Sexuality has taken many twists and turns over the decades. I don’t really know how we went from the’60s and ‘70s, when sex was seen as rebellion against the woes of conformity, to the ‘80s with the AIDS scare, to the ‘90s, when sex was becoming more and more experimental to the year 2003, when sexuality has taken the shape of a smiling thirteen year old. When did we take that sharp turn off of the path of progression and somehow end up with Jon Benet as the poster child for beauty and sexual desire?

There are many factors that could possibly add to the “kids having sex” phenomenon, such as family life, socioeconomic background, and peer influence. In this country, many families have two parents working. The parents can’t always monitor their child’s every move. “I think that parenting has something to do with it, but you can’t lock your kids in a bubble,” says Sue Smith, a mother of two. “You want them to be exposed to what’s going on in their world so you have to let them know, if you’re going to take the risk of having sex, you have to take the responsibility.” According to an article published in the Guardian, the average age in 1950 for the first time of sexual intercourse was 21 years. Today, it has dropped to 16.

It’s the double standard that children are supposed to look and act as adults and adults are supposed to look like young teenagers that’s creating a confusing mindset for people in our society. “But when you’re older, you become less desirable in the eye of society,” says sixteen year old Rachel Smith. By no means is sex- uality a bad thing; however, seeing Jenny Jones dress in teenage apparel is no weirder than seeing a thirteen-year old bend over, only to expose her diamond-studded thong top that says “flirt.”

Unfortunately, kids are constantly the innocent targets and have been for many years (I’m sure that many of you remember good ol’ Joe Camel). Companies are creating a false sense of maturity through one’s sexuality. “The media targets impressionable minds. Kids are easily impressed and can’t always discern reality,” says Mary Wiser, a mother of two. With kids, much of the issue has to do with rebellion. “It’s put in your head from such a young age that you shouldn’t be having sex and that it’s something so special that you should wait for. The media know that the kids are going to want to know what’s so special about it and try it as soon as they can. They know what they’re getting at,” says Rachael.

Another factor that plays into youth sex is the idea of “instant pleasure.” It seems as though the world has become a giant drive thru.

We spend half our days sitting in our cars ordering food, processing money, or picking up medicine, because, in some way or another, walking has become everybody’s latest hassle and time (or lack thereof) seems to haunt us in our sleep. Our culture is so consumed with time limits, deadlines, and daily to-do lists that the phrase, “stop to smell the roses” has become nothing more than a rarely glanced at refrigerator magnet. We have become a society that is so rushed and so pushed to “be faster, be better, be quicker!” that things such as love seem to have no place in our lives. “Kids and even adults don’t have long attention spans anymore. Everything is in little clips of life, and people think that’s how life is,” says sixteen-year-old Rebecca Wiser.

The question is when did the idea of love an sex become separate? Love takes months, sometimes even years, but sex takes only a few hours, minutes, or, in some cases, seconds. It’s the idea that quick sex will lead to quick love and instant gratification, and the good ‘ole U.S. of A. goes about marketing this product beautifully. Our culture of commercialized everything has managed to take something as wonderfully simple as sex and love and turn it into a moneymaking monster. The reality is that, the younger the client, the more money there is to be made.

Take Abercrombie & Fitch, for example. Back in 1999, this corporation was under scrutiny by Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood and Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm for using “pornographic” poses to help sell their clothing line to young people. It was investigated in 2001 for using “scantily clad models.” And you can’t forget the controversy over the fact that the company was selling thongs to fit girls between the ages of 10 to 16.

Movies such as American Pie, although geared toward a younger crowd really promote an adult message. “To a twelve-year old, they may think sex is an important part of daily life, and without it, they’re lacking,” says Rebecca. Companies who are using sex to market their products toward youth culture are, in actuality, feeding off impressionable children by creating an adult ideology that many kids don’t understand. “I think you need to have everybody working together, including Hollywood and the media, to let people know it’s cool to wear normal blue jeans and a T-shirt and that you don’t need to pluck out your pubic hairs to wear them,” says Sue.

Our culture is saturated with sex. The mere idea of sex is so “in-your-face” that the only way to avoid it is to walk around with your eyes shut and your ears plugged. Because this issue seems to invade almost every aspect of our lives, there should be no surprise to the rise in children having sex at younger and younger ages. It’s all a cycle. If the media targets kids by using sex to sell their product, and the kids buy into it, then the cycle continues. Some may call this a loss of innocence. The problem is that for children, being sexy and having sex is their one-way ticket toward what they think is maturity and adulthood. Yes, sex sells, but when exactly is it appropriate to use it? And at what age is there a sense of understanding and responsibility? At the rate our society is going, the next thing you know, there will be thongs and muscle tees at baby GAP. by Amanda Zackem

Thongs and training bras. Most women will wear these items at some point in their lives, but not usually at the same time. Yet, today’s culture has transformed this image into some kind of distorted norm. In our society, image is everything and that “everything” is being sold as sex. Our country has managed to glorify sex to the point where you can’t ever escape it. Whether it be an orgasmic shampoo, sensually seductive cologne, or Britney Spears prancing around in a flesh-colored body suit, sexual innuendos bombard us from all directions. And then we ask, why are so many kids having sex?