“Never before has girlhood been under such a sustained assault – from ads, alcohol marketing, girls’ magazines, sexually explicit TV programmes and the hard pornography that is regularly accessed in so many teenager’s bedrooms,” says the psychologist Steve Biddulph, currently touring the country to promote a book called Raising Girls.
It is a follow-up to his best-seller Raising Boys – and they are under pressure too, being led to believe that girls will look and behave like porn stars. Our children are becoming victims of pornification.
“It is usually girls who are on the receiving end of some pretty degrading stuff,” says Claire Perry MP, who has just been appointed David Cameron’s special adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. “We’ve got young girls being asked to write their names on their boobs and send pictures. Parents would be really shocked to know this is happening in pretty much every school in the country. Our children are growing up in a very sexualised world.”
What is the cause of all this? We need more research, the experts say. But to a dismayed parent, it seems like the horrific result of a massive experiment. Thanks to the internet, our boys and girls are the first children to grow up with free, round-the-clock access to hardcore pornography. Porn has become part of the adult mainstream, colouring everything from advertising to best-selling books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Of course our children are affected.”