Pandering to Perversity

"Feed me," said the graffiti sprawled across an outdoor advertisement. "Give me a cheeseburger," said another slogan. Beneath the spray paint you can see a super-skinny model, lying face down on a couch and wearing Calvin Klein's newest perfume—and nothing else. It's Kate Moss, and she embodies what's called the "waif" look: very young and thin. Some women's groups are protesting that the look promotes anorexia—that it sells a message of starvation along with high fashion. But, of course, it also sells something much more serious: the image of adolescent girls as sexual objects. At the showing of new collections in Europe last spring, models skipped down the runway in fashions modeled after schoolgirl uniforms, wearing barrettes and bobby socks. It's the deliberate cultivation of schoolgirls as sex objects in the adult world. As one fashion writer put it, the style is "pedophiliac fashion," presenting "the child-woman as sexual prey." In some ads, the suggestion of sexual prey is even more explicit. In one photo, Kate Moss cringes nude in the corner of a sofa, her arms pressed across her chest as though warding off an assault. She's also been photographed with her eyes bruised, looking distressed with her hand over her mouth. Photos like these veer dangerously close to child pornography. But Kate Moss shrugs off the controversy she has sparked. "You can't see anything," she told reporters. "The fuss is because everyone thinks I'm 12 years old." Well, yes, that's exactly the reason for the "fuss." Moss and her advertisers are exploiting the image of young, vulnerable girls for crass commercial purposes. What's worse, these photos are not concealed in plain paper wrappings. They're found in glossy fashion magazines on store shelves; they're plastered on the sides of buses and bus stops—where all of us are forced to see them as we walk city streets. More dangerous, our children are seeing them. The Calvin Klein ad shows them a kid who could be in their sixth-grade class at school, lying nude on a sofa and displaying a compliant, suggestive look. Think what this does to boys and young men, who are being taught to see girls as sexual objects. Think what it does to young girls, who are being taught that it's attractive and sexy to entice someone to victimize them. Exploitation of this sort ought to bring out the holy rage in every one of us. The most important mark of a civilization is how it treats its most vulnerable members. Ads that suggest sexual violence against children are a sure sign that the barbarians are in our midst. You and I ought to pledge to use every means in our power to stop this perversion— including our financial power. Let's take note of companies that are exploiting child sex and commit ourselves not to buy from those companies—even if it means giving up products we may want. Let's make it clear that Kate Moss needs a whole lot more than a cheeseburger. She needs a society that treats her body with the respect God intended.


Chuck Colson


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