“I’m Not A Prude, But…”

lady-gaga-gagOct. 23, 2009 How many times have you heard that preface to a conversation about pop culture lately? Tweens? Teens?

Okay, I promised NOT to do a Halloween Horrors bit on girls’ costumes and tramp vamp cues (been there, done that) BUT the irony in the timing of this post from Australia titled, “Musical Tarts are Infecting Our Children” that referenced us here at Shaping Youth about the influence of the lyrics and antics of Ms. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) was too ripe not to riff upon.

Why? Well, ironically, my 12-year old sweet tween advisor in L.A. just sent me the Teen Vogue reader-voted picks for ‘top costumes 2009,’ (which we all know is read by preteens in aspirational/age compression dialed down demographic mode) to share that Lady Gaga won the tween/teen girls’ top vote for celeb DIY trick or treating costume… (Isn’t that just ducky?)

Not sure if she was sending me this as a ‘heads up’ or as social commentary, but she plopped the link in my inbox noting Teen Vogue’s prose: “With her signature sunglasses, blunt blonde bangs, and flair for stealing the spotlight, channeling this pop sensation is as easy as throwing on your favorite sunnies and striking a pose.”

Now, I’d like to think girls voted this top celeb pick because LadyGaga is so outrageously easy to spoof as a last minute, easy costume idea (just like one of the middle school girls last year showed up as Amy Winehouse in a disheveled satirical slam) but I can’t help pondering the Aussie’s commentary on the raunchy lyrics and try to restrain my inner Tipper Gore with every ounce of forward thinking femme screaming, “What are we doing to kids with this messaging?” Time will tell…

lady gaga Patrick Kennedy seems like a ‘poppa don’t preach’ kind of guy, as he has a level-headed way of using comparison/contrast between provocative lyrics of Lady Gaga and Lily Allen to note the pithy and purposeful ‘digs’ that Ms. Allen uses to make a statement about the coarseness of our culture vs. the overt self-objectification of Lady Gaga’s schtick…

You can read more here, in his blog, “Pat’s Point of View” out of Sydney, Australia…but as a parent, he summed the essence of why emulation like this lands flat with most of us in the ‘over 30′ crowd not wild about wee lil’ Sesame Streetwalkers ringing our doorbells or middle school Playboy bunnies with fishnet tights strutting their budding Halloween stuff…

“As a father of one daughter, and potentially another on the way, I’m concerned about the sexualization of our youth. Music, movies, TV and celebrities are influencing our youth much more than ever before, with sexually explicit (or at least suggestive) messages…Take for example the work of recent pop music sensation Lady Gaga. Here’s a line from her top 40 hit “LoveGame”:

“I’m educated in sex, yes—and now I want it bad, want it bad —(The chorus of that same song goes) Don’t think too much, just bust that stick—I wanna take a ride on your disco stick…”

ovwMind you, trashy lyrics are pretty much ‘the norm’ on the airwaves these days, and LadyGaga’s ‘Poker Face’ causes me to raise my eyebrows every time I hear, “And baby when it’s love, if it’s not rough it isn’t fun”

Especially during this October domestic violence awareness month.

But I try (really, REALLY try) to temper this by the reality of being surrounded by teens daily who roll their eyes saying, “C’mon, we don’t even HEAR the lyrics, we just like the beat.”

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Okay then. Very well.

Like Mr. Kennedy, I’m trying my hardest not to ‘overthink’ lyrics from “I Like It Rough”, “Shake Ur Kitty” and “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” among the plethora of other ‘outrageously over the top’ poptarts out there in the cultural zeitgeist…

But it just keeps reinforcing to me that raising kids with a healthy sexuality sans hawking their hoochie-mama ‘assets’ as their perceived self-identity is getting harder by the day. End of rant. “I’m no prude, but…” is quickly becoming a bit of a parlor game with me, counting  the number of times all ages and stages voice this preamble while speaking of their frustration…

Whether it’s kids tearing down “the populars” for “their slutwear” or concerned adults bordering on mouth frothing outrage, there always seems to be that ‘disclaimer’ surfacing to clarify and contextualize.

It’s almost as if people are afraid to shout from the top of their lungs, “Hey, people, this is NOT ok!!” for fear of ridicule and reverb.

Are we really becoming such sheeple as a global voice?

Is it so wrong to say, “I AM uncomfortable with this crud” regardless of what our hipster social mores and vapid values are airing as acceptable pablum for the masses?

ladygaga costumeNo, I’m not bluffin’ with my muffin’ …I’m completely Poker Face about this.

It’s not a question of right or wrong, or ‘turn off the radio, ‘ or ‘turn down the media volume’ or any other judgmental simple one-stepper on the solution front…

It’s the fact that we’re becoming a world of spineless jellyfish letting pop culture dictate ever devolving modicums of ‘acceptability’…with zero regard for how it’s impacting kids.

What used to be a public trust of social responsibility has been traded for an ‘anything goes’ profiteering mindset over public health and the commodification of childhood…Make no mistake, it’s multi-faceted layering embedding deep into kids’ psyches.

Kind of like ‘ambient mind pollution’…seeping into their subconscious to set up behavioral norms of what we as ‘adults’ value and/or pay attention to as a societal whole. Er…not too healthy for emerging sexuality…(kind of like those lame abstinence only programs that limit sex ed in schools only to remind us that every 26 seconds a teen pregnancy occurs, as groups like Advocates for Youth can attest to time and time again)

It’ll be veeeeeeery interesting to see how this all plays out over time…

Maybe there will be a ‘backlash brewing’? Maybe ‘modest is hottest’ and ‘girls gone mild’ will be the next ‘thang’…(though we can do without the overly controlling Twilight relational obsessions n’est ce pas?)

Who knows? We’re due for a ‘market correction’ as the constant drumbeat of sexualization is getting quite ‘ho-hum’ and just plain toxic as well as tiring to most ages and stages…We’re almost numb in an eerily desensitized way, as I wrote here in this Miley Teen’s Choice Awards post.

As a reminder, these behavioral cues at ever younger ages have proven time and again by the APA to be  landing on kids’ physical and mental well-being with a great big thud.

So in sum…Yes, costumes are meant to be fantasy fun, and humor and wit is subjective.  Halloween is one of my favorite times to see it spill out through innovation, creation and costume silliness…But there’s a big difference when it comes to adult satire vs. children’s simulation of life as we know it today…so why not remind kids that Halloween is a day of imagination–a perfect opportunity to show them that they can be anyone, any profession, any role. I’ll hush now, but not before I ask the trolls to please behave in the comment section this round…

I’m quite used to being repeatedly doused with unprintably foul language about my ‘lack of humor’ and how I need to ‘get laid’ or ‘get a life’ etc., which frankly just speaks to the coarseness conundrum quite well and reinforces my stance with sad validation.

As one who has been a veteran attendee of the multi-band rock-n-roll costume extravaganza of  ‘anything goes’ in S.F. at the provocative Exotic Erotic Ball ‘back in the day’ I can honestly say…

“I’m no prude, but…”


Want Some Healthier Halloween DIY Ideas?

DIY Idea: Where the Wild Things Are

Homemade Halloween for BABIES (Inhabitot)

Frugal Cafe: DIY Threadbanger Tips & MJ Costume

19 Frightfully Fun Homemade Halloween Ideas/Daily Green

Green Halloween.org

How Stuff Works.com Finds More Consumers Seeking DIY

Safe & Green Halloween Costumes for Kids

Teen Vogue Voter Picks by Kids (as mentioned)

More Halloween Posts On Shaping Youth

What About BOYS Halloween Costumes?

Halloween MakeUp Tips For Kids Costumes on the Fly

Halloween, Trend Tracking & a MoshPit of Parenting Styles

Practical Tips to Combat Halloween Horrors of “Wicked Innocence”

Reverse Trick or Treating: Isn’t That..Um..Marketing?

The Life Cycle of Media Madness & Parental Panic: When Annual Candy Scares Go Viral

Related Articles Elsewhere

Salacious Halloween Costumes Cause Stir

Sexy Halloween Styles For Girls Frighten Adults

Halloween: At What Age Does the Schoolgirl Become Sexy?

Up For Debate: Sexy Halloween Costumes

“Hot” for Halloween: From Girlish and Ghoulish To Racy to Revealing

Visual Snapshot from: Feminist Law Professors

Spooky to Skanky: For Halloween Costumes, Less Is More

The News Observer: They’re Tramps For A Night, But Why?

Alpha Mom: Buzz Off, What Not to Wear This Halloween

Kindergarten Cleavage (from last year but still au courant)

Prostitute Costumes for Tots (Toronto Star, ‘04)



  1. Amy – you are no prude. The Erotic ball was legendary.

    I am saddened to hear people shout you down for raising theses points. With the exception of you and other like minded parents such as Patrick, there appears to be no other body commenting and questioning the sexualization of youth. It used to take generations for norms to change – yes, at one point Elvis Presley’s hips were too much for our living rooms. The bar appears to be in a complete free-fall.

    I know the land of liberty and government-free commerce always gets it right over the long run… But waiting to play this out might suggest we will see kids in seatless leather chaps at the door next Halloween….shouting trick for treat? (embellishment alert)

    A groundswell of protest would be great – where does on focus one’s energy? Who do we pressure when there appears to be several leaks in the proverbial dike? Poking shots at manufacturers and recording artists seems futile – the attention only appears to bolster the dollars at the till.

    Your comment about waiting this out makes me nervous. Where should a groundswell direct its energies? What call to action would you suggest beyond getting this viewpoint broadly distributed?

    I am prepared to go on record and say, “Hey, people, this is NOT ok!!”

    I will also share this across my network of like minded people. How about the hash tag #notaprudebut. What’s next?

  2. Thanks for the feedback Amy. I could have not used the phrase “I’m no prude, but…” and still make my point quite effectively.

    Why should I adopt a defensive posture by using that kind of language? Why should any of us that are concerned about the influence of media on children, do so?

    Must make an effort not to wander towards the sheeple herd 🙂
    .-= Patrick Kennedy´s last blog ..Buy a list of complaints =-.

  3. Actually, I am in FULL agreement with you…that’s why I ended with the same language… I’m not a prude but… !!! Didn’t mean to imply using the term was sheeple…but more to convey we shouldn’t fear speaking our truths as your excellent article conveys!! I just want more of us doing the “Network” shout from the windows with unabashed candor… 🙂

  4. Andy, your comment got snagged in the akismet filter for some reason sorry for the delay in reply…So first off, I am FAR from the only one carping on sexualization, thankfully…and am in fact one of MANY voices united along these lines, (inc. our Packaging Girlhood.com advisors, HGHW, New Moon Girls, Jean Kilbourne/Diane Levin & the So Sexy So Soon bunch, & countless parenting pros…

    BUT…You’ve given me pause to think about doing a post listing some of the ‘action/advocacy’ orgs that focus in diff. realms so that parents/concerned folks can get an ‘at a glance’ differentiation of who’s who in the field, and as you rightly say…communicate with clout as ONE voice with power to move the needle a bit, versus splintered factions in tandem…

    I think each org has crossover and unites together as one when the purpose calls for it (e.g. the recent product placement/FCC regulations brought together about 50 of us into a consortium of industry pros/nonprofits/writers guilds and more sounding off ‘this is not OK’ to add clout to the powers that be…) and with regard to sexualization issues, I know we’ve participated in various ‘petitions’ and ‘campaigns’ as well (from Dora’s ‘tween’ version to CCFC’s squelching of the Pussycat Dolls action figures for age 6 and Bus Radio to prevent them from coming to market in full force…

    So there IS cohesiveness…but each org has their niche…

    I think the collective ‘hub’ makes sense though, and I’ve ironically been ‘twittering’ about this with the parenting forum crew to see if we might start a ‘townhall’ type of webshow feed on Kyte.tv etc. getting youth/parent/industry POVs etc. Kind of point-counterpoint, talk show informal style with texting Q&A from all over…let’s give it all some thought.

    Meanwhile, you’ve given me a GREAT idea for a post on ‘who’s who’ in the ‘take action’ realm, from info brokers, review sites, lobbyists/politicos, opinion blogs, etc. to youth and parent voices with special interest focus (e.g. Girls For a Change, Rachel Simmons/GLI etc.)

    THANKS for taking the time to comment, Andy…and getting the mental floss going for us all! 🙂
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Why 350.org? Fun Edu/Eco Activism Today For Int’l Climate Chg! =-.

  5. I had to comment because I started a blog the other day with “Call me a prude if you want, but I would prefer models on the cover of magazines bearing the word “teen” not be pregnant,” in reaction to the pregnant cover model on this month’s teen vogue. The next day I wrote about Gossip Girl and and upcoming episode featuring a teenage threesome. I do often wonder if I’m the only one who is wondering what the heck is the matter with us? I am so glad to have found your site – very interesting discussions.
    .-= Margo´s last blog ..Mama Bear’s Panties are in a Wad Again =-.

  6. hey Margo, yep, I haven’t tackled those two yet, as it’s ‘more of the same’ to me…and I want to escalate the dialog into the next phase…namely the solutions-based, “AND WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO ABOUT IT?!?!” 😉

    In fact, I just left a partial answer via long comment on your blog about “mama bear’s panties are in a wad again”…

    For our own S.Y. readers, fyi, it says:

    “Excellent post Margo. Thrilled to find your site, and want to put you in the loop for a worldwide “girl-driven” initiative we’re involved with that I’ll be blogging soon to snuff out the massive hypersexualized crud being leaked upon girls like an unwashable stench. (mind pollution has its price (see this APA study on the quantifiable harm I wrote about Packaging Girlhood on Shaping Youth…we’ve been landing rebel yells for a couple years now: https://shapingyouth.org/?p=309)

    It’s not enough for mama bears ‘mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore’ we’ve gotta get Goldilocks in the game to wake up and SEE the massive manipulation and profiteering that’s making cash registers go ‘ka-ching’ and kids’ psyches go ‘ka-boom’ as I’ve written before!

    Anyway, with you all the way on this, as are MANY and MULTIPLE orgs teaming up for a big ol’ backlash abrewin’…I’ll send you the concept paper offline, as I’d like your voice d thoughts in the media mix on this girl revolution for certain.

    Meanwhile, feel free to visit our ‘damaging drek’ category on Shaping Youth or ‘body image’ to debrief on the degree of toxic sludge…Then cleanse yourself with the ‘positive picks’ reminders that the power of media and marketing CAN be used for positive change…we just have to switch that track on a runaway train.

    Let’s keep in touch. Best, Amy”

    Sooooooooooooooooooo for a prequel, I’ll send everyone to Hardy Girls, Healthy Women’s site for a peek at what’s brewin…we need girls to help ‘name the campaign’…(and these are just ‘starters’ they came up with…Ck. ’em out:

    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Twitter “Women2Follow” Dedicated to Inspiring Girls! =-.

  7. I posted this on your other site too. I thought it was very interesting to share this about a group of teens analyzing pop music and what can be considered junk food vs. what is not. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jrBHZduLn_pKPfr3aKfYD862XdDwD9CAQNVG1

  8. Barbara Emmert-Schiller says

    Agree. Keep up the good work. The atrocities against young girls in Afghanistan publicized in papers yesterday also made me mad as hell.

  9. loopy poopy says

    i think lady gaga is hott…
    and she might be wacky but at least shes not on her way to jail for dui or snortin cocaine in the public eye…
    i think there are more seriously demented celebs to worry about.
    i say leave this one alone..

  10. I’ve been in love with Lady Gaga since she became famous. I know her lyrics can be inappropriate at times but that doesn’t mean I’m going to grow up and become a stripper. And not all the messages that she’s sending are about sex. Her song “Born This Way” had a really good message. In my opinion this isn’t a huge problem and kids aren’t going to become hookers because they hear her lyrics. You kind find much worse things on T.V.

  11. Hi Nicole, no one is hatin’ on LGG, this is a ‘to each his own’ site ….In fact you can see 100+ teens had different opinions when she came out w/her Telephone video here: https://shapingyouth.org/?p=10482

    As for “Born This Way” agree, the over-arching notion of being who you are is a positive message for certain…and that seems to be her ‘branding refrain’ (although many of us from the Madonna era have heard these anthems before and some might see it as a ‘riff off’ while other fans might use the word ‘homage’—so you see what I’m saying?–it’s all in the interpretation) IMO she’s more of a ‘creation’ than she is ‘being herself’ but again, doesn’t matter, as we’re looking more at the ambient impact of media/mktg messages and how they land on kids/influence worldviews…so the whole ‘outrageousness/Fame Monster’ persona is more of what I’m tracking…hope that helps clarify a bit…

  12. Hi! I’m a teenager, and I can truthfully say that I hate much of modern pop. It goes beyond suggestive and becomes explicit. Implicit and suggestive lyrics, I can deal with. Those have been around for ages, look at Frankie Goes to Hollywood. But Madam Gaga’s lyrics, as well as those of Ke$ha, are incredibly coarse, making it a curiosity why Ms Gaga’s stage name is Lady Gaga.

    If you want a love song, look at Summer Rain. Not Bad Romance or Teenage Dream.

  13. Well Lizzy, you’ve got a wonderful command of the English language as well as a distinctive taste in ‘pop’ (we TOTALLY agree on Ke$ha. 😉 (did that sound like her?) —and also agree on the coarseness of our culture…In fact, Ke$ha is so vapid in her lyrics/’artistic translation’ that I truly can’t even hear her voice without switching the station. *smh* Why?!?! does she even receive air play? Oh, right. Family clout. hmn…Thanks for taking the time to comment

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