on August 26, 2008
It doesn't sound to me that one of the previous reviewers, Mr. Males, bothered to read the book. If he had, he would recognize that the main premise is ALL children from a very early age are learning toxic lessons from the media about sex, gender, body image and human relationships that have devastating effects on every aspect of their development. These effects can not be measured solely by statistics.
Anyone who spends time with children knows that the lesson that corporate America teaches them (especially girls) is that self-worth is based on appearance and acquiring material possessions. The main purpose of this constant barrage (children spend more time with the media than with their own parents according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study) of commercialism into every aspect of children's lives is to increase corporate profits. When a culture is more concerned with money than healthy human growth, it is obvious that our children are at risk for a host of physical, cognitive, emotional and social problems.
We are at a crucial time in our history when more than ever we need competent creative problem solvers who can tackle the real issues we face as a nation and as citizens of the world. Levin and Kilbourne, internationally recognized educators, authors and social activists, solidly grounded with scholarship and experience provide us with the guidance we need nurture the healthy development of our children. If you want to read a comprehensive, eloquent and practical book on this extremely important issue, this is the one to buy.
A quick little story that ties into my review. One day, as I was teaching my class, I had a root beer in a bottle on my desk from lunch. One of my girls asks me, "Teacher, are you DRUNK?" Before I lost my top, I explained that it was soda. You would think that I teach a high school or maybe junior high class. But no, these are FIRST GRADERS. They are six. Although we could automatically blame the parents, who knows where she got this information?
SO SEXY, SO SOON, is co-written by Diane E Levin, and Jean Kilbourne. Jean has also written the book, CAN'T BUY MY LOVE, about how advertising gets us seduced into the world of consumerism. That was also a great book.
I am not a parent, but every year to me, it seems like the students are becoming more and more aware of things that they probably shouldn't know about yet. The authors state that it mostly has to do with the media. There is technology everywhere you turn, and when you don't have that on, you can look at the half naked models on the billboard on Sunset. Sex is all over, and as I was watching a commercial previewing a popular TV show, where all of the actresses are in sultry red dresses and biting into apples, trying to be sexy, I was staring open-mouthed at the screen, and I got it. I think that sometimes we get sucked into it. We are adults and we are "allowed" to watch whatever we want. But, the advertisers don't care about the young kids. They want to make the children a shopper for the rest of their life. That's it.
The authors claim that it's just not just about sex. Children and teenagers have been exploring sex for a long time. It's about how they are to think of sex. What used to be something to be shared between two people who care about each other, is now something transient. "Hooking up," not caring about anyone, just doing it cause it's there. I recently saw another commercial on TV where two people just met, they were talking back and forth while undressing, "I have never been to New York." "This isn't even my apartment." As they are taking off their Levi's and getting ready to have sex. So, basically, you just met, broke into someone's house, and now you are going to do it. This was on during the day.
In other books, you would probably read that if you just say NO to everything, your child will be fine. But, these authors take a different view. Say no to things that are inappropriate for their age, of course, but then...watch things with them. Be their filter. Talk about it. Or their parents and teachers will be the media, and you will have lost them. Most teenagers are going to do what they want anyway, with or without you knowing about it. But, if they go into the world with some information, and they respect themselves, they will be better off. Studies show that the parents who keep open communication with their teenagers are less likely to get into drugs and become pregnant.
As for the book itself, I found it a great read that I could hardly tear myself away from. I read it in a day, it was easy to understand, and it made me think about things for the rest of the night. It even gave you scripts to help you through some difficult conversations with your children. The reason I scored it a little lower was because some information was repeated in the book.
on August 11, 2008
I responded to the intelligent and common sense approach to dealing with the issues at hand. I appreciated the emphasis on communicating with children about the things that society is forcing upon them. Rather than just having to say, "No, no, no - ban, ban, ban!", parents will be helped by this book because it provides tools for children to use out on the streets. Like it or not, this is what they are facing. It always seems as though the people who have the most difficult time in life are the ones who were brought up in a shell with parents who tried to protect them from the world. The successful people are those who were given the opportunity to gain "street smarts" and coping skills, along with the ability to make choices based on good information, such as that provided in this book.
on June 9, 2010
Even though I don't have kids yet, I found this book very helpful, not only in giving me information on what to do when I do have kids (esp. if I have a daughter), but also in understanding some things which I didn't have an insider's view on, such as how a young child's definition of a word like "sex" or "sexy" often has a more innocent connotation than an adult's, as illustrated in the story of kindergarteners Jason and Ashley. Jason got in trouble when Ashley told her parents he told her he wanted to have sex with her, but it turned out that he really meant he wanted to kiss her, and in his juvenile mind interpreted that grownup word in the way he would think of expressing affection. I also liked the information on how children understand the world and evolve in their understanding of more grownup concepts, like weddings, popularity, and where babies come from, by creating movies in their mind, adding a new scene every time they get a new piece of information. Since I was one of those kids who read too much and understood too little, I could understand what this meant, like when Kara told her dad she'd have to have two weddings if she married her female friend, so they could both have babies, even though she didn't question why her parents' lesbian friends only had one wedding and already had a baby together. It also illustrated the right and the wrong way to handle troubling things, like when preteen boys tell their teacher or parents they saw porn online, when a young girl breaks down crying because she thinks she's fat and wants to be popular and sexy, when preteen girls want to wear clothes that my parents would have never let me leave the house in, let alone even own period, when I was their age a generation ago, and when preschool kids are doing dirty dancing and playing teenagers by making out during creative play time.
It was extremely disturbing to read about all of this age compression (since when do *preschoolers* even know how to dirty dance and what grownups in relationships do?), though I was surprised to learn that the majority of the blame is really on advertisers and people in the media who heavily market creativity-devoid toys, adult clothing, and vulgar music to kids who haven't even graduated elementary school yet. I had always assumed it was because a lot of parents today don't know how to set boundaries, give in too easily, and are too busy trying to be their kids' best friends instead of authority figures. It definitely made me rethink the idea of letting my own future kids watch tv at that age. I have never believed in censorship or shielding kids from reality (after all, children a few hundred years ago were routinely exposed to things considered R-rated today, and no one thought they were traumatised for life), but I also don't believe in rubbing stuff like violent movies or vulgar music videos in their faces or letting them watch or listen to such things when they don't have the maturity to understand them. I also was surprised to realise how little creative play children do nowadays; everything is either electronic instant gratification or toys themed on movies or tv shows. Apparently a lot of kids today don't know what to do with blocks, clay, paint, or normal dolls and stuffed animals. I've always been annoyed at how so many toy stores sex-segregate toys (God forbid a girl might want to play with Legos, a football, or toy trucks, or a boy with dolls, stuffed animals, or My Little Pony!), but I wasn't really aware of the true extent of how many toys nowadays really discourage creative play. Even children's birthday cards are sex-segregated nowadays, even if a card with a train on it doesn't even contain the word "boy." Hopefully the advice in this book will help me to raise my future kids as people and not stereotypes.
The book also contains information on how to deal with raising a teen in today's oversexed climate. I acknowledge that I was extremely rare to have had no interest in dating at that age (I always believed in the old-fashioned idea of dating towards marriage and not just random casual serial dating to have a good time), but there's no telling if my future kids will be as old-fashioned as I was or if they'll want to start dating or sexually experimenting while they're underage. The authors stress that setting boundaries, talking to and treating your kids on an age-appropriate level and like their concerns matter to you, living what you preach, and limiting/screening the amount of television and pop culture that comes into your house from an early age make it more likely for children to become teenagers who dress appropriately, know the value of money, don't see themselves and relationships as cheap, meaningless, and disposable, know how to use their imaginations, and value themselves for what's inside instead of basing all of their worth on their body size, popularity, and whether the most popular boy sits near them at lunch. The resources given at the back of the book are also wonderful, and provide a lot of extra reading material and things to think about.
on November 30, 2008
I first heard Jean Kilbourne lecture at The Harvard Medical School
over 30 years ago. Her lecture was transformational, and I never
saw the world in the same way again. Since then, I have followed
her career closely. She brought her message into print form
with her first book; "Can't Buy my Love". Dr. Kilbourne's
raison d'etre is to educate the public to unconscious and conscious
psychological devices that keep women and girls in a one down
position. She described the way in which sexism is ingrained in the media, which both reflects and perpetuates cultural stereotypes. Her message is extremely effective in inoculating women and girls against the negative effects of the media. She was decades ahead of her time, and a lone voice of warning. Unfortunately, she tells us that things have only gotten worse. Now, once again she is the messenger of our times who sees so clearly the crisis which is happening to our girls. Both her books are a must read for anyone who cares about girls and women. Dr. Kilbourne's newest book, So Sexy So Soon (co-authored with Diane Levin) is a greatly needed therapeutic intervention for girls and their concerned parents. The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls also concurs with Dr. Kilbourne and they too recommend early media education awareness in schools and community centers in order to fight sexualization of girls and counter the negative effects which Jean so masterfully describes in her book. I would recommend both of Dr. Kilbourne's books for anyone who wants to fight sexism and educate our society to the negative effects of the media on female potential. Her books will begin the much needed healing process for any one who reads them. I cannot recommend this book more highly. It should be required reading for anyone in the education system and helping professions as well as parents of girls.
Stephanie Jones, Ed.D.
Founder of the Girls Institute for Empowerment.
on May 16, 2013
I'd recommend "So Sexy So Soon" because it offers an empathetic perspective of the job parents are trying to do in raising our girls and boys so they can have healthy views of themselves, others, and relationships. It illustrates examples of how this can be hard, but also offers some really helpful insights of how to talk to our children about the images the culture offers them, through media, of what it means to be boys, girls, and what that means for relationships.
I imagine I won't need to use these tips for a while (as I have a 2 year old), but for parents who have already had to keep some toys or media from your home because of this, this book may offer some ways to help you deal with these conversations that might be more productive than our default "no" as parents.
One of the chapters offers ways we can communicate to our children to help them make choices that are in line with our families' values (once they get older), how to understand what they are actually saying (saying "sex" when they mean "kiss"), etc. I think this is the most valuable of all the chapters.
However, I'd agree with some other reviewers that rated the book lower - as a parent of a toddler, I felt myself getting more and more fearful as I went along, reading horror story after horror story. The thing that is so useful about the book is the chapter on recommendations - that is the chapter that makes the book worth reading, but it only comes in the 6th or so chapter. Instilling fear isn't terribly helpful, but the suggestions seem very good, and I feel more empowered as a parent to address these kinds of things as they come up, and decide what toys and media we want in our home based on the values we hold as a family.
on December 14, 2008
I loved the way this book answers the question: "How has our culture been warped into an unenviable cesspool of uncaring sex and gratuitous violence?" Diane Levin & Jean Kilbourne offer great rationale as to how and why this happened -- and more importantly, they offer excellent action steps to help families and communities counteract these forces.
I'm a 22-year-old recent college graduate who majored in Communications and completed a highly educational internship at the Media Education Foundation ([...] a remarkable nonprofit organization. I was raised to be very open-minded, yet when I first arrived at college even I thought things had gotten out of hand. I was astounded by the number of women students who would readily bare their breasts in large groups of students, with little provocation (and a few beers).
When you're constantly bombarded with the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch ads, it's easy to believe that the portrayal of barely clad beautiful bodies cavorting sexually is the gold standard to emulate. There are no ads, of course, to portray the morning after regrets in our double standard culture that these women will be labeled (and feel like) "sluts", while their male companions will relish their own enhanced party-animal status. I agree completely with MediaMaven about witnessing our "MTV Generation" peers (especially women) who struggle with low self-esteem and depression -- it's epidemic on campus.
What I didn't realize before reading this book were the new "lows" corporations and their advertisers had reached ~ Victoria's Secret makes thong panties for 8 to 12-year-olds?! It makes one wonder what the rates of depression and low self-esteem will be in 10 years.
So Sexy, So Soon is a call to action. While Norway and Sweden have banned all advertising aimed at children under age 12 - and Belgium, Denmark & Greece strongly restrict advertising targeted at children ~ why on earth should we allow the United States to stay mired in this mess? We should all heed the call to contact our Congressional Representatives, advocating a ban on all advertising aimed at children.
on September 18, 2008
I would like to disagree with another reviewer who commented on So Sexy So
Soon's "shallow" concept (i.e. the strong influence of media on peoples'
lives), and criticized the authors for only citing examples about abnormal
teenagers and ignoring the "real problems of sexual violence and related
troubles." I'm not sure what book he was reading, but the authors' thorough
research, examples, and direct attention to real teens and widespread
problems are the reasons I would recommend this book to parents, teachers,
and counselors! Levin and Kilbourne's ideas are far from shallow and truly
important both to today's youth and adults, as well as to the state of
As a 26-year-old woman who grew up in the "MTV generation," I witnessed some
of my best childhood friends turn into adults with real problems, at the
base of which was a lack of self-esteem and the ability to feel comfortable
being themselves outside of pop culture. Now as I work with youth in my job,
I see first-hand just how much younger sexual talk, dress, and activity
begins even than when I was a child. This is not an issue of nostalgia for
a more naïve era, but truly a problem for the lives these children will grow
up to lead, for when children take sexual cues from media, unwanted
pregnancy, assault, drug use, poverty, disease, and depression can be the
eventual result (I've seen it myself!). While this is a bleak thought, I
found it very heartening to read Levin and Kilbourne's suggestions that will
give parents, teachers, and counselors ways to think about and address
today's impact of commercial pressures so that more positive ends are met.
I am very glad to see Levin and Kilbourne bring their expertise, research,
and advice to the challenges that today's parents and tweens/teens face.
on November 3, 2015
A must for any parent. Scary fatcs, but also has lot of good ideas what to do when your children are faced with certain images and behaviors. Good read for even grandparents, so they can realize what their adult children and grandchildren are dealing with.
on November 7, 2014
Was a good book for my teenage daughter. My daughter now, does not care about Facebook, does not care about fitting in. She does not care about the drama that teenage girls like to stir up. She does not Twitter. She is in college now and talks about that book helping her. She never wore the sleazy clothes either.