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Jewish World Review Sept. 4, 2003 / 7 Elul, 5763

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
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Back To School, or Back to...Sex? | Ah, the first week of September! It brings back warm memories of the nervous excitement I felt about going back to school as a kid outside Hartford, Connecticut. It was all about getting new folders and notebooks, maybe a cool pen or two, and practicing for a new field hockey season. And of course, getting back to school was fun because it meant my friends and I would be together to giggle and whisper about boys.

That is pretty much what I remember about the first week of school.

Girls today — I can't believe I'm writing that! — still deal with a lot of these same issues. They manage school work and after school activities and acclimate to their new classes, teachers, and cliques. Yet the pressures facing girls today are worse, not better, than what I experienced twenty plus years ago. Sure, we were urged to be as aggressive in the classroom and on the playing fields as the boys. But along with that (positive) message, girls today are being urged — in music, television, magazines, and on the internet — to be aggressive when it comes to sex, too.

For years liberal elites cheered as the anti-tobacco lobby railed against RJR and Phillip Morris for "targeting" young people in their ads. Imagine that, companies profiting off something they know is bad for our youth. There was no such sanctimonious outrage toward MTV, however, when, during its Video Music Awards, a 45 year-old Madonna, French kissed girls decades younger (singers Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilera) for a cheap ratings boost. (I'm only now barely recovering.) Is the menage a trois really something we need to glamorize for young women today? (The audience at Radio City Music Hall went nuts.)

I know, it's nothing you haven't already seen on MTV's The Real World.

Of course this is nothing new. Large segments of the music industry, through its lyrics and videos, are sending girls and young women an undeniable message — Sex it up or get out! The lower the pants, the higher the skirt, the more sex you have, the more "woman" you are. Now that's empowerment!

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The print media are no better. The once-innocuous teen magazines (remember "16" and "Tigerbeat"?) have taken content cues from dopey sex-obsessed magazines like Cosmopolitan. The September issue of Seventeen includes on its cover the teaser — "The Sex Questions You Can't Ask Anyone Else Answered." Elle Girl's cover features stories on "What a Guy Wants" and "I Was a Teenage Prostitute."

In this cultural wasteland, is it surprising then, that informal surveys are showing that girls (and boys) today treat oral sex like a handshake?

Or is it shocking to learn in The Washington Post about a new booming business — plastic surgery for teens? Imagine the ad campaign — "Nose-jobs...they're not just for Tori Spelling anymore!" Yesterday's girls pestered their parents for money to go the movies. If we aren't careful, today soon it could be, "Mom, it's not fair! Brittany got breast implants! Why can't I?!!"

Last weekend I forced myself to go to a movie last week that I knew would depress me — the new, critically acclaimed film Thirteen. It was based on the true story of a girl growing up in a broken home in Los Angeles who does drugs, steals, lies, and uses sex to get her way when she's not self-mutiliating with a razor blade in the bathroom. The film's writer, who also acted in the film, told a deeply disturbing, cautionary tale of her own teenage experiences.

The cultural influences that bombard girls today have real world consequences for them. There will be girls who get pregnant because they see promiscuity glorified. There will be girls who get raped because they put themselves in bad situtations with bad men who tell them "everyone's doing it." There will be girls who get demeaned in "wet t-shirt contests" all for the pleasure of young men.

After 40 years of telling girls they can be anything they want to be, feminists are MIA when it comes to the effects of a culture that pushing sex and deviancy on young women 24/7. They were so concerned about the "religious right" they ignored the "deviant left." One of the great things about early feminists is that they recognized that women are very influenced by social pressure. The culture forced women to play roles that they didn't want to play and limited their opportunities. But which is worse — encouraging young women to act and look like housewives or act and look like hookers? You decide.

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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a radio show syndicated nationally by Westwood One Radio Network and the author of "The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in All the Wrong Places". Comment by clicking here.

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05/17/01: Ashcroft's abuse of power

© 2002, Laura Ingraham