Pornified Girls

Last month, over 2 million people clicked to view a bunch of lingerie-wearing 8-year-olds dancing and gyrating to a sexually explicit song in a national dance contest.

The New York Times Magazine published an editorial by Peggy Ornstein condemning (at least sort of) the clip last week: “Wearing outfits that would make a stripper blush, the [girls] pumped it and bumped it to the Beyonce hit “Single Ladies.” The girls were spectacular dancers, able to twirl on one foot while extending the other into a perfect standing split. But I doubt that two million people had tuned in simply to admire their arabesques… The compulsion to watch was like the impulse to rubberneck at an accident, but in this case the scene was a 12-car pileup of early sexualization.”

I watched the video too, at least a few seconds of it. But as the mother of my own crew of little girls, I just couldn’t watch any more than that. It was just too painful to get such an awful eye-full of what’s happening to an entire generation of American girls.

Listen to these horrifying statistics…

-33% of 9th graders and 62% of 12th graders have had sexual intercourse
-34% of American girls will become pregnant at least once by the age of 19
-33% of sexually active teens ages 15-17 reported “being in a relationship where they felt things were moving too fast sexually”
-24% of sexually active 15-17 year olds have “done something sexual they didn’t really want to do” as a result of pressure from a sexual partner*

And this past Sunday, the editor of the New York Times’ Parenting blog “Motherlode” asked her readers what we think should be done about this plague of “pornified girls.”

I spent a few hours drawing up a few drafts for a comment in my head, but in the end I just could not figure out how to begin to explain to the average New York Times reader the alternative dimension in which I reside.

How many New York Times readers, for example, would believe that last week, when my ten-year-old daughter Hallel saw the term “Sex Object” in a newspaper headline, she asked me, “Eema, what is that word? How do you pronounce it? S-E-X?”

And, no, I didn’t tell her. When she needs to know, I’ll tell her.

And how many New York Times readers would believe that in 2010, I live in a society overflowing with modest girls, innocent girls, girls whose first sexual experience will take place on their wedding night?

Confident, smart, curious, passionate, beautiful girls whose self-esteem is not dictated by how attractive they appear in a bikini, or how many boys ask them out, or whether they have a steady boyfriend at the moment or not as was the case when I myself was one of those unfortunate secular American girls…with very low self-esteem I should add!

In the end, I didn’t write a comment because I realized I’m living on a different planet.

And how can you explain how good it feels to breathe in a lung-full of fresh air to someone who lives on Jupiter?

Or explain how good it feels to jump in the ocean waves after a sweltering city day to someone who lives on Venus?

Or convey the soul-shaking splendor of a fire-red sunrise to someone who has spent her entire life living deep inside a black hole?

I couldn’t figure out how to convey the Torah’s view on “pornified girls” to a wider audience, but I would be so happy if any of you could help to spread some desperately-needed Jewish wisdom by reading and commenting on the original New York Times article.

*Kaiser Family Foundation, US Teen Sexual Activity Report, 2005.

Photo courtesy of user Markusram


  1. Although I don’t think we’re dealing with issues exactly like the society presented in this article is dealing with, we do have to remember that not all of our girls in the religious community come out with a picture perfect model of sexual health in the minds and that we need to address sexuality just as much in our community, but certainly from a torah perspective.

    Thanks, Jenny for, as always, thought provoking articles.

  2. Chana,
    You should send this to them, your words are powerful and honest – you don’t need to give permission to someone else to speak them for you. Let them hear that there are people out there who reject this disastrous situation for girls.

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