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Time to say: Enough is enough
Scripps Howard News Service


November 02, 2006

In 1985 when Al Gore was still in Congress, his wife, Tipper, started a campaign against salacious rock music. For her effort she was raked over by liberals, who accused her of trying to censor rock music lyrics sub rosa and, worse, of aligning herself with the evangelical right.

My reaction at the time was, "How parochial. " In retrospect, I was wrong.

Tipper Gore co-founded with three other Washington wives the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) because she heard her then-12-year-old daughter playing "Darling Nikki " by the artist formerly (or presently) known as Prince. The song's gritty, guitar-driven lyrics tell the story of a "sex-fiend " named Nikki who seduces Prince.

gif Lyrics

Sexual Lyrics
Mike Lester, The Rome News-Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

But Prince's 1984 lyrics are downright tame compared with what American kids now consume all day every day, not only in the form of rap, rock and pop lyrics, but from sex videos on YouTube, to Internet-distributed come-ons for all manner of consumer goods, and the omnipresent, in-your-face images of naked or near-naked bodies engaged in subtle or not-so-subtle sex.

Here's an example. I was in a train station this week and passed by a shoe store sporting a life-sized poster of a young, attractive woman grabbing the derriere of a young, attractive man. She was grinning. He was smug. They were both fully clothed in jeans and turtlenecks. The photo cut them off at mid-calf level. The headline screamed, "Grab it and Go." No shoes could be seen in the ad and yet the clear implication of the sales pitch was "buy these shoes and you'll become attractive and sexually involved with someone." All as the result of the purchase of a pair of shoes? Gimme a break! They weren't even selling stiletto-heeled Jimmy Choos.

Sex is used to sell everything these days, not because Madison Avenue's use of sex is particularly sexy, but because it's attention-grabbing. A headline in USA Today this week read, "Ads Get Down and Dirty to Grab Attention: Creatively Implied Cursing Gets Job Done." Excuse me?

Such mainstream advertisers as Dodge, Comcast and Volkswagen, the newspaper reports, are bleeping out or make obvious from missing content that characters in the ad are cursing. Sex, I suppose, is getting too common, so cursing is the next attention-grabbing frontier. USA Today quotes an ad executive who proudly makes this point, saying, "We ad people try to find ways to call attention to what we're doing."

All this gutter surfing might be amusing were it not for the effect it is having on American youth - girls in particular. Self-esteem is down. Hyper-sexuality is up. It's even seen as a badge of empowerment. What, who, huh? Having the freedom to walk around in public like a vamp is empowering? Having the freedom to sell your body means women have achieved parity?, the Internet-based news service covering issues of interest to women, reports this week on a fascinating set of focus groups for teens set up by the California Women's Foundation. The purpose of the focus groups was to divine whether teen girls see hyper-sexualized media images of women as normal.

After viewing images and videos of scantily-clad Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, the Pussycat Dolls and others, the teens were polled and many responded by saying that such highly sexualized images are 'no big deal,' part of their daily life, what they expect to see on television and in magazines ... . While many said they believe the images are often not beneficial to women, the responses suggest that many of the young women are resigned to this being the way society is right now and that women's bodies are used to sell practically everything."

No wonder eating disorders, depression, suicide and other maladies are rising among young Americans. When are we going to place limits on the use of sex and curse-words to sell commercial goods? When are parents going to say, enough is enough?


Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.
E-mail bonnieerbe(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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