Sexy Broccoli, Saucy 6 Year Olds & Why SexEd is a Must: SexTech Pt.3

Feb 21, 2010 Last night I snapped this lousy iPhone shot from Draeger’s deli as I scanned the takeout selections to treat myself to a quiet Sat. night feast.

I did a double-take when I saw “sexy broccoli” thinking some wry night shift worker with a droll sense of humor was slipping in a “sex sells” snippet on the ol’ Bush broccoli-hating spree of yesteryear.

Alas, I looked closer, and it’s laminated with a sense of permanence that made me eyeroll in that, ‘yougawdabefreakinkiddingme’ mode of sex-saturated pop culture. Really, people? Sexy broccoli? Okay, it’s funny, no doubt, but let’s look at the ambient teehee landing sideways with the K-5 kids in tow, “Mommy? How come that broccoli is sexy and ours is not? I want sexy broccoli too!”

Will we start dressing up brussel sprouts in little round bras for boobalicious lip-smacking tantalization to attempt consumer appeal next? I dunno ‘bout you, but I’d like to keep my legumes ‘off the pole’ so to speak.

It’s a pithy reminder of just how far objectification has taken over every ambient message in surround sound. When I posted the note on my Facebook status line, one gal pal shared offline that her six year olds were dancing around in big girl heels vamping to “be sexy” even though they don’t remotely have a frame of reference for the word…again, context is key; in shades of the former “tarzhay” media environment, and “Hooters Girl in Training” toddler tee, n’est ce pas?

You may have heard about  Miley Cyrus’ 9-year old little sister Noah and her escapades to promote couture pink think in Libby Lu meets vamp camp style premiering the Emily Grace Collection of OohLaLa Couture.

It’s been bashed for being tween lingerie many a time; though without seeing the full line, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it that, as I think of it  more as inappropriate, over-priced ballerina tutu schmaltz with leopard accents you could find at Kmart…

Point? We’ve repeatedly seen how young kids now opt to ‘sex up’ their own attire both in real life and even in their online avatars in virtual world/paperdoll mode…imitate the gyrations of pop star pals (er, sibs?) ad infinitum, and end up with fallout documented by the APA harm of early sexualization and So Sexy So Soon media messaging in every orifice and nook of our lives.

Why is this relevant to Sex::Tech?

Media literacy context is imperative in setting the stage for this convo, because there’s an ultimate sex ed irony here…

How, pray tell, can adult educators (parents/policy people/schools) blanch at openly discussing sexual health abandoning kids to navigate this revved up, sexed up, over the top pop culture environs solo?

It’s beyond nonsensical and irresponsible, it’s frankly, freakin’ dangerous if you ask me. Kids’ bodies, public health and developmental well-being are at stake!

…It’s like passing out a loaded handgun to kindergarteners and saying, ‘DO NOT TOUCH.’

Diane Levin & Jean Kilbourne, co-authors of So Sexy So Soon (interviewed here on Shaping Youth) address this brilliantly in both their book and in this video snippet from the Today Show, below…

We cannot, MUST NOT allow adults to be squeamish, fear-driven and exhibiting deer in the headlights/ostrich in the sand behavior when it comes to talking about sexual health.

We’re WAY past the “just turn off the TV” clucking and crowing, because every instance I mentioned above is WITHOUT TV influence…It’s ambient. In surround sound. Time to ditch lame innuendos, elusive coinages in terminology, and “Say What?!?” moments to talk directly to kids with age appropriate information.

Do you really want to leave sex education and parenting values to media and marketing? Or to kids’ peer to peer communication?

You know my answer. Get informed. Stay current.

Impart your own values. Share widely and often.

This is your job, adults. Step up.

Now, here’s more of my talk with ISIS-Inc. founder and host of the Sex::Tech health symposium, Executive Director and Founder Deb Levine…

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: One of the concerns some parents have with online sites (particularly the teen talk/peer to peer forums) is that the anonymity enables full candor and some adults are hesitant about not knowing who’s giving out the advice…

Do you foresee any type of ‘peer to peer certification’ program for quality control; or advice line training?

Deb Levine, ISIS/SexTech: The truth is that most youth want their sex information from experts — BUT they want it in a venue where the experts are mixing it up with young people and peer educators.

ISIS has been working towards funding a project that uses adolescent medicine residents (doctors-to-be) to provide mentorship and moderation on a peer-to-peer advice site. Keep your eyes open in late 2010.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: What states do/don’t support comprehensive sexed and is there a consequence corollary?

Deb Levine, ISIS/SexTech: In 2008, the following states refused federal abstinence-only monies: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mass., Minnesota, Montana, NJ, New Mexico, Rhode Island, VT, Washington and Wyoming. Many more states joined this roster in 2009.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: With all of the ‘teen mom’ media marketed to youth, what role can or should health educators play to improve the reality of the messaging? (e.g. embedded plotlines in scripts, safe sex, such as the Grey’s Anatomy 36pp study on HIV etc. Tie-ins to tech actions, mobile-social-mapping to clinics, action hot lines, etc.)

Deb Levine, ISIS/SexTech: There has been some excellent work in terms of tying in accurate sexual health information into popular TV plots. There are a few good organizations who do exactly this, and they are mostly based in LA, near Hollywood. One is the Media Project

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: How do you see pop culture’s objectification (of both genders) impacting kids’ sexuality and self worth?

Deb Levine, ISIS/SexTech: I think that pop culture gives an unrealistic view of who and what is sexy. But that’s an argument that many others have made before and will make again.

Rather than beating up on the media, I think it’s more important to provide accurate information to youth in a non-clinical, non-judgmental way that can genuinely compete with pop culture’s influence.

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: How does teen dating violence and misogynistic media (hip-hop tunes, MTV lyrics/videos) impact sexual health and do you have any programs to support teens in this realm?

Deb Levine, ISIS/SexTech: We believe that healthy relationships and healthy sexuality go hand in hand. ISIS has been working for two years on the Boss of Me (BOM) project in the State of California with Youth Radio. Youth can sign up for daily healthy relationship tips by texting DRAMA to 61827. (Standard rates apply)

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth: Thanks, Deb…I have a ton of info I’m eager to post about everything from the pregnancy plotlines and media handling of what could be ‘teaching moments’ instead of raunchy shock schlock and sexploitation.

Appreciate your time and thoroughness; I know my countless questions can be a time sink and intense. (just ask Anastasia at Ypulse when I interviewed her for Totally Wired!)

So readers, on that note, that wraps our prelude to Sex::Tech here’s the Ypulse link to an insightful interview with Margaret Lucas from ISIS answering more about the content of the sexual health conference.

Hope to see you there!

Readers: fyi: I’m thrilled to have Anacely Vazquez-Carrillo, Latino Outreach Health Educator at Teen Talk Sexuality Education covering the second half of SexTech on my behalf Saturday afternoon when I have to scoot out, so I’ll be interviewing her AFTER the conference in full as well…

I’m also working on an entire feature about teen relationships and dating violence (what’s being done to raise awareness so that kids can ‘hold their line’ with mutual respect and civility, debunk myths and create a Safer World for Women (AND men…as we’ve seen violence is swinging both ways, ScienceDaily gender article on violence here).

I’ve started a new section within my Women2Follow on Twitter post (dedicated to inspiring girls) to focus specifically on DV, domestic violence and dating abuse, so please add your links to resources of those I should be following there!

I take heart that with every disconnected ‘media messaging fail’ among those that don’t see the corollary in cause/affect cues and pop culture objectification influence damaging kids’ healthy sexuality…

…I find renewed hope and promise in youth leaders like Amplify’s Dan and Jill getting the word out with heartfelt, common sense journalism. Amplify has been been churning out some really strong, helpful content for all ages and stages…not just teens.

I particularly loved the article on AMPLIFY (partner site of Advocates for Youth) sharing vital info about ‘what to say/not to say’ when encountering a victim of abuse. Important stuff.

This specific post by Jill, for example, offers amazing tips and words of comfort in helping loved ones heal from sexual assault and domestic violence. Again, there’s a corollary when you track objectification as parts vs. whole human beings (much less sexbot robots only there to service).

With dating violence on the rise, this is particularly excellent subject matter, and I’ve only begun to touch upon it ever so slightly in Media, Kids & Grief with tips on verbiage in an entirely different context.

In fact, when I ran Jill’s article past one of our Shaping Youth pediatric nurse advisers (who happens to be trained in teen rape crisis centers too) she found it to be ‘spot on.’

So kudos to the smart youth curators and content providers at Amplify. Without a doubt, from sex ed to teen dating pressures, stresses, health dialogues and beyond:

These teen voices should be heard loud and clear.

What to Expect From Sex::Tech (Great Interview on Ypulse)

Margaret Lucas: “…Attendees can expect to walk away with amazing networking opportunities with those working in sexual health and technology.

We’re particularly keen on connecting those working with youth to those who can help them with technology to strengthen their interventions, as we’ll have widget and app developers mixed in the crowd.

Attendees can also expect to walk away with a dose of youth perspective from our youth-led panels.

Sex::Tech is all about giving young people a forum to talk to adults who influence sex ed delivery about their sexual health needs and wants.

We’d like our attendees to walk away with an understanding of those needs and an understanding of the technology they are using, and then take this knowledge back to their organizations and integrate those proven methods into their interventions.

They will also learn about ways to mobilize youth to become advocates for their own sexual health, with sessions like “Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day – Year 2: Lessons Learned from” with Josie Halpern-Finnerty of John Snow Inc./ Young people were asked take a picture of themselves with a red ribbon and upload it to their social network profiles for the 20th World AIDS Day.”

–Margaret Lucas of

More About ISIS-Inc. &

My OWN top 3 funniest “Say What?!?” responses when I tell people I’m attending SexTech & covering this in a public health/youth media press capacity:

“Whoa, Amy! What will your daughter say?”

“Is that, like, vibrators & stuff?”

“Eww, is that like cybering & those weirdos with webcams?”

Again, here’s the REAL scoop on what Sex::Tech is all about:

SexTech  (Internet Sexuality Information Services)

ISIS-Inc/Blog: Technically it’s about Sex (Data blog)

Resources Not to Be Missed on Shaping Youth:

Teen Health Dialogues Coming of Age in  Sex Saturated Times

Sex::Tech Summit: Not Your Mother’s Media

Sex:: Tech 2010: Teens & Public Health Converge (Part 1 of 3)

Sex::Tech 2010: Say What?!? Teens FAQs on Sex; (Pt 2 of 3)

Sex::Tech 2010: Sexy Broccoli & 6 Year Olds; (Pt 3 of 3)

Sex::Tech Top 10 Teen Sex Ed/Safety Videos (By Kids, For Kids)

Kids Prime Time TV Health Cues Ingested (For Better or For Worse)

Influencers, Accountability & the Global Cost to Youth

Text Monster: Teen Tips On Digital Dating Obsessions

So Sexy So Soon: Interview Chat with Co-Author Jean Kilbourne

So Sexy So Soon Blog (NEW! Launched Jan 2010)

I’m Not a Prude, But…

Interview w/Amy Jussel on The Girl Revolution (sex ed/media)

Interview w/Amy Jussel on The Girl Revolution (sex ed/media Pt2)

Related Resources for Youth



  1. You always have such thorough posts, i love it. Anyway.. That’s outrageous and ridiculous to see the word “sexy” om a vegetable product. It makes me think some marketer on his or her last leg just threw in the pot to see what would come of it.

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