Social Question

jca's avatar

Do you think the word "sexy" is a word that young children should get punished for using, as in "I'm Sexy and I Know It?"?

Asked by jca (36059points) July 5th, 2012

I have read (probably on Huff Post which gets fed to my AOL account automatically) at least twice in the past few months about kindergarten or early elementary school-age children getting suspended for singing the song “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” For those who don’t know this song, it’s a popular pop song that’s on a lot of radio stations this summer. I imagine it’s the word “sexy” that is what’s getting the kids in trouble.

My question for the collective is, is it wrong for a young child to use the word sexy? At what age is the word acceptable for a child to use?

I ask because my daughter, who is 5, and goes to preschool, will occasionally say, after hearing the song, “I’m sexy and I know it.” I’m not sure when and where she has said it, but I have heard her say it. Punishment from her pre-school is not something that we ever hear about, (luckily they are very cool, and as I said, I’m not sure if she even says it at school), but thinking about the recent headlines has made me think about it more, so I’m looking for opinions from the Collective.

Is “sexy” an ok word for a young child, and if not, at what age is that word ok for a child to use?

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72 Answers

disquisitive's avatar

Being sexy is something young children should have absolutely no idea about or be interesting in!

tom_g's avatar

My 3.5-year-old son went through a phase of singing that exact song. He has no idea what the words mean, and I don’t think kids should be punished for saying this in school.

chyna's avatar

I think if there is a big deal made out of it, they will say it even more.
I don’t see the issue. I doubt they even know what it means.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The concept of kids being punished for using certain words is archaic and abominable. It is an indictment of lousy parenting.

The kid doesn’t know what it means. A smart parent would use this type of situation as a ‘teachable moment’ – not as a reason to punish. A parent or teacher who finds a reason to punish a kid for saying ‘sexy” has got some way bigger issues.

Parents, TEACH your kids, don’t punish them.

Facade's avatar

I say, with something like this, leave the kid alone and let the phase pass. Punishment draws attention to what they’re doing, and it may cause the behavior to be more deeply rooted in the kids mind than it needs to be. I may be looking too far into this…

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Naw, they shouldn’t be punished for it. Both of my daughters get a kick out of that song and have sung it in various locations. It doesn’t bother me. I have more important things to be concerned about, than my kids using the word “sexy.” I’d be more concerned if they started saying “fuck” or “shit.” :D

tedd's avatar

I do not think that is remotely worth punishing a child. I would take immediate concern in what they’re seeing/doing that is exposing them to such lyrics (assuming I was that offended by them), and I would take advantage of the situation to have a “mini” talk with them about the birds and the bees… Not the full details just yet, but the basic stuff.

mowens's avatar

I think context should be taken into consideration. If a 4 year old says someone is sexy and means it the way you or I would mean it… then attention must be paid. However, if they are simply parroting what someone else has said… then no punishment should be given.

bkcunningham's avatar

Apparently, this isn’t the first time this little Colorado boy has been in trouble for singing the song. He supposedly shook his booty in a little girl’s face and sang it to her another time. The mother said these two incidents aren’t the only times the little fellow has been in trouble at school. To me, what it comes down to is the consequences of the zero tolerance policies. School officials are complying with rules and written policy.

ragingloli's avatar

Just explain to them what it means and what it implies when they say it. It may involve a stork theory debunking and an early bees and flowers talk, but that is necessary.
For me, punishment is out of the question, especially if they do not know why they are being punished.

janbb's avatar

Maybe society should be “punished” for what it exposes young children to but certainly not the children themselves. Ridiculous idea!

Ponderer983's avatar

My 3 and a half year old sings that song all the time. He even does a wiggle dance when that part comes on. So – damn – cute! He doesn’t know what it means, he’s just repeating the words. He doesn’t go up to other boys/girls and say hey you’re sexy. It’s innocence.

jonsblond's avatar

I think it is ridiculous for teachers and schools to punish young children for saying this word. A private moment with the student to explain that the use of the word in school isn’t appropriate is the best idea imo.

jca's avatar

@disquisitive: That’s my point – the little kids don’t know the meaning of “sexy.” They’re just saying it or singing it, innocently.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Ponderer983 Exactly! My 6 year old doesn’t know what “sexy” means yet, and I just think it’s adorable when she sings the lyrics she remembers, including the, “Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle” part, then she yells, “I work out!” and flexes her biceps in a silly Mr. Universe pose. I wouldn’t dream of punishing her for it.

Aster's avatar

It also says, “I have passion in my pants…” in case nobody else knew this . Great question, difficult to answer for me . I find it distasteful for a little kid to say “sexy.”

JLeslie's avatar

No. As you say it is a popular song, and sexy is not considered a curse word. Being suspended is ridiculous! But, certainly we can tell children what language is innapropriate in certain situations. Still, this is probably going too far. The kids have no idea what sexy is, bringing attention to it probably makes it worse. Next week they will be singing a different song.

@mowens I would argue not punishment, but as you said attention, or more accurately possibly concern if there are other behaviors and grown up words related to sex being used in context. Why do they know at that age?

tom_g's avatar

In my experience, the thing that troubles many people about hearing young kids use these terms is that they might be forced to actually talk to their kids. It reminds me of this.

Kids hear words from the radio, their older siblings, and their parents all of the time. They experiment with them and see what kind of reaction they get. My kids have tried using “fuck” and “shit”. All it did was force me to a) cool it with the swears a bit, and b) actually talk to my kids about words, swears, and what is considered appropriate in public, etc.

My nephew was in the center of some recent school debacle concerning the use of anatomically correct terms for genitals used on the playground. A parent made a huge deal because she had to explain to her third grader what these terms meant. Rather than distract my nephew from his education and potentially get him in serious trouble, why don’t you figure out why your kid doesn’t know what a vagina is.

wundayatta's avatar

Here’s a three or four your old boy doing the dance. Clearly he’s been watching the videos for the music. It’s a favorite dance for him.

Well, we adults can’t see past the sexual innuendo of the movements and words. To us, it means something pretty crass an harrassing. But it isn’t that way for children. It’s just for fun, for them.

The thing is, we don’t have to see it the way we do. We could have fun with it, too. The problem is that it gets so difficult sometimes to see whether words and movements mean one thing or mean another thing. Is it a joke? (The whole thing is a joke, in my opinion, but that’s another story). It it meant to be a joke? Is it an inappropriate joke? Is it meant to harass?

I think it would be nice to live in a world where we can play around, and we can make fun of sex and not really offend anyone that much. Unfortunately, there are enough people in society who are offended no matter what the intent, that they react strongly.

It’s not just the work, “sexy.” It’s the movements and the context as well. It’s probably a bit of racism, I think. Playing off the idea that black folk are supposed to be more sexual. Does anyone know if it was a white girl? Not that it matters. I bet a white boy wouldn’t have the same trouble.

I guess kids need to learn about inappropriate behavior, and they have to learn about social cues. Six years is not too young to learn, but also, is not old enough to expect the child to have learned appropriate behavior. There has to be a better way to deal with this than suspension, though.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g I would just wonder why vagina came up in third grade?

jca's avatar

@JLeslie and @tom_g: My cousin’s son was about 11 and asked me “Where do babies come from?” I said “You have to ask your mother.” I told her what his question was, and she said “They come from between where you pee and where you poop.” He was satisfied with that answer and asked nothing else.

The other day, my daughter asked me “What do you call the nipple that boys have on their butts?” (She uses “butt” to refer to the front and back). I said “that’s called a penis.” I figured it’s better to just tell her it’s a penis than to say “it’s a pee pee” or “it’s a wee wee” or something stupid.

jca's avatar

@wundayatta: That little boy was a really funny dancer!

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I am fine using the real terminology and using nicknames. I don’t think it is a big deal to not use penis and vagina with very young children. Hell, we say stomach and mean down where our intestines are not our stomachs. Most adults never correct that mistake. Eventually, of course, I believe we should all know the right terms, but if a 6 year old doesn’t, I say so what? At the same time, if my child came to me asking, “what’s a vagina mommy?” I would tell her matter of factly. The explanation might be, “that is the real name for the part of your body where your pee pee comes out, what we call your private area.” Or, whatever we might have called it. I think I always new vagina, once I became aware of the body part, but I am not sure. We did not have a nickname for it in my family. If I for instance had pain there when I was very young, I would have described it as, “it hurts where I pee.” My grandma always used more formal words like urinate, bowel movement, vagina, things like that.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Yes, definitely. I think knowing both is helpful. My daughter is 5 and she refers to the front part (what I used to call a “hynie” when I was little, as “a butt.” She calls both the front (vagina or penis) and the back the “butt.”

tom_g's avatar

@JLeslie: ”@tom_g I would just wonder why vagina came up in third grade?”

To be honest, I am not positive that was the specific “anatomical term” that was used (could have been penis). But that isn’t my point. Does anyone remember being 9 years old? My language was atrocious when I was with my friends on the playground. Pretending that little boys (and girls, I assume) don’t talk like sailors, or making a big deal when they do, is harmful in my opinion. In my nephew’s case, a more trigger-happy district might have suspended him because of the parent’s complaint.

DigitalBlue's avatar

No. I think that it bothers me somewhat that children hear this kind of language, but, most of them have no idea what it means. I don’t like the idea of children calling themselves “sexy,” but, I don’t think there is any real punch behind a 6 year old singing song lyrics to a catchy pop song. Definitely not punishment worthy.
Then again, I never feel compelled to punish children for using words like “shit” or “hell” or “damn” or no, not even “fuck.”
You know what bugs me? “I’m bored.” “This sucks.” “That’s gay.” “I saaaaid I would DO it!” (usually stated while parked firmly on the couch.) Yeah. Those types of phrases make my ears hurt.

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, I was with you all the way to the racism. Hogwash.

Bellatrix's avatar

No. Sheesh adults get wound up about some silly stuff. It is a word. They aren’t touching each other up. They are just singing a song with most likely little understanding of the meaning behind the words.

gorillapaws's avatar

Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon, but “I’m sexy” really bothers me. I fear about how this could be misconstrued by pedophile sexual predators, especially with little boys doing pelvic thrusts in a diaper on the Internet. I find this much worse than using curse words. I think parents should be using this as an opportunity to talk to kids about sexual predators, to warn them about bad grow ups and inappropriate touching. This would also be a good opportunity to talk about inappropriate body movements and the signals they send to other people. There’s nothing I find cute about this.

Having said all of that, I think suspending young children is completely inappropriate, unless they’re doing something very extreme and dangerous.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham “Hogwash?” Is that what passes for thinking in your household? Give me a break! If you are going to say something, at least offer a reason, not flame bait. That is so unjellylike behavior. You make it really hard to keep a decent discussion going. There is no need for such a dismissive comment, either. Then again, maybe that’s what is washing around between your ears. Hogwash on the mind.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t like hearing little kids use words like ‘sexy’ (and would probably change the station if the song came on the radio while little kids were around), but I certainly wouldn’t punish them for it.

When my oldest was 5, her first grade teacher had the kids write a list of all the words they could think of that ended in “it”. She brought her paper home, and right there, mixed in with “sit”, “hit”, and “bit”, my kid had written the word “shit”. I just had a little talk with her about why that wasn’t appropriate… it never even crossed my mind to punish her for it.

Blackberry's avatar

Yes. Children shouldn’t say words.

flutherother's avatar

I would smile at first but I wouldn’t go on to encourage it.

Bellatrix's avatar

The more I think about this, the more astounded I am. This is so Victorian. Sex is a perfectly normal, natural part of life and I would be more concerned about the psychological effects of punishing children for singing the lyrics of a song because they include the word ‘sexy’. It sends the message to the child that sex is wrong. If my child was punished for this, I would be furious, at the school.

If kids are dressing provocatively or are acting out in a sexual way that would be concerning and if the song or video clip is seriously offensive, it shouldn’t be played/shown on daytime TV (I don’t happen to think this song is offensive – just silly).

gorillapaws's avatar

@Bellatrix So how do you feel about the Clip of the young boy in a diaper that @wundayatta posted, particularly at 1:04 into it with the pelvic thrusting. Of course sex is healthy, natural, good and something we all need to be educated about, but I read “I’m sexy” to mean “I’m a person people want to fuck,” which is never appropriate when someone underage says it. I’m beautiful, or I’m cute, or whatever is perfectly fine, but there’s a very sexual subtext to that statement. What if the lyrics to the song said “Everyone wants to have sex with me?” Would that be acceptable, even if the kids didn’t know what that meant? Would it be Victorian, and teaching them that sex is bad to not allow them to sing such lyrics?

Bellatrix's avatar

It means that to you @gorillapaws. It doesn’t mean that to a six year old mimicing a song. Frankly, if someone finds a child singing a song sexual, that’s their problem. The word sexy is not offensive. The connotations drawn by adults may be. As to the video, haven’t watched it but it sounds as though the child is mimicing the videoclip and it still wouldn’t bother me. At most I might gently tell my child the dance isn’t very nice and they shouldn’t do it. However, the child isn’t drawing any connection to sex. It is copying. The problem is therefore managing what your child watches and listens to.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Bellatrix It’s not just what it means to me, it’s the definition of the word. From Wiktionary:

1. (of a person) Having sexual appeal; suggestive of sex.

It sounds like you’re making the argument that if the child doesn’t understand the implications of an act or statement, then the problem lies with the adults and that it’s perfectly acceptable. This is a ridiculous position. Kids don’t know the meaning of racial slurs, but it’s not acceptable for them to use those words (just one obvious example).

tom_g's avatar

@gorillapaws: “It sounds like you’re making the argument that if the child doesn’t understand the implications of an act or statement, then the problem lies with the adults and that it’s perfectly acceptable.”

I won’t speak for @Bellatrix, but I don’t think that was the point. I think it’s clear that if a child doesn’t know what “sexy” means, it is to them just like saying “I’m brintzkdjy [or some other nonsense word] and I know it”. Now, it is just a fact that it’s the adults that are making this a sexualized thing. That doesn’t mean that sing that song is “perfectly acceptable”, and I don’t think anyone has stated this (although I could be wrong). What it does mean is that you are forced to talk with your kids about things that are not acceptable – right or wrong – to say in public.

Bellatrix's avatar

There is more than one problem here.

Firstly, should we punish the child for singing a song with a word that could be construed as offensive in the lyrics. My answer is no. Most six year olds do not read Wiktionary? They don’t know the meaning. So we should not punish them even if the word was racist? My answer is no. The child should not be punished. We should instead look at what our children are reading and watching. That the child is being allowed to watch/hear unacceptable content is an adult’s fault. Not the child’s.

The second problem is ‘is the word sexy offensive’ and again I say no. Sex is a normal part of life and I don’t want my children punished for using a word that refers to sex. I find the idea that the word sexy is offensive puritanical. I think the psychological message the punishment sends is far worse than the crime. Of course, I don’t want my children going to school and using sexually explicit language (I don’t think sexy is explicit), but if they were, it would again be an adult problem not a child problem. Where did they learn such words and what can the adults do to prevent that happening again? Education, not punishment.

I also don’t place racism and sex in the same bag. Racism is not natural or right. Sex is normal and is right. The response to the use of racist or sexual language is the same though, where did the child learn this, how can I prevent it happening again and educating the child about why certain attitudes, not just language, may be inappropriate.

I suspect we are unlikely to agree on this one.

JLeslie's avatar

About the pelvic thrust, I find it rather vulgar when adults do it as a part of a dance routine, not sexy. In my zumba class I am annoyed that some instructors put tons of pelvic thrust in their routines. Swinging hips in salsa, or even a side thrust with belly dancing fine, but a forward thrust; it is crass. I know now it is part of a lot of popular dance routines, but I don ‘t care. Does it bother me a little child does it? No, in the sense that the child has no idea what it means, he is just copying the adults.

I am pretty open and liberal when it comes to sex. Maybe a little less than when I was much younger. I want to be perceived as sexy, I like sexy dances, I like sexy hair, I like sexy bodies, sexy clothing, but not when it is overtly something that is for the bedroom.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Bellatrix “The child should not be punished. We should instead look at what our children are reading and watching. That the child is being allowed to watch/hear unacceptable content is an adult’s fault. Not the child’s.”

I completely agree with this. I don’t really believe in punishing young children in general (maybe brief time outs in certain circumstances), I think it’s better to use those moments for teaching appropriate behavior.

I think the difference is that I think this behavior is unacceptable and should be corrected (not punished). It sounds like you’re saying it’s ok because the child doesn’t understand. My point with the racial slurs is that if there are phrases that are inappropriate for them to use, then the child not understanding the meaning behind the term or isn’t a sufficient logical justification to allow the behavior to continue. It wasn’t to equate sexually explicit language with racism; I hope I’ve explained the distinction there clearly. I could have just as easily used the example of a young child talking about dildos even when they don’t know what they are.

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, you are right. I wasn’t being very jellylike. It was a very dismissive comment. This is the part of what you said that I call hogwash:” It’s not just the work, “sexy.” It’s the movements and the context as well. It’s probably a bit of racism, I think. Playing off the idea that black folk are supposed to be more sexual. Does anyone know if it was a white girl? Not that it matters. I bet a white boy wouldn’t have the same trouble.”

“Playing off the idea that black folk are supposed to be more sexual.” What? Where did you come up with that?

To answer your other question about what passes for thinking in my family, you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t comments like “black folk are supposed to be more sexual.” Or calling something racist that has nothing at all to do with racism.

I think you were spot on with the other parts of your observations though. Children don’t see it as something sexual. It is just feels good to move and dance and see people smile and laugh. That’s all the kids are doing. Getting attention. I think the entire thing is blown out of proportion and is silly. The school’s policy is a good example of so many ridiculous policies and laws that have cropped up in response to somebody being offended. It is just an example of a knee jerk reaction to something that could have been handled with a little commonsense.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My kids (5 and 3) sing that incessantly and we tell them to stop ‘cause it’s gotten beyond annoying but we don’t punish them for using words they don’t get.

rooeytoo's avatar

I wonder why the mother of the boy didn’t have a chat with him when he was shaking his booty (and I take that to mean sticking his wiggly butt in the little girl’s face)? That is when she should have explained that this is not acceptable behaviour for a 6 year old. Maybe a 3 year old could get away with it, but this is a first grader. If I were the mother of the girl, I would not want a boy doing this to her. I would want her to know that this is a violation of her space and she should not have to tolerate it. If the boy was told by the teacher not to do that again and he did it again anyhow, then I think some sort of punishment is appropriate because he did what he was told not to do. I never figured suspension from school as a punishment though, it is more like a holiday. I would say picking up trash in the playground would be more of a punishment, but of course in this day and age, I am sure that would be considered damaging to his psyche or somesuch.

bkcunningham's avatar

@rooeytoo, I don’t understand how suspension for a 6 year old is punishment either. Perhaps it is punishing the parent if she has to pay a babysitter because she works and can’t stay home with the little boy. Apparently, the child has some learning disabilities. To me, when you have a zero tolerance policy, like this school, you end up with circumstances like this. It seems like it is all for show with no results.

Remember the chicken finger boy? An 8-year old boy who was eating his cafeteria lunch at a public school and pointed it like a gun and said pow, pow, pow. He was kicked out of school too. This incident happened after the tragic and gruesome killings at Columbine High School in Colorado. The zero policy on guns was a knee jerk policy made after the nation was shocked by the massacre at the high school by fellow students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham Thanks for acknowledging that unjellylike behavior. I don’t want to get side tracked, but surely you can not be unaware about the history in the South where black men were lynched for being rumored to have raped white girls? Or the myths about the size of the black sexual equipment? Or other social analysis that talks about black men being seen as creatures of outrageous sexuality? If you are unaware of these things, I’ll drop it because I don’t really want to have that discussion, but that’s where I’m coming from, and I do think that racism carries many connotations about black sexuality and that these notions are alive and well in our society, today.

bkcunningham's avatar

Okay, I acknowledge all of that, @wundayatta. But this incident happened in Colorada. Are you trying to say that the school board members from that school district where the incident occurred who wrote or upheld the school’s written policy are racist? I’m sort of lost here to be honest. What does race have to do with the incident?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@wundayatta And what about all the white men who kept black slave women as their own personal sex toys? Give it a rest. That has nothing to do with this.

@bkcunningham Racism has nothing to do with this incident; it was a failed attempt to pick a controversial fight. IMHO, people who try to twist unrelated situations into a race issue are one of the main reasons that racism persists.

bkcunningham's avatar

I agree with you on that, @WillWorkForChocolate. Two thumbs up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

First of all, the kid most likely has no real idea what “sexy” means. The only thing I’d be concerned with is him sticking his butt in a girl’s face and wiggling it. I’d address that. I would even mention his use of the word “sexy.”

bkcunningham's avatar

What is wrong with telling a child not to do something that is annoying or distracting? If he’s at school and wiggling is butt and singing a song, it had better be during an appropriate time and not just for the sake of singing and wiggling. EDIT: I mean, I don’t want him doing it during a math test or while we are reading, for example. I’d let him know to sit down and behave because it wasn’t the appropriate time to be dancing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Who are you talking to @bkcunningham?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think she was agreeing with you and elaborating. =0)

bkcunningham's avatar

Yes, @Dutchess_III. Thank you so very much, @WillWorkForChocolate. You are a good girl and an excellent interrupter.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

LOL. There’s something I’ve never been told before!

Dutchess_III's avatar


WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Naw, I’ve been told that before. I was referring to the “good girl” thing. :D

Dutchess_III's avatar

There you go interrupting again! Gonna call you The Great Interrupter from now on!

bolwerk's avatar

Suspended? Back when I was a kid, we might get suspended for violence. Maybe. The word “sexy” doesn’t even have much to do with sex that the word “attractive” doesn’t connote.

Schools seem to be run by completely delusional jackasses. Of course, I thought that back when I was in it.

jonsblond's avatar

I’m watching a show on cable right now called National Parks Great Train Rides. You’ll never believe what commercial I just saw during the break. The commercial is for M&M’s. An M&M is dancing along to the song I’m sexy and I know it”.

This song is everywhere! Even M&M’s are sexy. What’s a kid to do? not get suspended for saying sexy, that’s for sure.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bolwerk Yeah, delusional jackasses who have become that way because of lawsuits filed by paranoid, overprotective, guilt-ridden parents who think their li’l babies can do no wrong.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@jonsblond You’re sexy and I know it. Teehee!

janbb's avatar

I’m sixty and I know it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was just in the shower and this came to me:

“If you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands!” clap clap “If you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands!” clap clap “If you’re sexy and you know it then your clothes will surely show it, if you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands!” clap clap

Yet another reason I don’t teach pre-school! Or maybe I should just never take a shower again…

ragingloli's avatar

Those are the ‘lyrics’? Damn, totally makes the Erlkönig look like a Kindergarten production….
Oh wait, it does not.

bkcunningham's avatar

ROFLMAO, @Dutchess_III. FIrst I was laughing at @janbb, comment and couldn’t get the song out of my head…I’m Sixty and I know it. Now, I will never hear the song, If You are Happy and You Know It, the same way again.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Me either! That song shall be sung at my 60th birthday party, with the lyrics changed to “sixty!”

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: those are probably the same delusional jackasses.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What @bolwerk? Not sure what you were referring to.

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