By Clare Grogan (Alumna)
“I’ll take you to the candy shop
I’ll let you lick the lollipop…”
With 50 Cent’s lyrics blaring in the background and strobe lights flashing across the stage, a series of silhouettes emerge from behind the backdrop.
Their bodies swaying with the music, they are met by a wave of applause, as they slowly begin to take off their shirts. More applause.
Next is a series of suggestive moves – holding on to each others hips they form a line, pretend-slapping the behinds of those in front of them and slowly dragging their hands up their legs.
The opening scene of a Magic Mike movie? No. It’s the yearly La Chat tradition where a group of 16 to 17 year old boys takes the stage to perform what’s called the “striptease” part of the fashion show. Magic Mike’s poster is only the backdrop of the changing area behind them.
Every student who has been at La Chat for the past 5 years or so knows what the fashion show is – a night of performance, music, design and fun. Yet, the striptease portion is an insidious part that has gone unquestioned – and even celebrated – every year without fail.
The culture around this particular event is interesting. Every Year 12 boy who joins the fashion show is “expected to participate”, as a former striptease participant described, and most don’t even think twice about it. It is so normalized during our time at school that only hindsight 2 years after graduating has allowed me to see the not-so-innocent side of it.
To put it in perspective, read the opening paragraphs again and imagine that it was a group of 16 year old girls instead. How would that make you feel?
It might seem obvious, but the sexualization of minors is bad. When children are sexualized, it normalizes the idea, both to themselves and to adults, that at young ages they are mature enough to be able to give consent and have sex. Sexualizing children has proven harmful effects, including linking self-worth to sexual appeal as well as encouraging minors to act older and partake in adult activities that they may not be ready for.
We can almost immediately tell this is a problem when confronted with the idea of girls stripping in front of their teachers, classmates, and parents. But somehow, the thought doesn’t even cross most of our minds when the subject is underage boys, until a few years after it’s happened, we’ve left and we start to think a little harder about it.
Although a group of 16-17 year old boys may not be the main concern when battling the sexualization of children, the normalization of events such as the striptease is what often leads to more serious problems. These can include damaging ideas of sex amongst children and intense pressure to act a certain way, at a time when most students are under numerous other stresses already.
The scenario raises questions around many issues – sexualization of underage boys at the forefront, but also problems such as body type, forced masculinity, double standards and the general culture at La Chat and in schools. How is it possible that this has been going on for so long and no one has scrutinized it enough to have it stopped, instead using the very appeal of it to sell more “VIP” tickets?
The scenario raises questions around many issues – Sexualization of underage boys at the forefront, but also problems such as body type, forced masculinity, double standards and the general culture at La Chat and in schools.
In order for something like the striptease to have happened in the first place, the culture around it in our society must be examined. Labelling underage pop-stars – think Justin Bieber circa 2010 – as sex symbols to 12 year old girls is harmful to both parties involved. It does not stay confined to Daily Mail Snapchat stories and Instagram “influencers”, but actually pervades everyday life, as this example from school demonstrates.
For it to have gone on for so long, however, is a symptom of the specific environment in which the striptease occurs. Our time at La Chat is spent in a bubble, where despite going to an “international” school, we find most of our time spent with students of similar upbringings and little varying points of view. Therefore, although La Chat rightfully prides itself on being liberal and progressive, with most of us thinking we’re socially aware, there is little to challenge this opinion. Because of this very mindset, often our community does not question our own practices. This is what allows something like the striptease to happen for years on end, with little to no resistance from students.
The solution to this particular problem is simple – end the tradition of the striptease during the fashion show as it is clear sexualization of minors. Beyond the striptease, however, we must learn to critically analyze the “culture bubble” at our school and, more broadly, in society, which allowed such a tradition to arise and cement its place at La Chat.
In the end, the only things that need to be stripped are problematic traditions that have gone unchallenged for too long in our school.
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