When I was reading Los Angeles Magazine the other day, the names of the producers and stars of the upcoming movie starring Cameron Diaz were so stretched out and small that I had to grab my kids' magnifying glass to make out them out. This surprised me, only because I can tell you the color and style of the underwear Ms. Diaz is donning in this movie from half a mile away (pink, low rise bikini). And in case I have a premature senior moment and can't remember this significant detail, I need not panic because in less than a quarter mile on any major thoroughfare (remember that quaint word?) in Los Angeles, I'm sure to see her again, in yet another half-naked pose, with the actor I assume is playing her put-upon husband, Jason Siegel, both of their arms and legs akimbo, across the stories-high words in huge red letters: SEX TAPE.
Personally, I don't have a problem seeing these two love birds and their perfectly-toned bodies everywhere. The challenge for me is that it's summer vacation, and I have two small boys in the car with me all day long now. Boys old enough to read these words and ask questions on a loop every time we leave the house.
"What's a sex tape Mommy?," "Why is that lady in her underwear Mommy?," "Why does that Daddy looked so shocked?" "What's a sex tape Mommy?" You get the picture.
But maybe you have a more European vibe going on in your family where sex is all good and natural and fun! And a sex tape? That's just a memento of the good times people enjoy together. So who cares about posters the size of buildings silently screaming out at you and your little ones? I applaud you for that and I'd be like that too... if my 11-year-old didn't wail in horror if I even turn the knob on the bathroom door when he is in there. But you sexually relaxed people, you're the ones I should call because, no doubt, you'd provide the much less angry, much calmer voice of reason: "Take it easy," you'd say, "At least you're not being assaulted by pictures of bloody eye balls and worms out there in LA!"
Except you'd be wrong about that.
In addition to the aggressive campaign being lobbed at us by the Sex Tape PR wizards, at the very same time, someone at FX was TOTALLY PSYCHED to wallpaper every available flat space with the image of a severely bloodshot eyeball with a worm crawling out of it or in to it (I can't tell which) to advertise a new show called The Strain.
Works for me. I already feel "strain" just pulling up next to these ubiquitous posters at every traffic light. I particularly like it when we saddle up next to one so that the bloody eyeball in the picture is staring my younger child right in the eye. Congratulations, Mr. 21st Century Mad Man, because he gasps every time he sees it. These pictures have created a "strain" on so many levels for my family that I certainly will never forget the name of your new show for the rest of my life, and neither will my 6-year-old son, particularly when he is going to sleep. Please have an artisanal beer on me.
And I haven't even mentioned the block-long photos of transparent colored condoms with the comforting words, "WHY WORRY?" written over them and useacondom.com spelled out underneath that are also sprinkled all over the city. Along with the SEX HAPPENS reminders also writ large on billboards. I'm not saying I don't believe in the use of condoms, nor am I denying the "sex happens" message; I'm just saying that after getting my kids' to agree to peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and then slathering each of them with sunscreen despite nearly getting socked in the eye for putting it too close to one of their mouths, I don't need the added challenge in the car ride to whatever camp I have sold some family heirlooms to pay for of explaining why a large pink colored balloon with a nipple on the end of it would make people worry, or what "sex happens," means. Or better still, my 6-year-old asking directly, "What is sex?," causing my 11-year-old to bury his head in his beach towel and yell GI-DE-ON, each syllable an indictment of his naivete. A dialogue then often ensues between the two of them chock full of misinformation from the older to the younger that I'll admit stuck in traffic can be entertaining, but still, not the best way for my 2nd grader to be introduced to the topic.
Call me a Mommy prude or just exhausted, but I simply don't want our car rides bombarded with these hyper-sexualized images. I can't believe that every PR executive in Los Angeles working to promote movies and/or safe sex is childless. And yet this deliberate plastering of our major roads with these pictures it's tough to draw any other conclusion. Maybe Sheryl Sandberg is right, maybe more of us mothers do need to "lean in" a little more. Not for the big salaries and feminist equality -- although certainly this is not a bad thing -- but more because someone has to remind the powers that be that there are children in the cars of the people they are trying to get their message out to and we are likely going to be less responsive to your movie/TV show/message if the pictures and words you use to get our attention mess with our kids' vulnerable minds.