We were those parents — the ones who “sheltered” their kids from much of pop culture as they grew up. Though we didn’t go to the extreme of banishing the television from our home altogether, we strictly controlled the entertainment that we allowed them to see when they were young. Our kids “missed out” on the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Network, and other stations aimed at the younger demographic. We carefully read family movie reviews, not content to rely on the MPAA ratings, and screened the movies accordingly. Our kids did watch some PBS shows, like Barney & Friends and Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, as well as videos that we carefully selected. But we were so crazy-strict that we didn’t even let our kids watch the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime show!
I know. We are so backward and old-fashioned and we deprived our children of a “normal” childhood.
One recurring problem was that we enjoyed watching sports as a family — the Indians, the Browns, the Cavs. We are true Cleveland sports fans and kept cable around so we could catch all of the games. We had no problem with the games themselves, but oh, my…those commercials! We could count on at least 2.5 ads an hour for male-enhancement products during a game and everything from hamburgers to beer being peddled in ads with scantily clad young women flaunting their sexuality to entice viewers to buy a product that usually had no sexual attributes (Danica Patrick pushing Go Daddy web hosting, for example).
We decided that we wanted to allow the good things viewing sports could offer but had concerns about our sweet, impressionable boys being bombarded with sexual images. Our Christian faith teaches the value of modesty (I Peter 3:3-4, 1 Timothy 2:9-10) and that lust is a sin (Matthew 5:28). Our job was not only to protect our kids from exposure to these things when they were young and impressionable, but also to prepare them for a world in which modesty and purity of the mind are thought of as antiquated notions. After all, the culture teaches that lust is good — it should be indulged and even celebrated. But I reject the argument that we should celebrate the beauty of sexuality and the human body by parading it around in sexually exploitative ways. In contrast, human sexuality is right and good and blessed by God when it is enjoyed within the confines of marriage — not when it’s simulated on the world stage with a foam finger or used to sell hamburgers in a bikini.
So we taught our boys to look away — to avert their eyes whenever a scantily clad girl, intent on sexually enticing viewers, flashed on the screen. We explained that girls who provocatively showcased their wares on TV were not respecting themselves and that it is not respectful to gawk at them. We did not want them desensitized to our hyper-sexualized culture at a young age and wanted them to understand that what seemed common and normal on TV is wrong.
Prudish? Legalistic? Old-fashioned? Maybe. But it was important to us that our boys understood the incredible worth and dignity of women and that they grew up to be men who treated women with the respect they deserve — women who are fellow image-bearers of the God of the universe! We would not approve of the culture’s cheapening and prostituting of women in our home and in the minds of our precious boys. And we want them to someday be dads who cherish and protect their daughters. Any father who celebrates or condones his daughter engaging in behavior that encourages men to have perverse sexual thoughts about his little girl is a bad father.
Understand that we taught our boys these lessons over the course of many years and through many conversations. Along the way, and partly as a result of all the time we spent together through our homeschooling journey, they learned the qualities they should look for in a spouse. We wanted our boys to be men who were imitators of God and who looked beyond the outward appearance and instead looked at the heart.
We were blessed this weekend to share in the joy of the engagement of our son, Ryan, to his wonderful fiance, Kasey. Though everything in our culture tells these kids they should spend their 20s drinking, sleeping around, and enjoying the twerking and hook-up culture, they cannot wait to graduate from Hillsdale College and marry each other next year. Both of them were taught from a young age to look for the qualities that God values when seeking a spouse, including a personal and growing faith in Christ, integrity, and beauty that is more than skin deep — qualities that will endure beyond the honeymoon phase of marriage. We are thrilled that they found those qualities — and so much more — in each other.
Our boys are old enough now (19 and 22) that they make their own media choices. I don’t agree with all of them (I blame their dad for the penchant for Terminator and Matrix movies), and we’ve certainly not been perfect parents and don’t have perfect kids. But despite our shortcomings and missteps along the way, with God’s help, we’ve managed to raise young men who respect women — who cannot find entertainment value in Miley Cyrus’s twerking performance. They pity Miley and other girls like her who obviously lack both modesty and self-respect. Proverbs 11:22 teaches, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” That verse is as relevant today as when it was written by King Solomon.
I’m proud that our boys — our young men — have strong values and don’t objectify women. Perhaps we’re old-fashioned, maybe bordering on legalistic. But I’m confident that our sons won’t be the guys leering and twerking along with the Miley Cyruses of the world. Real masculinity is not defined by conquering women and treating them like sex objects. Men like Robin Thicke, who went along with the onstage gyrations of a 20-year-old woman (a woman 16 years his junior), don’t understand that real manhood means respecting, valuing — and even protecting — women. If believing that and teaching it to our kids makes us old-fashioned and prudish, then I’ll proudly wear those labels.