In one scene in Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel ‘Watchmen’, the billionaire superhero Ozymandis stares at a wall filled with hundreds of television screens. They are all tuned to different channels and he gazes over them in order to allow his subconscious to observe any trends or themes that are being shown. In the pre-apocalyptic society that the story is set in he notes a rise in sexual imagery in marketing as well as a trend towards reminiscing of more wholesome safer times.
With September 11 almost a decade behind us and with the ‘war on terror’ stalemated at best it is fair to say that we are not presently living in culture that has a particularly anxious mood. Certainly we know little of the fear of nuclear annihilation that hung over most of the cold war which “Watchmen’ uses as its backdrop. There is no denying however that culture has still managed to trend towards an ever increasing presence of sexuality in advertising and media of every form. This is particularly the case with a certain subset of our community; teenage girls.
A recent study by the Parents Television Council (PTC) has found that:
‘underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.’
It also found:
‘that 98 percent of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred outside of any form of committed relationship, and that 73 percent of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke.’
President of the Parents Television Council Tim Winter says “Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Winter said. “It is outrageous that TV executives have made it their business to profit off of programs that depict teen girls blissfully being sexualized by casual partners.”
The article lists examples used by the PTC including, ‘Taylor Momsen’s character in bed with Ed Westwick on “Gossip Girl,” Annalynne McCord taking a swig of alcohol while donning a bra and panties on “90210,” and a lesbian kiss between cheerleaders on “Glee.”
Scripture paints a very different picture of how we should treat younger women and how they should respect themselves.
The New Testament mentions young women in particular on at least two occasions.
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (I Timothy 5:1)
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:2-5)
There is no specific age mentioned as to what exactly constitutes a young woman but teenagers would certainly have been included in this. It was not uncommon in Middle Eastern culture at the time for teenage girls to enter into marriage. Most biblical scholars believe that Mary the mother of Christ would have been somewhere between 14-16 when she was pregnant so the fact that the young women mentioned here could have a husband does not mean that they were in their twenties.
What is important to note is that in both verses Paul emphasizes that young women are to be pure and treated with purity. As Tim Winter says, the message that is being sent to young girls through mainstream media is not simply that it is okay to be a teenage girl and sexually active, it is also suggesting that this is a desirable goal.
Young girls are told that their value lies in their sexual appeal. It is now common practice for high school boys to expect to have his high school girlfriend ‘sext’ him or provide him with some other form of personal voyeurism. They are constantly compared (and compare themselves) to the images that are presented to them daily of girls their own age involved in sexual acts of all natures.
The bible teaches that a young woman’s beauty is not to come from her external adornments. On the contrary it says ‘women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.’
For thousands of years young women have been tempted to gain their sense of worth from their external appearance. Instead Paul here encourages them to let their good works, modesty and self control reveal their godliness. This doesn’t mean that a woman can’t enjoy sex or that she should deny her sexuality. Rather it should be reserved for marriage and for husband alone. This is where God intends for us to enjoy the good gift of sex that he has given us.
Fathers it is your responsibility to teach your daughter that her worth comes from being made in the image of a creator God and the diving mercy and grace that he has bestowed upon us. Tell your daughters that they are beautiful so that when the first boy that comes along pays her attention she isn’t fooled into thinking that she needs that sort of affirmation.
Men it is our responsibility to raise our girls right so that they will honour God with their beauty, both inside and out.