Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Whoring of the Young, continued...

I found it necessary to add a part II to the previous story with it now encompassing a more global aspect. reported with an article entitled "Child Porn Now Mainstream in Germany" that the German teen magazine, Bravo, regularly features nude photographs of teenagers, generally between the ages of 16 to 20. I knew how progressive European countries tend to be about sex, but I guess I would not have guessed it leading to sexualizing the youth through a teenage magazine. Coupled with these photographs is the regular sex-advice column of Dr. Sommer. Who knew teenagers needed a sex-advice column?

From the article, I then found an article in Speigel Online, another publication in Germany, with an article in English concerning Bravo and its teen sex columnist (you can find that article here).
Lodged between the ads for tampons, zit concealers and mobile phone ring tones is a weekly sex advice column splashed with photos of teenagers, au naturel -- kind of like Penthouse Letters for kids. It's the kind of thing that would land the publishers in jail were it to hit newsstands on the other side of the Atlantic. If the Christian right or America's comb-over Congress got their hands on this, the courts would be busy for months.

But this is sex-positive Germany, not the Bible Belt. And here there are few taboos when it comes to telling kids where to insert the dipstick should they need to check the oil. The cultural epicenter of this sex-friendly youth society is "Dr. Sommer," the weekly Bravo column that has been providing teens with sex advice since its birth during the 1969 Summer of Love. And the Germans love it. The column's liberating message to teens has been greeted with open arms from across the religious and political spectrum. Indeed, it's not unusual for the column's staff to receive invitations to church groups to deliver youth sexuality sermons.
Aside from their view of American culture and its Bible-Belt "morality" (I guess we're not perverse enough....YET!), the advice column is pitched as being a message of liberation. What does this message of liberation entail?
That's not to say that Bravo is a cheap skin mag -- nor does the weekly seek to become the Teutonic version of the Kama Sutra. Rather, the nude photos are intended to provide reassuring images to adolescents suddenly confronted with serious physical and psychological pyrotechnics....

A combination of "Dr. Ruth," Teen People and "Savage Love," each week the staff of Dr. Sommer answer letters from teens seeking advice about health, sex, changing bodies, love and relationships. Hundreds of questions pour in each week in the form of written letters, telephone calls and postings to the popular Bravo Web site. The questions are those one would expect from uncertain youth trying to figure out what the heck is happening to their bodies, urges and emotions: How do I meet my first mate? How do I flirt? Why is my body changing? Will I ever recover from this heartbreak? Do I need contraception? Can I get AIDS from kissing? What is safe sex? Will boys still like me if I am flat-chested?
Does anybody wonder...where the hell are the parents???!?!??! And not to let you think that this is some small magazine, "more than 600,000 teens buy Bravo in Germany each week, and many more go to the magazine's Web site, where the Dr. Sommer section is one of the most popular, contributing significantly to the site's massive readership. In April (2006), chalked up nearly 39 million page views." So apparently, the magazine and website get a large readership in Germany. But has the work of Dr. Sommer made much of a difference in the past 36 years?
Bravo's recent study found that, despite more than three decades of publishing Dr. Sommer, German teens still know too little important information about sex. "We found that there are huge gaps when it comes to knowledge about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, protecting oneself from AIDS and sexuality and contraception in general," said von Arx.
With all the information available on the internet and in books and magazines, people still don't know about sex. My favorite has to be about preventing unwanted pregnancies; let me harbor a guess about that about old fashion abstinence, its 100% effective in preventing any pregnancy! So how does this information not get passed onto the new generations of Germans? von Arx, the pseudonymous Dr. Sommer, says its because of the sexual revolution.
"Forty years ago," she says, "people thought kids knew nothing and that everything had to be explained to them. But today the opposite is true. Our kids are growing up in a society where there are almost no remaining taboos when it comes to sex, and people assume they already know far more about sex than they actually do. They do have access to a lot more information today, but it often lacks context or is contradictory."
The sexual revolution brought on too much information that lacks context or is contradictory. Unfortunately, von Arx, does not tell us what context is necessary. It seems that teenagers need explicit guides on how to improve their sexual lives and visual aids to help them. You only need to go through Dr. Sommer's section on the Bravo magazine website to gain just a glimmer of what material is made available to and for teenagers in Germany. One could argue that the Bravo magazine is doing a service to the youth of Germany by providing sexual health information. The magazine is just presenting the information and letting the youth determine what to do with it. But that is far from the truth. Handing out information about how to have sexual activity presumes that this is a type of activity that should be normal for the youth of Germany in which to participate. Not to mention with its presentation of explicit graphics, you have handed them several things to use: 1) for imaginative purposes and the introduction of ideas they may not have had otherwise; 2) a useful guide on "how-to" have sex; 3) normalized it in a context of other young people are doing it, so why not me.

It makes me wonder how far off we are from this sort of situation in the United States, especially with the way sexual education has advanced in the public and private schools.

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