The girl sits on a park bench and tries to fall in love again. She tries to fall in love with the boy in an oversized T-shirt who is kicking a football, or the one who is doing push-ups, or the young man with the shocking blue earphones, walking with his hands in his pockets, or the boy who is holding hands with a girl who has streaks of red hair, or the one lying on his stomach, reading a book, or maybe even the one who is ogling at the women practicing yoga. Nothing happens.
WASHINGTON--A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development.
To complete the report, the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls studied published research on the content and effects of virtually every form of media, including television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet. They also examined recent advertising campaigns and merchandising of products aimed toward girls.
According to the task force report, parents can play a major role in contributing to the sexualization of their daughters or can play a protective and educative role. The APA report calls on parents, school officials, and all health professionals to be alert for the potential impact of sexualization on girls and young women. Schools, the APA says, should teach media literacy skills to all students and should include information on the negative effects of the sexualization of girls in media literacy and sex education programs.
This is a tale of a young friendship gone horribly wrong. In late May, in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls allegedly lured a friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. The victim, also 12, managed to crawl to a road, where she lay on the sidewalk with stab wounds in her arms, legs and torso, blood soaking her black fleece jacket, until a bicyclist found her and called 911. According to police, the assailants had been plotting the crime for months. Their motivation? They said they wanted to prove themselves worthy of Slender Man, an evil character who lives only on the Internet.
It sounds like the outlandish plot of a horror movie, in part because it is incredibly rare for young girls to murder. In 2012, of the 8,514 people arrested for murder and nonnegligent homicide in the U.S., just one was a girl under the age of 13. It's not so surprising, then, that when girls do kill, their crimes often devolve into sensationalized pop culture narratives, replete with simplistic explanations and groundless moralizing. "This should be a wake-up call for all parents," Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said in a much-quoted statement about his two young prisoners. "The Internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The Internet can also be full of dark and wicked things."
Diluted advice to parents and ill-informed attempts at making sense of this case won't get us far. We do not know enough about the two girls' mental states, friendship, families and backgrounds to generalize about their motivations. And their act is so unusual that it tells us little about our daughters.
Historically, girls have been more likely to engage in bullying, gossip and manipulation, not physical violence. That is, in part, what makes crimes like the Slender Man stabbing so noteworthy. "We are intrigued by the oddity, the horror, the irony of little girls doing terrible things. It doesn't go with the age or gender," says Frank Ochberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University and leading expert on violence and trauma.
The few cases in recent memory in which very young girls committed murders exemplify how gripping these stories can be. One of New Zealand's most notorious murders occurred in 1954, when Pauline Parker, 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, killed Parker's mother. The teens had developed an intense friendship, bonding over their wild imaginations, inventing their own religion, writing novels together. Their parents started to worry about the girls' relationship. Around this time, Hulme also learned that her parents were getting divorced; she would be moving to South Africa with her father, thereby separating the two girls forever. Parker's mother, who was especially concerned about her daughter, insisted that she not join Hulme on the trip. When Parker and Hulme found out, they lured Parker's mother down a secluded path in a local park and bludgeoned her with a brick. Parker and Hulme were tried in the Supreme Court of New Zealand and found guilty. Each spent five years in prison. The crime inspired novels, plays and films, including Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures.
Books, films and Law & Order episodes followed the 1968 deaths of two young boys in England. The day before Mary Bell's 11th birthday, she strangled 4-year-old Martin Brown. He was found dead in an abandoned house. Two months later, with the help of a 13-year-old girl, Bell strangled Brian Howe, 3, and left him covered in grass and weeds, puncture marks on his limbs and the letter "M" carved into his stomach. Experts said she showed "classic symptoms of psychopathy"; Bell was sentenced to life in detention but released in 1980, at the age of 23.
Our almost hysterical fascination with intense female friendship harks back to a centuries-old story of girlhood gone awry. In 1692, girls and young women in Salem Village, Massachusetts, started accusing their neighbors of witchcraft. Before the crisis concluded, 54 people in Essex County had confessed to being witches and nearly 150 had been charged with practicing "the devil's magic." In all, 19 were hanged, and one man was pressed to death with heavy stones.
Historians have analyzed the Salem panic through many lenses. Some argue it was mass hysteria in an age when the devil mattered and religion reigned. Some cite economic anxieties between the prospering Salem Town and the agrarian Salem Village. Others, the emotional needs of girls and young women in a society that confined them to strict gendered roles. "Most studies of witchcraft history don't sufficiently acknowledge the importance of the devil," says historian John Demos, an emeritus professor at Yale University whose notable books include Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, which won the Bancroft Prize, and The Enemy Within: A Short History of Witch-Hunting. "I don't think the people involved went a single day, or an hour, or even a minute, without wondering what the devil was up to next."
The Slender Man stabbing seems to embody all our fears about what can go wrong for girls: how they are growing up in a culture saturated in their sexualization; how the Internet has altered the ways they communicate and express themselves; how young people spend so much time curating their online personas that the line between their Internet selves and their real selves all too often blurs.
A brief lesson in child development is instructive here. In their preteen and teenage years, boys and girls develop intense social relationships, and that's a good thing: It's a natural part of growing up and becoming more independent. Adolescence is also a time when young people feel intensely. "We're boiling or freezing. We hate you, or we love you," says Dr. Harold Koplewicz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and founding president of the Child Mind Institute. "The peer pressure that affects girls as they enter adolescence is powerful and can lead to risky choices. Risk is an integral part of adolescence, and between friendship and risk, the combination can be worrying, even dangerous."
Mary Bell, the girl who strangled two young boys in 1968, took a new name and started over after she was released from prison in 1980. Four years later, she had a daughter. The two of them were promised lifelong anonymity (what's now called a "Mary Bell Order") and vanished into the wider world. In 2009, Bell became a grandmother.
For as long as there have been gay men, there have been daddy-boy relationships. Older gay men have always helped out, guided, and instructed younger gay men on how to live, how to get ahead, and -- don't roll your eyes -- how to be gay.
Pay attention, class. The gay textbook undoubtedly defines "daddy" as "an older, established gay man who dates or has sexual relations with younger gay men." Like so many items in the gay textbook, this definition needs updating -- age and money have less to do with it -- but "established" is a nice word.
If you're daddy-hunting for men a bit older than you, find someone with patience, because dealing with you will require lots of it. When he needs time to himself, with his partner(s) or with friends his own age, it's probably because you are annoying the shit out of him. That's okay -- young people always annoy older people. It's what we do.
The only true requirement for being a daddy is wanting to be one. My ex is a 24-year-old daddy who loves power-topping older muscle guys. My ex has "daddy mentality." By the same token, you can be a "boy" at any age -- don't let any ageist youngster tell you otherwise.
One problem with being in daddy mode nonstop is that it leaves little room to be comforted when you need it. Everyone needs comforting. Even caretakers need caretakers. Find a daddy who tells you when he's not feeling so hot and opens up (when he's ready) about his problems, insecurities, or fears. Not everyone wants to be comforted when they're upset -- most humans will simply appreciate being listened to -- but offer it. Show that you care about him and view him as a real person, not just a role. 2b1af7f3a8