“Nobody is saying kids haven’t always been interested in sex—we all were—but I think what’s different is that access to pornography has changed how kids view sex in a big way. This is a huge, huge issue that should be the subject of a national conversation, and we are not having it.” This was the response of Nancy Jo Sales, when she was asked recently by Newsweek on her thoughts on female American teenage-hood in the 1970s vs now.

For two and half years, Nancy’s been on the road working on a newly released book called “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenager.” And it’s what she’s learned on the journey that’s got her worried. “If you had asked me two years ago, ‘What do you think of porn?’ I would have said, ‘Whatever, live and let live.’ I really have a different view now that I have looked at it. Gonzo porn is the most popular version, and it’s very degrading to women.”


It’s clear today our teens are growing up in a very sexualized world and inevitably they are starting to mirror what they seeing. Snapchat, Yik Yak, Yeti, Periscope, Instagram, Twitter, Hot or Not; these are all terminologies that used to mean pretty much nothing, but now they tell us the gateway to pornified content, cyber-bullying and sexting is on our kids phones. If you’re a parent, you should be worried and you certainly should be sitting up and paying attention.

Out there today, it’s the girls who are suffering the most and the boys who are doing most of the ‘encouraging.’ “On a daily, sometimes hourly basis, on their phones they
[the girls] encounter things which are often offensive and potentially damaging to their well-being and sense of self-esteem,” says Nancy. “There’s a great deal of pressure on teenage girls today to be considered ‘sex positive,’ a term arising from the sex-positive movement encouraging sexual pleasure and experimentation.” Quoting psychologist John T. Chirban she goes on, “You can spin it any way you want, but porn has an effect on how people behave sexually. With porn you’re not looking at the meaning and value of a whole human being. Girls take away from that message that their most worthy attribute is their sexual hotness.”

Each chapter of Nancy’s book is titled by the age of the girls interviewed and every single one of them contain heartbreaking quotes and glimpses of the future for our kids. “A lot of boys in this generation-boys are not looking at the personality,” says one girl. “They are looking at boobs and butt. And if you don’t have them, they won’t date you.” When asked why some girls posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves on social media another girl said “They’re so insecure. They’re looking for attention from boys – like Damn, you’re so hot – to make them feel better about themselves.” She goes on. “The thing is with boys, if you don’t send them nudes, they say you’re a prude.” “Or scared,” another girl pipes in.

The future that Nancy’s book sets is glim and it certainly gives a raw and somewhat terrifying glimpse into what’s happening when children are communicating on their phones. Now admittedly, they’re not all doing it, but it’s almost unescapable and will inevitability enter their world, whether we [the parents] like it or not.  In her interview with Newsweek Nancy notes, “So-called ‘slutpages’ are in every school I went to [during reporting], and there’s a sexting ring in every school. These are amateur porn sites. There’s a whole minimizing thing that goes on, like, “It’s just a prank.” But it leads to terrible cyberbullying and sometimes suicide. The pictures are like Pokémon cards to the boys, who use them to jerk off or as a trophy.”

As a parent “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenager” is a very scary read and will most likely make you want lock your kids away from society for ever. But you must read it, whether you agree with it or not. You must learn more for your teens. You must understand the world they live in. You have to make a stand. As Nancy quotes, “We have to change this culture. We cannot have a generation of girls growing up like this.”


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