The uproar over Netflix’s decision to air the pedophilic movie “Cuties” demonstrates that most people can recognize the gross exploitation of children when they see it. However, it does not address the elephant in the room: How did we get to this point in the first place?
For those who have not heard, “Cuties” is a French film about young girls competing in an urban dance contest. Defenders have claimed that the movie is intended to open people’s eyes to the sexualization of children in our modern culture. However, the movie includes extended sequences where 11- and 12-year-old girls perform highly sexual dances. In essence, “Cuties” dabbles in the same exploitation of young girls that it purports to criticize.
Only a few minutes spent watching the trailer for “Cuties” is enough to convince anyone that this movie is a pedophiliac’s dream. Once people became aware of the movie, the hashtag “CancelNetflix” began trending and many cancelled their Netflix subscriptions. The Coalition of African American Pastors has started a petition asking Netflix to remove “Cuties” and other exploitative content from their library.
I am one of those people who cancelled my Netflix subscription after learning about “Cuties.” Sadly, however, I did not need this movie to tell me that the sexualization of children has reached a crisis point in our culture. As the mother of a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, I see it every day.
We live in a society where celebrities compete to see who can show off the most skin on the red carpet. Where musicians have ceased to bother with innuendo and metaphor and instead graphically discuss sexual acts in their music – then create dances to mimic those acts.
When performers like Cardi B have demonstrated that exploiting your sexuality is the road to fame and fortune, it is no surprise to see that millions of young women are following her example.
What is more, thanks to social media, selling yourself, your image, and your sexuality is no longer limited to the rich and famous. It is no coincidence that child predators haunt apps like Tik Tok and Musical.ly. Social media is built to reward people for exploiting themselves. The likes and adulation are like a drug, and children quickly learn that highly sexualized videos, including everything from revealing outfits to suggestive dancing, are the way to become “social media famous.”
Go on any major social media platform and look for the most popular posters among young people. The odds are that you will find at least a few young teens posting sexually suggestive photos or videos of themselves. Some of them may well be doing the same kind of dances that ignited public ire in the movie “Cuties.”
We did not get to this point by accident. For years, we have seen a concerted effort to normalize the sexualization of children. In some circles, this has become an effort to normalize pedophilia itself. In California, the legislature just passed a law lowering penalties against sex offenders who target “willing” minors – and defenders of the law have claimed it as a victory for LGBTQ equality.
“Equality” has nothing to do with eroding protection for minors. Even the concept of a “willing” minor in a sexual relationship with an adult is a violation of our obligation to safeguard our children.
As I said above, “Cuties” is just the easy-to-spot symptom of a much more serious disease. In our society’s heedless effort to tear down old taboos and embrace every identity under the sun as a “valid lifestyle choice,” we have brought ourselves to the point where we encourage the sexualization of children. It is everywhere you look – in our mass media, our laws, and our entertainment. We may have drawn the line at one Netflix movie, but we have winked at or ignored the many steps that brought us to this point.
So while I have cancelled my Netflix subscription and signed CAAP’s petition, I know that’s not enough to undo the harm we’re causing our children. We need to be more honest about how deep the issue goes. We need to look at what we are allowing in every aspect of our lives, and we need to make a stronger statement than merely boycotting a single film.
We need to put a real stop to the normalization of pedophilia and the sexualization of children. It starts in our own homes; with the media we allow there. But we need to demand better of everyone, not just one streaming service.
Our children need us to do better.