Sexual role models for young people

As the new academic year approaches one finds oneself wondering about the issues that will be presented by young people over the coming year. Positive sexual role models for young people are of vital importance because as young people move into adolescents they become independent and so have more time to manage themselves around other young people. Once our children are out of sight we trust that what we have taught them will safely see them though these times.

Parents are not the only ones responsible for our children’s welfare. To an extent society as a whole might also take responsibility for it’s young people.

Review the cover of this weekend’s Weekend Guardian Supplement and you will find Amy Schumer on the cover. She is a comedian not a comedienne. She is successful and inside the supplement we can see pictures of her in her famous life as the article speaks about how she came to put together her show.

Sex is on the agenda on the cover and in the text. The cover shows her in fishnets, stilettoes and an oversized cashmere jumper. The statement is clear, it says “I have just had unplanned sex away from home, all I have to wear is his jumper and the provocative clothing I wore the night previous that enabled me send a clear message that I wished to be viewed in a sexual way and I don’t care.”

To me, a fifty year old middleclass white male, the subtext is also clear, it says, “Because I am on the cover of The Guardian Supplement I am strong, motivated and worth taking notice of because I am a modern woman in every sense and if I am sexually objectified it is because I choose to be so and the men who see me in this way have been duped by me because I am contemporary enough to turn the sexual tables on them.

I imagine my mother, my aunt, my wife, my sister, my daughter, my granddaughter……They may well not read the text (my wife will make a fire with it, she usually does not have the time to read these supplements, owning a small business as she does and employing 25 people) but they will see the picture on the cover either in a newsagent or at home. How will they interpret the information presented as they are exposed to the same old style of image that I grew up with, that forward thinking women around the world have struggled to move away from?

Simple, they will see that sexually provocative and submissive behaviour is still celebrated in our society. Will they subtly absorb this attitude about themselves and their gender into their lives? Will they teach and inform themselves and others about what they have learnt from the cover of an aspirational, intellectual, broadsheet supplement?

I have worked with young people for decades and I can see that our attitude to sex and gender roles have changed little. Infact, in many subtle ways they have deteriorated for on the surface we are advised that the glass ceiling women experience at work and in society is becoming thinner yet, to me, this is an illusion as this Guardian image shows.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and join me, a man, a son to my mother, a spouse to my wife, a brother to my sister, a father to my daughter, a grandfather to my granddaughter, as I try to filter and demystify the images that I am exposed to on a daily basis.

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