it is that is that it does turn some adult men on, and those men then feel ashamed or perverted. But that's really their own problem, not the girls. It really is similar to Muslims wanting women to wear burkas so they don't get inadvertently turned on and then feel bad.
posted by delmoi at 12:32 PM on July 16, 2009


Basically, if a child learns norms that conflict with the norms of the wider culture in which they live, I think it's the parent's responsibility to make the cultural context clear. For instance, when I was about 3, I was sitting naked in a place where a neighbor could see me, and they called the police on my parents. In a community, "wrong" is something that gets agreed on communally, and there are real and immediate consequences to violating the communal agreement.
posted by GraceCathedral at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2009


Just not that big a deal until puberty, and not a big deal after you settle down with a family. All children take their clothes off and run around at some age. It's how their parents reach to it that is most important, I think.
posted by mdoar at 12:38 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If kids want to be naked, let them be naked. Hell, if anybody wants to be naked, I say go for it. I would encourage adults to be naked. And jump on my bed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"By the way, is this code for "this conversation can ONLY have two sides, one black/evil, one good/white, and therefore everyone commenting is either a perv who sexualizes children, or is a good and moral citizen"?

'Cause, gosh, if I'd wanted to participate in that kind of discussion, I would have sought out one of those awesome police brutality threads that MeFi does so well.
"

No, and that's the kind of bullshit I mean. You kept arguing that the clothing was neutral and that the problem was one of the observer. But meaning is socially constructed and arguing that it's just on all the observers, to, like, deal with their knapsacks or whatever, ignores legitimate critiques of the message the child and the parents who are theoretically in control of the child are sending. This is especially true with the point raised regarding skimpy bikinis versus being nude—by covering only the nipples, it sends a message that the nipples are sexual, and are to be regarded as sexual. This further reinforces regressive gender roles, and while kids should be able to explore their sexuality, doing so in such a fraught manner should be cause for consideration.

To play off your ham-handed race analogy, you're doing the equivalent of arguing that people concerned about blackface are the ones who have the problem, because there's nothing wrong with being black.

So perhaps you should go off and find one of those police brutality threads, because I'm not sure you're bright enough to participate in this one.
posted by klangklangston at 1:02 PM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think claiming that young girls are not harmed by allowing them to dress in provocative ways ignores the complexity of the situations.

For starters, even if the only effect is to turn on certain older men, that can(even absent actual molestation) have a negative effect on girls who notice that they attract sexual attention before they're properly equipped to deal with it. I also think you're right, that most young girls who want to wear skimpy bathing suits do it either because they want to imitate adults(when they're younger) or to attract attention from boys their own age(when they're a little older). It's baffling to me, however, that you couldn't see how some clear harms can flow from those motives.

Allowing young girls to think that adulthood is exclusively about displaying themselves in a particular way sexually skews their perception of what it means to be an adult, and I think a parent is doing their child a disservice by allowing them to "play dress up" in that way. Similarly, depending on the age we're talking about, allowing them free reign to attract boy their own age is incredibly problematic. To a 12 year old boy(or even a bit older) a 12 year old girl is a sexual object and vice versa, even though neither side is really equipped to deal with their own sexuality(much less some else's) in a responsible way. Part of being a good parent is shepherding them through that window between when they have begin to develop as sexual beings, and when they're equipped to begin sexual relationships. Now, obviously, it's a judgment call about what levels of sexual activity is or is not appropriate, but it's not crazy to think that, for a lot of 12 year olds, allowing them to display themselves in a bikini as a way of attracting 12 year old boys lets them extend their reach into the sexual arena further they are equipped to handle, and that negative results will flow from that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:09 PM on July 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think the question about girls in bikinis is pretty simple. Who does it harm? No one. So why shouldn't they do it? They're really just playing dress up, or trying to attract boys their own age. What's the problem with that?

It's the narrowing of the parameters of childhood, of the nature of being a child, separate from adults. It's not just the swimsuits, it's things like starting Chinese language lessons when they're four, it's the over-scheduling of their lives, so they don't do so much meandering exploration as some of us did as kids, riding their bikes around the neighborhood, that sort of thing.

It's not just a matter of dressing up in mom's high heels, it's that it's not really 'playing dress up' at all. They're not in costume.

I know these are trite observations, I think I read an article about this or someone ranting about it once a month, but there's truth in it. We're a society where we can't have a sitcom without at least one wise-cracking kid and being precocious is equated with being smart and talented, but you could also look at it as shrinking the definition of what it means to be a kid, so that what it means to be a kid is "you're short."
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:11 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


So perhaps you should go off and find one of those police brutality threads, because I'm not sure you're bright enough to participate in this one.

The conversation is already derailed enough without throwing a personal attack into the mix.
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos said "claiming that young girls are not harmed by allowing them to dress in provocative ways ignores the complexity of the situations."

It's important to me to note that I've never made this claim. I realize that you can address opinions and remarks other than mine, Bulgaroktonos, and I don't mean to presume you are addressing me here, but since you and I have directly rebutted before now, I'm just getting on the record that I never said that.

klangklangston said: "To play off your ham-handed race analogy, you're doing the equivalent of arguing that people concerned about blackface are the ones who have the problem, because there's nothing wrong with being black. So perhaps you should go off and find one of those police brutality threads, because I'm not sure you're bright enough to participate in this one."

I believe that the inability of Americans as a culture to acknowledge our own individual subconscious issues and baggage around sexuality (and that those issues color how we set norms for our communities) is fairly similar to our inability as a culture to acknowledge our own subconscious issues and baggage around race (and that those issues color how we set norms for our communities).

That's all I ever said. Nothing about blackface, nothing about being black, nothing at all about race. All I compared was how American society responds similarly to two different hot-button issues. That you and Riki Tiki elected to read that particular point through the filter of your own hand-wringing, I can't help.

Insulting me as not bright because you don't agree with the comparison... or can't understand that point without boiling it down to a race card... or because you just can't be arsed to have a discussion above the comprehension level on Bloom's Taxonomy, is childish and unbecoming.

Further, as someone who is always so very eager to trot out his porn-cred and sex authority, I'm honestly shocked to find that you of all people have got so little room for tangents of conversation that don't fit into your pre-approved roadmap, on this sexuality conversation. But I guess we'll have to take it to MeTa if we want to discuss that further, because as has been pointed out, you've already gone well out of the range of reasonable dialogue here.
posted by pineapple at 1:29 PM on July 16, 2009


Bulgaroktonos, I understand your concerns about the potential of sexual attention before they are ready to deal with it or worse but I think you neglected to consider a couple other arguments here. first, forbidding something makes it all the more interesting. such discussions should be held on one level with the child involved and not be handed down as a law of god. if you do not wish for your hypothetical twelve year-old to be seen in a bikini you should clearly and truthfully explain to her why (as in "it makes me worry about you doing/being..."), listen to her counter arguments and take them into honest consideration before making a final decision. at this age the point needs to be to find a common ground that both parties can live with or you will end up with a teenager who will only share certain requests, thoughts and ideas with you. children at this age can smell bullshit from a mile away and they will not respect you unless you are absolutely rational in your explanation. they already know that their wearing of a bikini is really a problem of your security and faith in them, not a problem of theirs.

that leads me to my second point: protecting a child from any and all potential dangers will leave a child less prepared to deal with future adversities. you cannot be around at all times. you cannot stop any bad decision. your hypothetical child needs to experience what consequences choices produce as long as mom and dad can still intervene before the shit truly hits the fan and the same child needs to learn that yes, mom and dad are the right people to call when a situation gets out of hand. too many adolescents would rather eat live bees than ask their parents for help, especially when they themselves made a mistake.

whether or not a twelve year-old should be allowed to wear a bikini depends on who that twelve year-old is, what the individual situation where said bikini is going to be worn is going to be like and a host of other variables. at the end it comes down to trust in each other and oneself.
posted by krautland at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2009


"Insulting me as not bright because you don't agree with the comparison... or can't understand that point without boiling it down to a race card... or because you just can't be arsed to have a discussion above the comprehension level on Bloom's Taxonomy, is childish and unbecoming."

No, I'm implying that you're not so bright because you took my saying that subjectivity isn't one way to imply some sort of idiotic Manichean worldview. Which is stupid, and obviously has nothing to do with what I was saying, which was that your argument—based on biased readings by the observer of the subject, any subject but in this case sexuality—placed the locus of meaning on the receiver and ignored anything from the broadcaster. Which is dumb.

"That's all I ever said. Nothing about blackface, nothing about being black, nothing at all about race. All I compared was how American society responds similarly to two different hot-button issues. That you and Riki Tiki elected to read that particular point through the filter of your own hand-wringing, I can't help."

Right, and I was pointing out both that race isn't a particularly salient comparison here, specifically regarding the invisible knapsack, and that a fair analogy to the question of where meaning is situated is provided by blackface, where the same argument—that because sexuality or blackness isn't inherently bad, we as observers should be fine with it in all contexts—is fundamentally flawed.

"Further, as someone who is always so very eager to trot out his porn-cred and sex authority, I'm honestly shocked to find that you of all people have got so little room for tangents of conversation that don't fit into your pre-approved roadmap, on this sexuality conversation. But I guess we'll have to take it to MeTa if we want to discuss that further, because as has been pointed out, you've already gone well out of the range of reasonable dialogue here."

And this is just petulant stupidity. It has nothing to do with approved discourse, it has to do with your arguments being facile and obstreperous. But feel free to take me to MeTa for saying that you're spouting bullshit and your arguments are bombastic idiocy.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on July 16, 2009


Operative phrase being "I think." You are the one who thinks the bikini is sexy on that child. The problem is you, not the bikini. I don't think the bikini is sexy.

Then by all means, let me clarify, with no implication or room for misinterpretation: I don't know domino, I don't know how he thinks, and I have no interest in speculating about his opinions on what constitutes "sexy bikinis on kids." I feel that his choice of words was careless, and that in general his comment was unhelpful drive-by moralizing. Can we not have that more nuanced conversation


why do you assume i am male? Prejudices of your own, perhaps. I am female and have 2 daughters who are allowed to wear bikinis if they so choose.

As far as careless wording, mavri and others defended me quite well, which i appreciate. I also am pretty certain you knew exactly what i meant and picked the sentence apart anyway to try and further your argument. Unless you are living in a bubble, you also know what i mean when i say "dress their kids like hoochies". Making points from your high horse and using catch phrases like "drive by moralizing" does not make your argument more valid. You imply I am sitting here judging these kids, when in reality I am more concerned that their self image is weighted way too heavily on appearance and conforming with what society sees as most desirable. I am concerned no adult ever told them being comfortable with your body can mean being proud of what it is capable of and not just how it looks.

What makes a sexy bikini is in the eye of the beholder,

I disagree. What makes someone LOOK sexy in a bikini is in the eye of the beholder. However, as someone clearly stated above, some clothing is crafted to be sexually appealing. This includes bikinis. You can argue that prudish societal values are the cause all you want, but it won't undo that fact.

Your ideal world is full of souls who are so enlightened they apply no preconceived notions to anything they observe.

Me, i want world peace and not a single preteen child to feel the pressure to look sexy.

Neither of us are going to get what we want.
posted by domino at 2:11 PM on July 16, 2009


pineapple, I wasn't responding to you, I was responding to delmoi.

krautland, obviously, these things are best handled on a child by child basis, as I think I indicated when I said it's a judgment call. As to your other points, I think there's a couple things that need to kept in mind. One, don't give kids too much credit. Twelve year olds can not smell bullshit, they wallow in bullshit, all the time; they also just assume that everything a parent tells them is bullshit, occasionally they're right, but not usually.

Second, there's a world of difference between protecting them from every conceivable danger and making sure your child doesn't do something inappropriate for their age. The problem of "dealing with sex when you're 12" isn't a problem that you'll face once you're older, and it's a problem you're uniquely unsuited to dealing with when you're 12.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2009


sheesh. anyone who's freaked out over child nudity should spend an entire summer on a Norwegian beach. i swear my cousins didn't start wearing bathing suits til they hit puberty. if you didn't have a bathing suit as an adult person, underwear was *always* acceptable.

my grandmother sunbathed at the hytte topless all the time. this hyper-modest american girl got over it.
posted by RedEmma at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2009


domino said: "why do you assume i am male? Prejudices of your own, perhaps. "

Because your language rang as male to me, and the Gender Genie agreed, and because you didn't specify in your profile. I merely selected the pronoun that made more sense, in that light.

>> "I am female and have 2 daughters who are allowed to wear bikinis if they so choose."

I don't know how old your daughters are, but thanks for sharing that, because there are a lot of opinions being cast in this thread about how pre-teen girls do and don't think... and there's anecdotal as in "I have personal experience," and anecdotal as in "No kids myself but I'm going to spread my own ideas as fact anyway." The more parents that weigh in here, the better the conversation is.

>> "Unless you are living in a bubble, you also know what i mean when i say "dress their kids like hoochies".

I still do not know what you mean (although if you would like to provide links to examples of outfits that you think represent an average level of "hoochiness" or impropriety for children's clothing, I'm sure it would be edifying). As we have seen clearly in this thread, right here at MeFi we diverge wildly on what's acceptable and what's not; I think the bathing suits that Mrs. Pterodactyl linked are wholly modest and appropriate and she obviously does not. I also think that making broad statements lambasting mothers dressing their kids "like hoochies" doesn't improve the overall discussion.

This comment just underlines my point: there isn't a nationally-issued publication called "The Official Manual on Hoochie Dressing For Girls," and therefore we all can refer to the color photo on page 12 for What Not To Wear as we nod and agree and tsk-tsk over the choices of the Bad Parents.

>> "You can argue that prudish societal values are the cause all you want"

Never argued anything like that. I just believe that we all need to acknowledge that there isn't one standard... and therefore no one should make definitive statements that there are.

>> "Your ideal world is full of souls who are so enlightened they apply no preconceived notions to anything they observe."

Nope, and the fact that -- at this late point in the conversation, after multiple comments from me -- you are still choosing to hear that as my perspective tells me that I am spinning my wheels here and cannot successfully convey my point, which is clearly too "high horse" for this topic.

My ideal world is full of souls who can admit that they have the preconceived notions in the first place -- rather than blindly defending a position with the excuse of "I don't bring any baggage to this, and I know 'slutty' when I see it" or "everyone who doesn't live under a rock knows what 'dress like a hoochie' means," ad infinitum.

In the NYT article (which I'm assuming you've all read, right?), the interview subjects are all quoted with statements like, "My modesty standard is X, because X is what I personally am comfortable with," or "how I personally was raised", or "what my generation prefers." Compare to this thread, which has been rife with "my modesty standard is X because X is right -- and X+.00001 is inappropriate."

There is a vast range of children's attire between this and this*; why we all feel the need to put a metal stake in the ground at our particular spot on the spectrum and declare it The Only Right Way to Live is escaping me.

*And of course, on many European beaches, the main picture at that last link would not even turn a head. Yet I can openly admit that because I'm American and was raised to dress conservatively, I would not be comfortable with a daughter wearing that bikini.
posted by pineapple at 3:07 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


What makes a sexy bikini is a sexy woman in it. It's not the bikini. Some people might also believe a sexy bikini is made by the man wearing it.

Unfortunately some people might believe that what makes a sexy bikini is the child in it.

We are a wonderful, weird and sometimes disturbing lot. Should children wear a 'sexy' bikini ? imo, no. I'd rather see it on a sexy woman. When I see a child, that's all I see, either with or without clothes. It's a child to me and 99% of people on this planet. So stop worrying.

Should children run around naked? I think so. They seem to enjoy it and if someone is going to find that sexually satisfying, what's to say seeing them clothed isn't also?

There are disturbing people out there we have to protect those that can't protect themselves. Dictating what is an appropriate / inappropriate way of dressing a child is not making that child safer in my opinion. I hate seeing children wearing adult clothes fit for them because I see it as tacky, not as sexualisation. Saw a toddler wearing foam stilettos the other day. Awful.
posted by twistedonion at 3:46 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


pineapple: "my modesty standard is X because X is right -- and X+.00001 is inappropriate."

Considering how adamant you are that people in this thread have been putting words in your mouth, it's almost funny that you'd have paraphrased those comments so poorly. Not one of them claims to know the absolute truth about what is the appropriate threshold for propriety, except insofar that they believe there is a threshold and that they presumably believe their version of it is in the ballpark.

Or in other words, "my modesty standard is X for various reasons, but what's important is that the standard is not zero and that there are values close to zero that the overwhelming majority of us would agree are also below the threshold."

Arguing against that interpretation is the heap fallacy I was referring to in my original response.

why we all feel the need to put a metal stake in the ground at our particular spot on the spectrum and declare it The Only Right Way to Live is escaping me.

Point to someone doing that. Again, the only thing that's come close to being presented as an absolute truth by anyone is that some standard of propriety is necessary (and by no means has this gone unchallenged, such that any reasonable version of "we all" applied to it is preposterous).

This thread turned into a bit of a derail and a pineapple pile-on (which actually sounds like a tasty dessert, now that I say it), which is regrettable. I think some of the not-nice direct attacks towards you were unwarranted, but I also feel like you put a few logs on top of some kindling and pointed to a box of matches, then hopped around in surprise when people took that as a cue to light a fire.

As I said before, I'm probably more sympathetic to your conclusions than you'd expect, but I'd ask you to again, please, try to see why people keep misunderstanding you instead of just repeatedly accusing them of doing so.

This will be my last contribution to this thread on this subject, as I already feel like I've fouled over the "take it to MeTa" line. If you reply either here or via MeFi mail I'll be happy to read it so that I'm not trying to take my ball and go home.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I find most concerning in this article is the father who says "I don’t want to see her naked..." Has he never bathed his child? Changed her diaper? Dressed her? And if so - at what age did he begin feeling like this was inappropriate?

Well, if he was in New Zealand, I'd suggest it might have begun at the time his child was born and he was sent home from the hospital with the government issue books on caring for your child, where the only reference to fathers is "What to do if the father of your child is volent or abusive" section.

Or perhaps he came into one of Metafilter's threads on "Why I see nothing wrong from barring men from caring for children because OMG pedophiles" discussions.

And the things that boy will do to his penis...well, who knew they were that stretchy? Foreskins for the win, I guess.

A friend's son talks to his. "Bye-bye penis" he waves cheerily when his nappy is being put on.

Also, "invisible backpack" is the new "Nazi!"

I merely selected the pronoun that made more sense, in that light.

And doesn't it say a lot about your prejudices?
posted by rodgerd at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2009


"Up to a certain size full-bodied, fluffy bunny outfits were easy to come by. Once you got up to a certain size though, the vast majority of bunny outfits tended to consist of a leotard, bow-tie and bunny ears."

Pressure from both ends in this cases I'd think. At one end the general perception is that more skin is sexier and at the other once you get to a certain size you risk people thinking your a furry.
posted by Mitheral at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


My ideal world is full of souls who can admit that they have the preconceived notions in the first place


I really haven't seen anyone in this thread who refuses to do so. I take that as a given, I think most people do. Nobody's talking about absolutism, we're talking about a NYT about people living in the US. There's already enormous social context; it's implicit.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:34 PM on July 16, 2009


This has been a really fascinating discussion, and I'd like to commend pretty much everyone for remaining pretty much civil on what is a very fraught topic.

It's really interesting to see how people try to navigate these tricky waters without becoming wrecked on the twin pillars of repressive or expressive sexualisation.

Regardless of the conclusion, I think it demonstrates that the parents here are making their decisions - whatever they may be - based on long thought rather than knee-jerk reaction.
posted by smoke at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2009


Yup. My one and only child is 4 - she's naked more often than not. We live in Central Texas- it's 105 outside and 80 inside at best- she's not one for the clothes. She will don some Curious George underpants and a cotton cami for playing outside, but beyond that, it's her ballgame. Having been a single mom all her life and never having had a live-in BF in all this time, I tend to be naked sometimes too. Not for lounging, but if she hollers for a beverage just as I'm getting ready to step in the shower, I'm not going to get dressed to play temporary waitress. We have sane, frank discussions about bodies and she knows proper terminology for all the parts, although mostly we just call them "parts". However, she has a very good concept of privacy. She also understands that naked is fine for home and the back yard, but not for play dates or company. She also understands that her grandparents don't do naked.

I don't think she'll wind up warped and I'm not in fear of pedophiles, because they'd have to be like..in the house with us - our house is on a large lot, set well back from the road and our backyard has lot of bordering trees that afford privacy. We know all our neighbors, most of whom would have to make a very concerted effort to see over the privacy fences if they were inclined to be creepy weirdos. Which they're not.

Like a previous user commented before me, I also ran around in mostly underpants until I was 8 or so. I can remember lying on the sofa watching cartoons with my hands balled into fists tucked just inside the waistband in case it was drafty...I've taken some issues to my therapist, but none of them stemmed from not wearing enough clothes at home as a kid.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:06 PM on July 16, 2009


Put me in the "much prefers literal childish dickwaving" camp.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:47 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's nothing intrinsically wrong about it, just as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with putting lipstick and fake eyelashes on a child, or high heels, or anything else.

I think what bothers me about all these things on a prepubescent child -- high heels, makeup, skimpy bikinis -- is that they place too much emphasis on presentation. I'll admit to watching an episode of the execrable "Toddlers in Tiaras," and what bothered me so much about the mothers in it was that they treated normal developmental behavior -- fidgeting, fussing when hungry, frowning when unhappy, anxiety in unfamiliar situations -- as serious disciplinary problems. It was of utmost importance that their children be appealing, not that they be interested, or happy, or active.

I suspect the same about adults who put their small daughters in triangle-top string bikinis. It's not about letting them explore their worlds or express themselves; it's about presenting them as appealing -- and with a particular aspect of appeal that is premature.
posted by palliser at 8:00 PM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nakedtime was an important part of my childhood. Discouraged nudity at a young age can make kids disgusted and ashamed of their bodies.
posted by beelzebub at 8:34 PM on July 16, 2009


To some extent sexualization of nudity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of the porn on the internet that depicts women, a lot of it (I'm unsure whether it's most, but it's certainly a significant amount) shows those women doing something that would be perfectly ordinary and unremarkable, like sitting in a chair or lounging around in the garden, if they were not nude. The nudity connotes a sexual element to the activity. The NSFW convention, for example, implies that a picture contains someone who is naked, or more naked than usual.

Even in cultures significantly more tolerant of public nudity than the English-speaking nations, such as the Netherlands or Hungary, strip clubs still exist, "men's magazines" still contain pictures of women who are naked but otherwise doing nothing remarkable, people undress to have sex, and AFAIK it would still be extremely unusual and gauche, even if not actually illegal, for a person to go naked to the supermarket or work/school or whatever.

So I think it's somewhat disingenuous, or at best idealistic, for anyone--even committed nudists--to argue that nudity has no sexual element in itself. Humans stand upright, so to be naked displays the genitalia (especially in the male) and the breasts (especially in the female). In the case of a child those primary and secondary characteristics are undeveloped (a tautological point, since this is the fundamental distinction of a child), hence are not anywhere near to the same extent a sexual display. Which IMO is the underlying psychological reason why most people of their own accord don't disapprove of child nudity, and to the extent that they do disapprove, tend to raise that disapproval in response to the perception of pedophiles viewing child nudity as a sexual display.

However, people do get used to nudity, bored with it even: nudists and sauna-going Finns and Japanese get used to it, and we could easily get used to it too. I have no doubt that if for some reason public nudity became commonplace tomorrow, ie were the Nude Bomb to be dropped, or the Puppet Masters attack, or a religious or political movement preaching compulsory nudity as an article of faith or demonstration of group membership became extremely popular ... then nudity would very quickly become as boring as the wearing of unremarkable clothing, and the question would resolve itself.

However absent these and other sea-changes in social attitudes, social nudity remains for most people wholly and only a direct precursor to sex. (And showering and sleeping, but these aren't "social".) It is thus associated directly with sex, for most people. So it's not surprising that people object to kids running around naked, because they see the nakedness as sexual; nor is it surprising that people don't object to it, and object to the former's objections, because they see the connotation of sexuality as inapplicable. Personally I can't say either one is outright wrong on principle; but I see nudity, much like any other form of dress style or other non-intrusive behavior, to be a matter of personal choice, not for me to dictate.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:55 PM on July 16, 2009


My father and brother often went topless around the house for heat comfort (because they didn't feel like running the AC anymore than they had to... my brother is STILL like this). My younger sister, probably to imitate the other two, got in on it, until she was about 5, and then my mother insisted she wear a shirt. I don't recall partaking in the joy of naked, myself, but I had been desensitized to it all at a very young age.

I do, however, recall having a fascination with all the little bumps and blemishes and skintags on my father (most of them the end result of minor work-related scrapes or just age). We were both rather silly about it. I recall summer days when he would sit on the floor and I'd poke and prod at the little imperfections while he watched TV... one could liken it to lion cubs crawling on their fathers, in a way. Even though he was a very big guy, he wasn't really all that averse to letting any of us see him without a shirt... well, until he got a hernia a few years before he passed away, but everyone involved agreed that was something we didn't really need to see.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 10:19 PM on July 16, 2009


I'm not wearing pants.

But seriously folks, I'm glad I'm not a parent. My experience suggests that it isn't easy to pick out all the creeps ahead of time. And at home you still have to figure out how to deal with other people's discomfort around your naked children, even if you think they're neurotic (uncomfortable people, that is). And I don't see how you can have the good touch/bad touch conversation without disturbing your kid, cause you're pretty much telling them a) the world/other people are unsafe (and you can't be sure which) and b) pay close attention to your penis/vagina.

On a related topic, it's summer, and most of the teenage girls in Bushwick dress like hot pop stars on MTV, and are, themselves, hot. And while I appreciate their hotness, I just hope that each of them has someone around to help them recognize the other things about themselves that make them valuable, beautiful, powerful.

Please be sure to only ascribe to me that which I actually feel and believe, versus that which I am debating for the sake of the conversation.

Can we get this on a shirt PLEASE? I'll take a hundred.
posted by flotson at 10:21 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


For a real fun discussion, we should next turn to "what do you do when your child plays with him/herself?" Imagine all the shouty typing!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 PM on July 16, 2009


Of the porn on the internet that depicts women, a lot of it (I'm unsure whether it's most, but it's certainly a significant amount) shows those women doing something that would be perfectly ordinary and unremarkable, like sitting in a chair or lounging around in the garden

Man, that is some seriously boring porn.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:24 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fresh fish: You make the FPP, I'll make the popcorn.

A term is used in this discussion that I'm surprised no one objected to: "slutty". What's up with that? Isn't that rather negative toward women, and the notion that a woman would have a happy and active sex life, perhaps, by her own choice, with multiple partners? When do you hear straight men referred to as slutty?

Not, mind you, that I don't get the intended meaning, I do, and tend to agree with the sentiment. I just think there should be a better word to use. However, I don't see the bikini issue so well, not with the triangle top thing, which just looked like a nice swimsuit to me. I'll admit to gender bias here, and say that I don't find women sexy as a rule. For that matter, I don't find thongs on anyone as 'sexy', rather, they look terribly uncomfortable and silly, to me. But maybe I'm an outlier, as I also don't find anything sexy about a speedo.

I appreciate far better the thing about "hoochies", as regards prepubescent kids. Whoever was calling that to question I can't help but find disingenuous. I think what was meant would better be baldly referred to as dressing like a hooker. And yet, in the context of models and pageants (the whole Ramsey thing), if you're raising your kid to be a model, it makes sense that she be trained in a wide variety of looks, and how to carry them, and then define the discussion of that context to the appropriateness of subjecting a young kid to the pressures of that world.

This talk about objectification and emphasis on appearance is skirting the edge of reality-denial. We're humans, and appearance is important to us, we're wired that way. Being good looking is a positive thing beyond anything sexual. That society is getting wise to that issue, and trying to improve in some regards doesn't change the reality. We're still sexist/ageist/weightist to varying degress, and the last one is something few would cry foul over.
posted by Goofyy at 12:24 AM on July 17, 2009


we should next turn to "what do you do when your child plays with him/herself?"

I'm just looking forward to her having a hobby she can do in her bedroom with the door closed. Mommy and Daddy need a little quiet time.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:27 AM on July 17, 2009


I don't want to belabor the point, but I have insomnia, so what the hell.

This picture
, for which I've probably made some secret government list just by Googling, is a picture of a cute tot in a bikini. I couldn't find other pictures, I would have had to do some searches that probably would result in images I'd have to sand off part of my brain to remove, but that picture is the tip of the iceberg--really, there are plenty that are significantly weirder. I didn't know about this until we had a baby girl and I started spending time in the girls' section of stores.

What strikes me about it is: that's kind of a nice bathing suit in that it's a pretty color, nice hat, and that's a cute kid. But then I'd wonder, why does she need a top at all? Well, because of the pervs. Lots of people don't put public pictures of their kids on Flickr, for fear some weirdo's going to come along and print pictures of their kid and put them all over his SRO in the Tenderloin and it skeeves them out. Who can blame them? (It just occured to me there that we put public pictures on Flickr, and it's under Mr. Llama's real name, many of those pictures are labeled, and our kid has an unusual name and I think I'm going to talk to Mr. Llama about yanking those, because just writing this I gave myself the creeps.)

But pieces of cloth specifically cut to cover breasts signify breasts. They're not cut to hide her crying eagle tattoos. So the reaction to the threat of the imaginary perv actually reinforces the notion that looking at a toddler and even thinking the word 'breasts' is somehow not totally ridiculous.

I'm not parsing that well, even to myself, but I found it kind of interesting.

The other thing that's weird is the incongruity of it, like those people for whom putting sunglasses on a baby is a real witty idea.

ANOTHER thing that's interesting, in light of the shaky signifiers of childhood, is that one thing I sometimes notice and find cloying and revolting is the grown woman with babyish affections. Mary Louise Parker in Weeds, who I think is gorgeous and a delight to see in anything (except Weeds, which is dreadful) has this affection of walking around with a giant Dunkin Donuts like cup of coffee or frappawhatsis and drinking from it like a sippy cup as she peers over the straw with her big doe eyes. What the fuck, Mary Louise Parker.

Sorry, everyone, I'm on that five hours of sleep high.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:59 AM on July 17, 2009


My girl is three, and she has begun asking for her top to the tankini, and asked me to buy her bikini (thankfully tank-top ones with hello kitty on them) specifically, even though I have always bought her full bathing suits. Why? She wants to look like mom. I don't think little girls try to look slutty, they're just trying to copy what they see. So, I use a full suit when we swim together and a bikini for tanning. She notices that there are options (and that full suits are better for swimming). They record everything they see around them, these little ones.

If she's forgotten the top at home, she doesn't care and will swim in her bikinibottoms only, and if we find a fountain to bathe in and have no suit at all she still strips naked to do so (I figure better than walking home in wet underwear but I check what all the other kids are wearing in the fountain first. Once she was the first nude one in and ten minutes later there were fifteen equally naked kids joining in so parents clearly check what the other parents are allowing.) If she ruled the world she'd be naked most of the time, but we haven't let her frolic in the yard nude, unless she's in the kiddiepool (we share our yard with other families). Now she's at the age where I think a suit is a good idea, but she's not fussed yet. I tell her a suit is good because you don't need as much suntan lotion all over, not because omg you're naked and scary people watch. She's developing her own sense of modesty in her own time. Older girls and boys (5-7) in this house still bathe naked in the kiddie pool, and that's up to them and their parents.
posted by dabitch at 2:15 AM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whole lotta rationalization ITT
posted by hamida2242 at 2:34 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I have to add is from Dar Williams amazing song When I Was A Boy:

I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor come outside to say, "Get your shirt,"
I said "No way, it's the last time I'm not breaking any law."

And now I'm in this clothing store, and the signs say less is more
More that's tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me
That can't help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell, they've got implants to put in,
they've got implants to remove

But I am not forgetting...that I was a boy too

posted by threeturtles at 6:59 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the fuck, Mary Louise Parker.

That's pretty much my general reaction to her whether she's acting like she's drinking from a sippy cup or not, but that's just me.
posted by blucevalo at 7:24 AM on July 17, 2009


But pieces of cloth specifically cut to cover breasts signify breasts.

If the swimsuit top were padded, then sure. That would be breast suggestive. Otherwise, they're really cut to cover nipples.
posted by zarq at 7:29 AM on July 17, 2009


For a real fun discussion, we should next turn to "what do you do when your child plays with him/herself?" Imagine all the shouty typing!

I must admit, I'm amazed that no one has posted such a question to AskMe yet.
posted by zarq at 7:32 AM on July 17, 2009


zarq said: "I must admit, I'm amazed that no one has posted such a question to AskMe yet."

Really, we ought to just save time and post it directly to MetaTalk.
posted by pineapple at 7:53 AM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really, we ought to just save time and post it directly to MetaTalk.

Aw. Where's the fun in that? AskMe Q's remain open for a lot longer! :D
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on July 17, 2009



I don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of teaching kids normal social conventions so they know how to behave when they're older. Growing up, joining the adult world -- well, you spend most of your life as an adult (and being taught that responsibility = stressful isn't a great message) and you should spend your childhood preparing for that kind of thing. It's nice to let a kid be a little animal when they can't talk or fend for themselves, but how about just teaching you kid to throw on a shirt and live in the society they're being brought up in? I mean, for heaven's sake, growing up is okay. Teaching kids cultural norms and expectations is okay. There's no "robbing of childhood" in telling a kid to put on underwear or eat his vegetables or telling them it is wrong to ask your father's colleague what kind of underwear she's wearing in a public place (I hate "Take Your Child To Work Day." I'm calling in sick next time they have that).
posted by anniecat at 11:58 AM on July 17, 2009


Actually, I don't care. Though I wish parents wouldn't let kids go all barefoot in the grass in the park. There are all these dogs in the neighborhood pooping in the grass. And I'm pretty sure those guys outside are spraying it with pesticides. But it's your kid. Do whatever you want. Just don't leave used diapers on the subway.
posted by anniecat at 12:05 PM on July 17, 2009


But pieces of cloth specifically cut to cover breasts signify breasts.

But you can see that the prepubescent child does not have breasts. Long lashes and cherry-red lips may also be sexual signifiers, but on an infant's face, they don't provoke a sexual reaction in any normal person.

That's where this "sexy bikinis on kids" notion loses me. A bikini by itself is just four triangles of fabric attached at various points. No one finds triangles of fabric erotic (or if they do, it's a specialized fetish, along the lines of adult men who are aroused by being diapered or by watching women step on bugs.) A bikini on a child too young to have developed secondary sexual characteristics is by definition not going to sexually stimulate anyone who isn't already a pedophile.

Let's illustrate using another entirely random inanimate object: a plate of beans. No power on earth is going to make me find a plate of beans sexually arousing. I am not a beanosexual. You might take the beans and throw them on George Clooney, and I would still say, "That George sure will be sexy after he gets hosed down. Where can I find a hose in this neighborhood?" Beans are beans. Fabric is fabric. Beans will never turn me on regardless of context; preschoolers will never turn a sane man on, regardless of context.

The argument that female children are required to wear modest swimwear (the emphasis on "bikinis" tells me that, much like with grown-ups, the idea of male sexual virtue is a non-starter) in order to avoid inciting lascivious thoughts in pedophiles is indistinguishable from a pro-purdah argument. And a pro-purdah argument is indistinguishable from the "she was asking for it," defense employed by sexual assailants. Yes, really. The onus is not on girls and women to cloak ourselves in order to avoid inspiring lascivious thoughts. No, really. The onus is on the citizenry at large to not commit sexual assault.

In any event, pedophiles don't choose their victims based on attire--my understanding is that they predominantly choose based on social stature. The weird, lonely kid makes a good victim because she's longing for any kind of affection and doesn't have anyone she trusts enough to tell. Pedophiles also seem to enjoy the aspect of defiling the innocent, so the idea that a modest one-piece is going to act as some kind of armor against molestation is kind of ridiculous.

I'm curious where the "little girls ought not to be permitted to wear triangle-top bikinis" guys stand on Catholic schoolgirl uniforms. It seems like every man I get to know well enough to have such a discussion with thinks that schoolgirl uniforms--plaid skirts, knee socks, and pigtails--are very sexy. It's an outfit that's at least as fetishized as swimwear. Are parents who send their daughters to Catholic schools setting them up for sexual abuse?
posted by cirocco at 2:40 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not that I'm not pretty psyched to have an opportunity to throw around 'beanosexual'; I am, I really am. But I'm asserting that if people want to say that it's the receiver of the information who imbues its meaning, and those little scraps of triangle fabric aren't themselves sexual signifiers, I'm at a loss, because that calls everything into question.

I understand the philosophical idea that everything is in question, and that until you look at that plate of beans and get aroused or don't get aroused, it's not a sexual object, but your having sorted into those categories 'arousing' or 'not arousing' puts it into a category of 'possibly arousing': a sexual object.

Like I said, those scraps aren't there to cover crying eagle tattoos. Or nipples. If they were, break out band-aids.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:29 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always thought the appropriate response to anyone eight and under running around naked is to either A) Squeal "NUDIST!" or B) ask, in comforting but world weary tones (Phalene's littlest and least continent sister) did you have an accident again?
posted by Phalene at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2009


cirocco: A bikini by itself is just four triangles of fabric attached at various points.

I think the argument that has been made earlier in the thread (example) is that the design and placement of these particular four triangles visually imply sexual characteristics that are otherwise absent. They're not simply "four triangles of fabric" any more than pseudocopulating orchids are just "colorful collections of plant tissue" to the pollinating insects. Extending the logic behind your claim would lead one to the conclusion that Playboy is just a bunch of colored inks rubbed on some paper. It's just a difference of degree, since they're both about the point at which an inanimate object can suggest sexual stimuli.

A bikini on a child too young to have developed secondary sexual characteristics is by definition not going to sexually stimulate anyone who isn't already a pedophile.

This assumes no grey area. Everyone who is sexually attracted to "adults" has a different lower bound for their definition of what looks "adult" to them. If you accept (again, as has been argued) that certain clothing can nudge the apparent sexual maturity of the wearer upward, then that same clothing will make the wearer appear acceptably mature to some set of people that they wouldn't otherwise.

In other words, a 14-year-old with developing sexual characteristics, wearing a sexually suggestive outfit, might appear attractive to people whose lower bound is the average 16-year-old's appearance.

You might counter that there's no reasonable "lower bound" close enough to true prepubescence (no sexual development) that any clothing could shift the child into "acceptably mature". Any such lower bound would be well beyond normal adult attraction and into the range of pedophilia.

I'd probably agree. That's where the other part of this argument comes in, the idea that setting a precedent of sexually suggestive clothing by dressing your child that way, will then cause that precedent to manifest itself in their grey-area years. They are impressionable, and will notice the sexual attention that is paid to other people wearing those outfits... as well as the sexual attention they receive.

"But wait," you might interject, "you just agreed that they wouldn't be sexually acceptable to anyone except pedophiles!"

True, but you don't have to be sexually acceptable to receive sexual attention. Suggestive clothing can attract attention before the observer has a chance to determine the wearer's sexual maturity in detail. In your periphery you see someone in a bikini at the beach, you look over and only then can you really determine the more detailed features (or lack thereof) of the wearer.

Even if it's just receiving second looks from people as he or she walks down the beach, these cues will affect the child's self-image and their sexual socialization.

The argument that female children are required to wear modest swimwear... in order to avoid inciting lascivious thoughts in pedophiles is indistinguishable from a pro-purdah argument. And a pro-purdah argument is indistinguishable from the "she was asking for it," defense employed by sexual assailants. Yes, really.

No. Not really. Asserting this doesn't make it true. You can draw logical relationships without making it about blame. I don't blame someone for being mugged just because they were walking on a dark street in a bad neighborhood. I do believe that avoiding that situation decreases their chance of being mugged. Nothing, not one thing anyone has said so far has had anything whatsoever to do with "blaming" the child for the sexual attention they receive. It's just about recognizing correlations and drawing conclusions from them.

And as a secondary point, many people are arguing for some level of modesty in clothing, not just because it may or may not increase their safety from pedophiles, but because it may help them avoid defining themselves by the lascivious reactions they inspire in other people (pedophile or otherwise). That second dimension to this argument would completely undermine your "pro-purdah" assertion even if I hadn't already done so.

I will agree with you about one thing before I end this behemoth of a comment. The discussion so far has been very much centered around female sexual socialization and I think that imbalance says quite a bit about the social assumptions and biases involved in this issue. That, however, is a much much much much larger can of worms, and in my opinion it doesn't have a direct bearing on the topic at hand. If we imagined a hypothetical society where males were perceived as the innocent, virtuous ones then you could simply reverse the gender pronouns in this thread and replace "bikini" with "speedo", and the logic of each comment would still apply.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:09 AM on July 18, 2009


Everyone needs a hug (except for little naked kids that aren't yours).
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2009


Totally late to the follow-up here, but I discourage dressing my daughter in what some here have characterized as "sexy" toddler-wear because I see it as, really, "trashy" toddler-wear. That is, it's not an imitation of adult sexiness so much as an imitation of a certain lower-class notion of adult sexiness that I am loath to impart to my little one. Like all parents, I want my kids to have every opportunity they can, and part of that (although americans hate to admit it) is teaching them to model the behavior and style of the upper class, so that they will eventually have an easier time joining and succeeding in that class, if they choose to. I find parenting easier when I consciously understand what social norms and values I'm trying to give them, and why.

I've always found it pretty easy to distinguish between trashy clothing and clothing that resembles what on a grown woman would be sexy. The latter generally looks cute and charming on kids. The former always looks trashy.
posted by rusty at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2009


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