The beach is the perfect place to read The Lolita Effect. Toddlers are dressed in bikinis and tweens are promenading in bathing suits that leave little to the imagination—this on a beach that is advertised as the most family-oriented beach in the U.S. Two little girls practice a move that involves jutting out a hip and several pelvic thrusts. This is my backdrop for a book authored by Gigi Durham, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa. She contends that the media in cahoots with big business is creating a health crisis for the world’s young women that affects teenagers in the suburbs of Minneapolis, 11 year-old prostitutes in Bangladesh and college co-eds worldwide. She stresses that each young woman has a right to make decisions about her own sexuality, to learn to define what is best for her as she grows older and matures.
Durham says that young women today are learning how to be sexual from the media, which is trying to sell products without regard for the best interests of young women. She says if parents and health educators don’t talk to children about sexuality that the ads, movies, musicians, and the Internet will fill the void. I like this book for its practical approach. Durham tells parents, grandparents, teachers and other caring adults what they can do to generate conversation with young men and women to help them learn to be critical consumers of the media. It’s also a blueprint for how adults can initiate a public conversation with decision-makers at the local level.