It only takes about five minutes of sitting in front of the TV, walking through a mall or sitting in the crowd at any professional sports competition in for the parent of a young child to realize that America has forever lost something truly precious. A gift that past generations complained about without ever realizing just how good they had it. Will the kids of today look back at their parents with the same regretful realization that the current generation complained too loudly and appreciated too little? Possible. But it’s a truly frightening thought.
The precious gift that has been lost to America’s past took forms like kids getting up early to watch Saturday morning programming without your having to worry that Sharon Stone’s “Basic Instinct” character would pop up when the kids changed the channel from Scooby-Doo to Inch High Private Eye. Or forms like not having to be embarrassed to make the walk from the toy store at one end of the mall to the food court at the other without having to hurriedly rush the kids past the larger-than-life sized advertising of women in thongs and push-up bras plastered on the front windows of more than Victoria’s Secret. Or forms like making sure your tickets to the game on Sunday didn’t leave those impressionable little eyes too with too good a view of the cheerleading costumes and routines more suitable for the dark lighting inside a strip joint than for open display under the bright lights of a sold-out football stadium.
Trade in sexually explicit content has been around about as long as man discovered the ability to draw. Over the millennia, the definition of what is considered lewd or improper or sinful or pornographic has fluctuated wildly while only one amazingly universal constant remained relatively untouched.
Regardless of how low the mainstream was willing to set the bar for what constituted sexual imagery acceptable for adults to enjoy outside the privacy of their own homes, the overwhelming consensus was always that children be protected from exposure to the worst demonstrations of the acceptable and any demonstrations of the unacceptable. The mere reality that exceptions to this consensus were occasionally revealed only served to strengthen the resolve to maintain it. Whenever stories of adults purposely exposing children to material anywhere on the high side of that bar, the lesson was invariably driven home: exposing children to images of a sexual nature before they are mature enough to understand it leads to confusion, neurosis, phobias, anxiety, pathology and, under certain conditions, psychosis.
This generation of adults witnessed an unprecedented break with that consensus to protect children from the most unacceptable of sexual material. What is most illustrative about this generation is not that they sat by and did nothing while for the first time in history tens of millions of children could enjoy unrestricted access to the most extreme sexual material ever produced and distributed. What is really most insightful is how that decision to do nothing about protecting children from the most unacceptable sexual imagery trickled down into a decision to do nothing protecting children from any sexual imagery.
History will be the ultimate judge in determining whether this becomes a generation that recognized but ignored the resulting prevalence of sexually-charged selfies of middle school and even elementary school students was a symptom of much broader issues of low self-esteem and objectification experienced throughout every strata of society. Or were they just simply one of the stupidest generations the world had ever produced?
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