Which child is pretending to be a zebra? We see images of sexualized children so often that they may begin to seem normal, but they are not. Sexualizing children not only diminishes their childhood freedom (which of these two children can play freely as a zebra?), but it also is dangerous to children. Which costume lets a predator know that it is unacceptable to link childhood with attraction?
At the same time, we have to be careful not to introduce a sense of shame about adults embracing themselves as sexual beings. I think it is important for us to give our older children, and especially our teens, healthy messages about becoming sexual persons. Teens especially need Images and ideas that are positive and sexual at the same time. It is not always “inappropriate” to be sexy or attractive. It is possible to feel sexy and proud and compassionate and human all at the same time, and teens need to hear that message, to combat the opposite messages they will be bombarded with, which tie “sexy” with coercion, impulsivity, violence, and shame. Sexy is not for kids,it is true. And it is also true that teens need a healthy environment in which to safely explore their own developing selves, free from adult (or peer) exploitation.