Given the the reactionary, poorly-written views of Wendy Shalit, it is hard to extract a valid point amidst the debris of right-wing cultural myths. But Wendy Shalit indeed properly points to the hyper-sexualization of culture that injects sex into the lives of younger and younger audiences all the time. She deserves credit for correctly observing an obvious and disturbing trend.
But what seems to be missing from Wendy Shalit’s analysis–and more broadly, from the Right’s–is any comprehension that this force-feeding of sex into the minds of young kids is driven by the very capitalist machine they so deeply admire. Sexualization of children and their culture is inextricably linked to the growing corporatization of every nook and cranny (no crude puns intended) of our culture. This disturbing trend has institutional roots in the conduct of corporations that Shalit and Co. are so loathe to regulate.
Thus, Shalit’s strategy of promoting individual "modesty" is likely to be just as effective (that is, counter-productive) as Bush’s much-heralded abstinence programs, which studies have shown to be correlated with increased sexual behavior. All of Shalit’s hectoring will merely trigger a backlash among teens and pre-teens striving to assert their independence from adults seeming to curb their freedom. "Modesty" culture will be overwhelmed by the continuing torrent of sexualizing/commercializing messages flowing from Corporate America.
Instead, what is needed, in line with the media reform movement launched by the Left, is the assertion of democratic controls over our mass media so that TV and video programming for kids is age-appropriate. If this pressing concern for parents, teachers, and society is handled properly, we could develop a vast Left-Right coalition to begin to reclaim our popular culture. Roger Bybee, Milwaukee