Kathryn Lopez

Kaiser relayed: "In-depth interviews with girls ages 12 and 13 who were regular readers of teen magazines found that girls used the magazines to formulate their concepts of femininity and relied heavily on articles that featured boys, opinions about how to gain male approval and act in relationships with males."

With big audiences comes big responsibility, but these magazines detrimentally add to a cultural, sexual pile-on. Girls are bombarded with sex. Check out the local newsstands and you'll see that teen magazines are every father's nightmare. They want to make sure your daughter has sexy shoes, that her prom dress be "crazy, sexy, cool." The movies, TV and even teen fiction are not better. "All in all, girls are being exposed to a fairly one-sided image of female sexuality on television. Allusions to sexual patience (waiting to have sex) are rare. Indeed, although virgins occasionally show up on popular teen shows, for the most part their abstinence is treated as the characters' defining trait, which suggests to teens that sexual restraint is both noteworthy and unusual," Carol Platt Liebau writes in her book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!)," She concludes, "Sex is everywhere. Everyone's doing it, and that's just the way it is."

But that's not the way it has to be. At a recent Claremont Institute event on "Marriage, Modesty & Modernity," Pauline Hamlette, a former Washington, D.C., elementary school principal and national program director for the Best Friends Foundation, told those gathered, "I've never met a student not willing to say 'no.'" Best Friends, developed by Elayne Bennett, seeks to create an environment where girls are inundated with healthy choices, and have adults in their lives who care enough to help them with those decisions. As Bennett has put it, "If you just want to make sure that kids don't get pregnant and protect themselves, you're going to have a whole lot more sexual activity. Adolescents need guidelines and standards of behavior. They want them; they give them a sense of security, and ... well-being." With curriculum and dedication, Best Friends shows results.

Culture magazines, TV, movies -- already best friends forever with teen girls -- could afford to offer the best and not settle for pretending we can't do more for America's young people than help them prevent "accidents."

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.