By MIA FREEDMAN
A few years ago, I bought a copy of Dolly magazine for my son. He was about 13 at the time and the idea had been recommended to be by another mother who had done the same for her son when he was the same age.
The thinking was this: the only place today’s teenage boys learn about sex is from looking at porn on the internet. Not ideal. Not realistic. Not particularly instructive when it comes to understanding how girls work – physically or emotionally.
Having once been Ed-In-Chief of Dolly and having been a massive reader-fan when I was a teenager myself, I’ve always known this: Dolly Doctor is AWESOME. Same with the advice pages in Girlfriend magazine.
All the advice is written by Australia’s leading (adult) experts in adolescent physical and mental health and all the questions are legitimately from readers (at least they were when I was there) which means they’re indicative of the issues teens are facing – whether we like it or not.
As I used to instruct parents of Dolly’s younger readers back when I worked there, I flicked through the mag before I left it lying casually around to see what kinds of things he might be reading and seeing.
Well. Do you know what struck me? The bodies. Not of the girls so much as the boys. While girls appeared in the fashion shoots and features, there were pages and pages of pin-ups of boys. Boys from bands, from TV, from movies. And they all looked exactly the same: shirts off, hugely muscled chests and arms, 6 packs (even 8 packs), hairless.
So I ripped out all the pages and threw them in the bin. I didn’t want my son to get the message that there is only one type of ‘hot’ guy that girls like – one who looked as if they’d been inflated with a pump of some kind and then roasted like a chicken.
For a while now, body image experts have warned of the dramatically rising tide of boys and young men struggling with poor body image and you can’t help but link it back to this new pop culture aesthetic of cut, buff, six-packs on sticks.