"Adults have allowed the dismantling of a secure base of attachment: the need for connection, support and nurturing remains unfulfilled, resulting in a mental, emotional and spiritual health crisis."
An essay by Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist was published in the Case Quarterly journal. It can be accessed in full here.
She twists and twirls, gyrates and smiles coyly. Her uniform is crop top, tiny shorts, the accoutrements of early adolescence. Sometimes she sucks a lollypop, or cuddles soft toys playfully sticking her tongue out. Always she looks like she’s having fun. Always she attracts attention.
Thousands of men tell her she’s hot, gorgeous, cute, both a baby girl and a goddess who drives them wild. They worship at her virtual altar with purple eggplants and droplets of water. Can you pose like this? They can’t get enough.
As brought to you by a mainstream porn site? No, as routinely seen on Instagram.
This girl is 12-years-old. She has a mass following on her Instagram page and numerous offshoot ‘fan’ pages erected in adoration.
The eroticisation of the girl child for paedophilic fantasies is now mainstreamed. Instagram serves as a paedophile directory, fetishising underage girls and facilitating their solicitation.
And it’s not only hordes of excited males amassing to pay her homage – companies descend on her as well, delighted to commodify her adolescent, smooth-skinned body and fresh, filter-prettified face, with their brands. Some especially popular girls are so thoroughly tagged with sponsor brand names, the black lettering appears like ants cross-crossing their bodies.
We wonder how she ended up here; feted by adult male e-johns bearing ejaculation emojis.
But our barely pubertal girl child didn’t just drop into Instagram this way. She was groomed for her role years in advance.
When she could walk, she totted along through shopping centres with her mother where pornified portrayals of women greeted her at every turn.
As she grew, she learnt quickly that certain bodies got more attention. Less clothed. More on show, streamlined, no excess fat, ‘hot’. She followed the most popular celebrities, saw the Kardashians spruiking diet lollypops. Now in kindergarten, she joined her little friends imitating Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’, a porn-script to a hip-hop beat (‘whores in the house!’ exclaim the children in unison).
Though in part still child-like, our little girl is inculcated with adult sexuality. While not understanding sex, or having sexual desires, she absorbs the message that her sexualised body is her currency – her passport for virtual and IRL (in real life) success – now pretty much the same – so she learns how to perform it.
Well before understanding her sexuality. Well before her first clumsy kiss. Well before knowing her own desires.
And that’s when she lands on Instagram – this global repository for images of today’s aspiring young models, gymnasts, dancers and actors - to be met with a virtual feeding frenzy of men with a voracious appetite for fresh young flesh.
We have been destroying cultural norms that once taught male adults that children’s bodies were off-limits. The ‘minor love erotic community’ no longer needs gather at the internet’s fringes, they have been brought into the mainstream digital fold where creeping on underage girls is a routine pastime.
Over the past two years, we at Collective Shout have forensically (and painfully) documented the predatory behaviour openly exhibited on Instagram. Instagram operates as a virtual auction block for girls.
Adults have vacated the space. We have allowed the dismantling of a secure base of attachment: the need for connection, support and nurturing remains unfulfilled, resulting in a mental, emotional and spiritual health crisis. Our children are hardwired to connect. They need ‘close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning’. Loving, nurturing relationships set them up for flourishing in life – and are the basis of civil society and social cohesion (which are currently fragmenting before our eyes).
We have permitted the institutionalising of disconnection, the normalising of disposable connections: attached to devices rather than real human beings, our children are lonelier than ever. We have allowed their marination in a poisoned pixel environment which harms emotional relatedness.
An honest cultural audit would force us to face the ill-effects of the social experiment being conducted on our young and demand we not abandon kids to a high-tech quagmire of pornography and the memeification of violence.
But there are signs of hope: more are speaking out globally. The world’s largest disperser of pornography has been called to account, and there are at last moves to establish proof-of-age protections to help stop children accessing on-line porn.
And most important, there are sign of hope that many young people still have a desire for authentic, intimate, loving relationships. They know the world we have made for them is making them sick. More girls are resisting sexualised scripts that reduce them to their bodies. “We have a right to say no” they tell me. More young men are rejecting harmful cultural messages about masculinity and seeking something better.