“Early sexualization is not a rare phenomenon. It affects children exposed to explicit images of adult sexuality before they’re ready to deal with sexuality from a psychogical, emotional, and physical standpoint,” says Francine Duquet1.

Highly suggestive images are everywhere: advertising, reality shows, music videos, and video games. This excessive exposure to sexually explicit messages can have various repercussions, such as poor body image, gender stereotypes, pressure to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.

Teachers and parents need to help children make sense of these messages. “We forget that we sometimes treat children as teenagers, and teenagers as adults,” she adds.

In addition to discussing sexuality honestly, positively, and carefully, sex education should allow children to develop their own ability to judge, discrimate, and consent.

Tools for school

It’s in this context that the professor developed a prevention program against early sexualization for stakeholders working with children in grades 5 and 6 in school, community, and health and social services organizations.

The On est encore des enfants! program was validated by teachers and interveners before being tried in the classroom. “Discussion groups found that many interveners felt ill-equipped to talk about sexuality with the kids,” notes Francine Duquet.

The program (offered in French) addresses six themes and proposes different educational activities to do in class or at home:

  • Being a child or a teenager?
  • Friendships and popularity
  • Media, stereotypes, and sexually explicit images
  • The desire to please and awakening of love
  • Sexual vocabulary and harrassment
  • Social media, internet, and sexuality 

To learn more, visit hypersexualisation.uqam.ca.

1 Francine Duquet is sexologist and professor in the department of sexology at UQAM.

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