Monday, April 15, 2013
Film Explores Childhood, Parenting in Sex - Porn Before Puberty?
Forget birds and bees -- today's kids learn about sex from porn, pop lyrics and Facebook.
"Is this slutty?" Danielle, having just put on a skirt, asked her friend Winnifred. Lady Gaga's "Monster" played in the background. "Just dance but he took me home instead, Oh oh there was a monster in my bed," the girls sang along.
"That's a good length," Winnifred answered. "It's short, but in a cool way, not, like, a slutty way."
Winnifred and Danielle are modern-day 12-year-olds. But they're not playing dress-up -- they're getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert.
Winnifred carefully curates her online profile, pushing her budding sexuality to jack up her Facebook "likes."
The documentary "Sexy Baby," which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows Winnifred's adolescence from age 12 to age 15, and delves into the world of porn before puberty. Winnifred's journey in the documentary reflects that of many pre-teens today, and through her eyes parents worldwide get a glimpse into the hyper-sexualized culture their children are facing today.
"I know I look like I'm down to f---," Winnifred says in the film.
The film explores how much social media adds fuel to the hormonal fire. Winnifred posted a revealing picture of herself with her bra showing. Why?
"It's awkward, and we're getting messages from everywhere that are saying, 'If you dress this way, you are going to be either treated well or you're gonna feel powerful,'" Winnifred told
Sex is power, and that's how a lot of girls and boys seem to feel these days.
Winnifred's mother, Jenny Bonjean, is a feminist who says she's trying to raise an uninhibited, empowered girl.
"My message to my daughter is, sexuality is a wonderful, beautiful thing. You should embrace it. ... It's not the only type of power you're gonna have. Unfortunately, it is in the culture the first power that they feel ... where 13-year-old girls can have influences on grown men," Bonjean-Alpart said.
"You don't think they realize that?" she continued. "It feels good to have power. ... You don't want to abuse it. Don't take it for granted. You need to find a balance."
Winnifred's father, Ken Alpart, described the two reactions he and his wife have to balance.
"We don't necessarily want her to dress certain ways," he said. "At the same time, we are raising our child to be an independent thinker."
Jenny Bonjean argued that early freedom could help prevent extreme acting out later on.
"We all know those women that went to college that had really, really strict parents who didn't let them experiment with anything, and they went wild in college. ... Girls gone wild, you know, is a phenomenon, and so many of those girls come from households, in my opinion, where they were tamped down on."
The risk is that allowing a child too much freedom to express her sexuality can lead her to act on it.
"I can put a very sexualized photo of me on Facebook and make it so my parents don't know, but every guy at my school does," Winnifred said. "So that does become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you make yourself look a certain way, people are going to expect you to be that way."
"I can make your bed rock," Winnifred, then 12, sings in the film. The song is rapper Li'l Wayne's "Bedrock."
Did she and her friends know what the song was about?
"We did realize how obscene it was [when we sang it in the film]," Winnifred told Chang. "I think because it was so mainstream, it wasn't shocking to us. ... If you hear that song f---ing three times a day for two weeks, they're easy to understand -- even when you are 12 or 13."