Sealed Sections Unsealing Childhood Innocence

There is widespread debate about the appropriateness of teenage magazines and whether or not these magazines are responsible for the sexualisation of children through subjecting teens to information that is not age appropriate. Looking specifically at Girlfriend magazine, there are several positives and negatives to the magazines’ ‘sealed section’ which has led to debate in the mediated public sphere that is the internet.

sss03 copy
Macushla Burke 2011

The intended target age of Girlfriend is said to be 14-17 year old girls (Pacific Magazines 2014), however around 20% of Girlfriend’s readers are between the ages of 11 and 12. Now, I’m obviously not a mother of an 11 year old girl but I am certain that I would not want my young child to be reading about whether she can “perform oral sex if I have braces”. But, sadly, many 11 year old girls are being subjected to this information at those tender ages, they “can learn the latest sex lingo in an eight-page ‘Sexapedia’ sealed section … and delve into the sexual antics of their peers” (Dirty Laundry 2009). This information is all easily accessible, found comfortably next to the Spongebob Squarepants and Total Girl magazines in every supermarket with no restricted access, classification guidelines or content warnings. The front cover of Girlfriend magazine screams out to teen girls with topless pictures of Justin Bieber and photos of their favourite celebrity with perfect hair and flawless skin. These magazines are exploiting young girls’ desire to grow up quickly by throwing information at them that they should not be interested in until they are 15 at the very least.

The editor of Girlfriend magazine claims that it is “a service” to make sure sex is in every magazine, as teenagers are always going to be curious. This statement is somewhat true; teenagers are forever going to want information about sex and what people of their age are participating in. This is where the debate about ‘sealed sections’ surfaces; are these magazines, full of confronting information, helping teenage girls? One issue of Girlfriend noted that 50% of readers are worried about getting an STI, so, clearly the information within this magazine is helping young people who are choosing to be sexually active by offering knowledge of safe sex and medical advice from a qualified doctor.  There is also a lot of information about cyberstalking, building self-esteem, body issues and mental health problems such as depression. These sealed sections provide answers to questions that readers may be embarrassed to consult their parents about.

It is therefore the responsibility of the parent or guardian to make decisions regarding what is appropriate for their child and to provide adequate supervision over what their child is reading about. Whilst these magazines do provide useful information, I endorse the opinion that these magazines should feature age restrictions or carry warnings in order to ensure that children are not exposed or sexualised at an age that is too young.

_______________________________________________

Reference: 

Burke, M. 2011, Sealed Section, image, BlogSpot, viewed 5 April 2014,
<http://macushlaburkethemodel.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/sealed-section.html>.

Dirty Laundry 2009, Sexualising kids: our social shame, Brisbane Times, viewed 5 April 2014,
<http://blogs.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/dirtylaundry/2009/04/27/sexualisingkid.html>.

Legislative Council 2010, classification (publications, films and computer games) (parental guidance) amendment bill, Hansard Parliament, viewed 5 April 2014,
<http://hansard.parliament.sa.gov.au/pages/loaddoc.aspx?i=158701>.

No Author 2008, SENATE Inquiry: Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee, Parliament of Australia, viewed 5 April 2014,
<http://www.aph.gov.au/binaries/senate/committee/eca_ctte/sexualisation_of_children/qon/classification_qon.pdf>.

Pacific Magazines 2014, Girlfriend, Pacific Magazines, viewed 5 April 2014, <http://pacificmagazines.com.au/Pages/Magazines/Magazine.aspx?mid=fe16ab41-1358-4925-b418-96d5d593388a>.

Turnbull, S. 2014, ‘Media Mythbusting: Big Brother is Watching You Week 5′, lecture, BCM110, University of Wollongong, delivered 1 April March 2014.

Winch T. 2008, Let’s stop trying to turn girls into probationary sexpots, The Age, viewed 5 April 2014,<http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/lets-stop-trying-to-turn-girls-into-probationary-sexpots-20080622-2ux2.html>.

YWCA 2009, Sexualisation of Children, YWCA the Power of Women, viewed 5 April 2014,
<http://www.ywca.com.au/campaigns/past/images/SexualisationofChildren_ABZ_020310.pdf>.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Sealed Sections Unsealing Childhood Innocence

  1. While I get this sentiment:

    “That they should not be interested in until they are 15 at the very least.”

    A lot of people I know lost their virginity at 14 or younger. Really the not interested until 15 thing is a huge social construct, as soon as a girl gets her period, she is technically “ready” for sex. So of course its that age that someone is going to start looking for information, and its much better that they have that readily available. Especially if that information is regarding contraception and STIs.

    1. I completely agree with you, I also know a lot of people who were sexually active at a very young age and yes I agree that the information needs to be out there. But, I based my statement of “they should not be interested in until they are 15 at the very least” around the legal age to have sex in NSW which is 16 years old.
      Yes, the information needs to be readily available, but maybe just the contraception, STI and puberty questions and leave out the parts that just blatantly talk about sex and how to do it. This information is available everywhere else in the media and I just think it needs to be left out of 12 year old girl magazines.
      Thankyou so much for you feedback! very interesting

      1. Yup, good point. Maybe it should be about contraception, puberty and STIs, and leave the blowjob tips to Cosmo.

        But at the same time it should also have just the VERY BASICS of sex. Ive read some horror stories of people who were never given any sex education, (very religious parents), got married, both virgins with literally NO idea what to do.

        Because really, you shouldnt be teaching teenagers to be ASHAMED of sex either, there is way too much of that floating around in our lives as is (esp. re slut shaming).

      2. Yes! Because most teenagers and adults know that Cosmo contains all the serious stuff for when you want some helpful ‘tips’ haha.

        Very basics I agree, but anything other than that doesn’t need to be in young magazines, as we know it’s in the magazines that are targeted at older teens and women, and when a teenager is ready to learn about sex then she can just purchase Cosmo for example, so that the 12 year olds reading Girlfriend aren’t exposed to the information when they don’t need to be.

        Oh wow those poor people! I can’t even imagine how awkward that must’ve been haha. But i think people who are ready to get married shouldn’t look for the detailed information in a tween magazine.

        No I agree, they shouldn’t be ashamed, that’s not gonna get anyone anywhere, and yes there’s definitely enough embarrassment as is, but I think teens need to be taught to be perhaps more reluctant (it’s not the right word but can’t quite think of it) about sex and realise the importance and significance of it and not just think of sex as something that everyone does because they have to, you know?
        really enjoying this discussion by the way, thanks again!

      3. Here are two things on how amazingly stupid Cosmo is:

        http://www.reddit.com/r/ShitCosmoSays/

        http://www.nerve.com/advice/ridiculous-tips/the-best-of-ridiculous-tips-for-a-miserable-sex-life-emcosmopolitan-em-edition

        Some of Cosmo’s “sex tips” would end up entirely painful for the bloke.

        I actually remember reading something that says that women “secrete” (dunno if thats the right word for the context) a hormone that “attaches” them to a man after theyve had sex with them. I dont know how scientifically valid it is, but it would explain why women take sex, I guess more seriously, than men do.

      4. hahahha this – http://www.nerve.com/advice/ridiculous-tips/the-best-of-ridiculous-tips-for-a-miserable-sex-life-emcosmopolitan-em-edition?page=2 – is possibly the greatest thing i’ve ever read!

        Yes! I’ve read that too! Not sure if it’s just some random woman making up facts to make sure guys feel bad about leaving her, or if its actual fact. so interesting though!
        Now that you say that women take sex more seriously than men, I wonder where boys get their sealed sections from?

  2. I remember reading Girlfriend at a young age and being so excited to read the ‘sealed section’ and then being so disgusted and confused about everything they had written about sex. I think it has changed so much from then as younger girls now are already talking about sex and aren’t really surprised by Girlfriends ‘sealed section’ as it has become somewhat of a norm for them to know about this knowledge.

    I completely agree with you about parents or guardians should be acknowledging what media is appropriate for their children! Great Job!

    1. haha me too, I would turn straight to it! But when I was 12 and reading it, it was only a way to laugh and be grossed out, now girls read it and think sex is just what they’re meant to be doing and there really isn’t any option – which is obviously not true.
      Thankyou 🙂

  3. It’s a fair comment to say that the magazine could add a warning about its magazines content. But I am totally with you, in regards to the parents being responsible for what their children are ready to read. If the parents are OK for their kids to read Girlfriend magazine then they should also be prepared to discuss sex questions that might surface as a result of their readings. I just hope they don’t fluff it under the carpet when their kids ask them about sex, cause that’s when they start hiding things and then won’t come to their parents for information, they will find another source. This could be more damaging for their learning development in relation an important topic such as sex.

  4. This is a fantastic analysis. You balance the pro’s and con’s of the sealed section really fairly which emphasises your point that responsible supervision is necessary. I think age restrictions would be going too far, but warnings could be a good idea!

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 yeah perhaps age restrictions are a bit far because then young girls would just get older people to purchase them, just like movie tickets haha (oh my rebellious days). But yes there definitely needs to be some barrier between 12 year old girls and sex.

  5. Nice, detailed post. I especially liked how you made suggestions rather than just identifying problems. Some sort of ratings system, perhaps similar to something in film, could be employed for literature. Also, sweet tweet to advertise the blog, they’re always so hard to pull off and you did it masterfully.

    1. Thanks so much! yeah that’s a good idea, a PG rating in BIG letters on the magazines would work well!
      Haha thank you, it’s a struggle I agree, that one took me a solid 5 minutes.

  6. I remember how scandalous it was to open the “sealed section”!! I agree that it is up the the parents to decide when it is appropriate to read magazines like this, but at the same time girls will want to learn about this kind of thing when they feel ready. It is a great way to learn the correct information about a topic that seems so embarrassing at that age, without having to ask parents etc. Great post!

    1. thanks so much for your feedback 🙂
      I agree that girls will want to know this information and I’m glad that there is magazines out there that help young girls (they helped me too when i was younger, I admit) but I just don’t want these sealed sections to force girls into thinking that they have to rush into growing up, you know. It is very difficult however to get that fine balance between too much and not enough information for girls between 12-16.
      Thanks again 🙂

  7. Good post, I’ve never put much thought into that and now you’ve mentioned it, it is worrying girls that young should be reading such detailed information about sex. Topics like that are always tricky, and it does give girls a less awkward approach to learning things other then ‘the birds and the bees’ talk with parents, and ill also praise magazines giving awareness about STI’s. Agreeing with everyone, I think it does come down the parents, but although the magazines are allowing young girls to read it, they should try and make an influence that girls as young as 11 are not encouraged to do it yet.

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback. Yeah the parents are almost completely responsible I agree, but as you say, the magazines should take responsibility and try to stop younger girls from having sex at such a young age. Thanks again 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s