Kathleen Parker

Although boys are not sexualized to the same degree -- a study of magazine ads over a 40-year period found that 85 percent of sexualized children pictured were girls -- surely the incessant barrage of sexual imagery and messages can't be healthy for boys either.

The APA report makes brief mention that boys, men and even women can be negatively affected by the sexualization of girls. APA researchers confirmed what porn studies also have found -- that boys and young men constantly exposed to idealized versions of females may have difficulty finding an ``acceptable'' partner and enjoying intimacy with a real person.

Nevertheless, there seems to be an unspoken sense that males are getting what they want with 24/7 sex messaging. Implicit is the notion that males are incapable of nobility, or that they might suffer from an objectifying culture that commodifies their human yearning for intimacy.

Also missing from the report is the single factor that seems most predictive of girls' self-objectification -- the absence of a father in their lives. Although the task force urges ``parents'' to help their daughters interpret sexualizing cultural messages, there's little mention of the unique role fathers play in protecting their girls from a voracious, sexualized culture.

Fathers, after all, are the ones who tell their little girls that they're perfect just the way they are; that they don't need to be one bit thinner; and that under no circumstances are they going out of the house dressed that way.

It can't be coincidence that girls' self-objectification -- looking for male attention in all the wrong ways -- has risen as father presence has declined. At last tally, 30 percent of fathers weren't sleeping in the same house as their biological children.

The APA is calling for more education, more research, forums, girls groups and Web zines to tackle girl sexualization. But my instinctual guess is that getting fathers back into their daughters' lives and back on the job would do more than all the forums and task forces combined.

Ultimately, it's a daddy thing.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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