I know many of you have posted and commented about the new Netflix movie, Cuties. Like you, I was floored by the release of this movie. I decided to watch the film for myself so that I could gain firsthand knowledge of the subject matter, as well as to prepare myself to push back against those who say the response to the movie is an overreaction. After subjecting myself to this horrible movie - which, by the way, is very poorly written with a confusing plot, useless characters, and all-around an odd storyline - I wanted to read other people’s reviews to see how many others watched it and felt the same way I did. I was shocked at the number of positive reviews this movie received, with many commenters praising the provocative dance moves. One review, in particular, made it completely clear to me that this movie should be removed immediately. Here is the review:
“Thank-You to Netflix and Filmmaker for this raw real unfiltered film. It is a dramatic and compassionate, exhilarating film that caught my attention in the first 10 mins into the film! With scenes of beautiful young girls dancing in the laundry room. Wow, amazing. And that last dance, wow, bravo! Very, very, nicely raw, and uncut definitely got me excited multiple times throughout this film. We need more beautiful realistic films like this in today's society. All the haters are just upset because they don't understand, or they are very phobic to any idea of such nature and need to crawl back into their caves.”
So, to all of those who think the response to this movie is an overreaction, do you see now why we are so passionately opposed to this movie and others like it? Can you understand now who we are saying this type of content opens the door for perverts to sexualize our children? There is a difference between empowerment and exposure. There is a difference between empowerment and exploitation.
Healthy boundaries are a vital part of teaching the younger generation about self-worth, self-respect, and self-protection through a clear understanding of what constitutes appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior. How can we teach our children to feel empowered to protect themselves when they see a clear violation of body safety boundaries in the media? Films like Cuties, songs like Cardi B’s “WAP”, and so many other examples in today’s culture are driving the standard of acceptable content and sexual behavior lower and lower. Do you know who is responsible for teaching children these boundaries? You are! If you are a parent, you are responsible. Just like you teach your children to not play with fire and to not run into the street when cars are around, parents should also be as passionate about teaching children body empowerment and body safety.
I could spend hours shredding this movie into pieces on a technical level, a spiritual level, and a moral level. However, instead, I would like to point parents back to how this movie should propel them to start the conversation about body safety and sexual abuse. If you haven’t done so already, here is a list of ways you can get the conversation started:
Empower children and teens to use their words. Their voice matters and what they think and feel matters.
“No” means no! No one, not even an adult, can force children to use their body in a way they don’t want to use it. So if Uncle Bob wants a kiss on his lips and your child doesn’t want to, do not force them to do it.
Children and teens need to understand that their body belongs to them. They are the boss of their body. No one can tell them what to do with their body, especially their private parts.
Encourage the proper names of body parts. Every child should know the difference between a man’s body and a woman's body by the age of five. They should know the anatomical names of their private parts. Never use “cute” names for any part that is covered under a bathing suit.
There should be no secrets between adults and children. Surprises are fun and exciting, but secrets should never be encouraged.
Show interest in a child's day-to-day life. Talk to your child about anything and everything. They need to know you are a safe place. They need to know you care.
Familiarize yourself with key people in children's lives. Check your child’s circle and check it again and again as often as possible. Children change friends like they change clothes, so stay on top of their circle. If someone new enters their life, find out who they are. Also, familiarize yourself with the parents of the children your child hangs out with.
Talk about the media openly. What apps are they using, not using, and hiding from you? Learn ways children can hide apps through other apps. Any social media accounts should always be set to private until your child is 18 and able to make their own decisions.
Teach children about having boundaries. You can’t be with your children 24/7, but you can teach them how to respect boundaries by simply following them yourself.
Be available and willing to listen and talk. Don’t let religious or cultural norms make specific conversations uncomfortable or avoided altogether. Talk openly about body safety, age-appropriate sexual curiosity, changing bodies, and masturbation.
Reassure them they will not get in trouble. Teach your children that if they have done something wrong, it is more important for you to hear it from them first instead of someone else. Help them understand that, even when consequences are needed based on what they did, telling the truth at all times is more important to you than whatever bad thing they did or didn’t do.
Times like these make my heart sink with heaviness as the trauma and darkness of sexual abuse pushes its way into our children’s lives. It is almost nostalgic to remember the days when seeing a naked woman was taboo. Now we are seeing child nudity and people are actually defending it as art. This is why we must push back and actively fight against the darkness of sexual abuse through a synergy of awareness, protection, and empowerment, both today and on into future generations. I encourage you to learn more about how Trees of Hope is fighting to protect the future and to join us in this courageous endeavor.