How do 12–13 year-old girls dress for a party? In “mini-dresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade,” says Mrs. Jennifer Moses in a recent Wall Street Journal article. “They look like a flock of tropical birds.” Then she asked the question many are asking, “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”
Mrs. Moses provided little analysis of this phenomenon in answering her own question before giving own opinion. Her theory—“It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, ‘If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?’”
Moses continues, “We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control…. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations, but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.”
But following that “norm” did not produce happiness. Speaking of her own friends, Moses says, “I don't know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”
Mrs. Moses’ article opened up a forum in the WSJ for over 600 comments in response. Some of them addressed the moral values implicit in her question. One person wrote, “Why do we let them dress like that? We don’t. It’s important to emphasize the differences between beauty and attractiveness at a young age. Being more involved in our children’s lives will strengthen various values, it will also (hopefully) put us in the position to be the role models we need to be and provide us with a better chance to block negative influences.”
Another wrote, “It is sad to see girls give away something so precious. Our daughters need our loving guidance toward living well-adjusted lives away from the call for promiscuity from all over. They need to enjoy being young women of character. It is hard for a teenager to look to her future life, but parents must guide them to protect that future by how they present themselves now. If we require modesty in the workplace, why can't we require modesty in our most precious young daughters?”
A homeschooling parent wrote: “The socialization offered by the public and by public school is exactly what we are trying to avoid…. The [popularized] view of the opposite sex as sex objects is the central social message of public school children, the main-stream-media, movies, and most TV. It may be the single most destructive thing many Christian homeschoolers are trying to avoid, and rightly so. … maybe you can't control who your children become, but while they live in your home you can do your best to protect them from this destructive message and group-think.”
This is exactly the message that I’ve been sharing at recent homeschool conventions—homeschooling provides the best cultural medium for parents to protect their children from the toxic effects of a media and entertainment culture that produces hyper-sexualized and often obscene materials.
The most recent example of this hyper-sexualization showed up in the marketing of Abercrombie Kids, a division of Abercrombie and Fitch that markets specifically to 8-14 year olds. Their latest swimwear includes the “Ashley Push-Up Triangle,” a triangular-shaped bikini top that comes with thick padding. Human behavior expert Dr. Patrick Wanis called this “disturbing and dangerous” on Fox News. “Are we sexualizing young girls to get the attention of men or to encourage women to use their daughters to compensate for their own lack of sexual appeal by living vicariously through their daughter?”
The latter question is one that Jennifer Moses pondered as well. “What teenage girl doesn't want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?” she wrote. “And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.”
Mrs. Moses wrote from her personal experiences and that of her friends. She could have found dozens of books to support her view that something happened in her generation (and mine) that caused the moral compass of our nation to shift from “true north.” Diana West has written compellingly in The Death of the Grown-Up of how as a culture we’ve been taught to “let it all hang out.” In Slouching Towards Gomorrah, JudgeRobert Bork described the changes in ideology in the 60s that led to celebrating personal freedom and moral anarchy.
This flag of “personal freedom” was the banner both young and old marched under as they threw off, “all thought of God’s constraint” wrote Dr. D. James Kennedy in How to Have a Joyful Home. They “completely rebelled against their Creator and Lawgiver,” he observed.
In rebelling against our Creator and Lawgiver as a society, we’ve also lost the recognition that “Our loving heavenly Father knows the best way for us to live,” wrote Dr. Kennedy. “By following God’s laws and living as a disciple of Jesus Christ, our lives will be as blessed as they can be in this sin-cursed world. God is on our side, and He wants what is best for us.”
Sadly, many Christians, have a mistaken idea of what “God’s best” is. Too often we think that happiness should be our goal. But, as Dr. Kennedy wrote, “God’s best for us is holiness.”
Many people equate “holiness” with legalistic restrictions that for all practical purposes seem impossible to keep. The “holy life” is possible, however, wrote Dr. Kennedy, “with the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.”
Holiness and purity go hand in hand. When Christians seek holiness, we will not let our daughters dress like prostitutes, and we will be diligent in teaching them about purity. For what truly makes a young women attractive is, as the Apostle Peter described in his first letter, “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.