In psychiatry and psychology, I believe we can sometimes borrow from the field of law the principle of res ipsa loquitur. Translated from the Latin, this means: The thing speaks for itself.
We needn't even cite case law (or here, psychological theory) to prove the point. This is true in the case of the publishing in GQ magazine of erotic images in which actresses from the television program "Glee" dress as scantily clad schoolgirls. The photographs represent one more sign that the media, advertising and fashion industries are conspiring — perhaps unwittingly — to encourage adults to have sex with 13, 14 and 15-year-old girls and boys.
Since most teenagers are post-pubescent, it cannot be said that the magazine editors and writers are necessarily promoting pedophilia. But they are certainly contributing to clouding even that boundary — since hoping adult readers will be sexually stimulated by images that suggest young teens are fair game, yet draw a discerning line that excludes 12-year-olds and 11-year-olds is folly.
The GQ outrage is just one recent sign that the age of consent is under assault. You may remember that, following her sexy Vanity Fair photos, Hugh Hefner offered a then-15-year-old Miley Cyrus a deal to pose naked for Playboy when she turned 18.
This oggling of an underage girl should have, but did not, inspire outrage in the press. There has also been little written or aired about the habit of Victoria's Secret (and other brands do similar things) of emblazoning tweens' backsides with the word PINK. No one seems to mind very much and very loudly that entering an Abercrombie and Fitch store is a journey through poster-sized, half-naked photos of teens. No one boycotted the magazines that glorified Jamie Lynn Spears having a baby at 16, which means she had sex at 15, but probably earlier. And those magazine editors knew very well that some of what sold copies was their adult readers imagining Ms. Spears doing exactly that.
All this is the case in the very same America where an adult male who e-mails a naked photo of a 15-year-old girl to someone across state lines can net him 20 years in federal prison. Literally. I kid you not. It happens.
These two realities — the recent GQ photos and the body of law that locks men and women up for decades for any sexual activity involving 14- or 15-year-olds — can only occur in a country that is deeply conflicted about the current age of consent (17 in most states).
It is possible that we are unconsciously conspiring to use early sexual activity as a way to battle the dehumanizing effects of technology on our children. But it is equally possible that media and technology have hijacked our better judgment and served up seemingly irresistible ways to distribute intoxicating sexual imagery. The Internet may have pierced our collective superego and drilled right into our collective id, with potentially devastating results.
Our population seems to be increasingly looking for any guttural reality in any forum, without concern for consequences — fantasizing about sex with young teens, legalizing drugs, dwelling on the sexual exploits of celebrities, buying up tickets to extreme fighting matches, piercing ourselves everywhere possible, tattooing ourselves everywhere possible, removing all body hair, seeking physical perfection by going under the knife.
When you can't trust anything or anyone (read here, banks, the government, the dollar, public schools, the future), you can easily believe that the only things you can believe in are your feelings of excitement or intoxication, wherever those feelings may lead. We are now alarmingly close to that perilous point.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times bestselling . His book, “Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty” has launched a new self-help movement including www.livingthetruth.com. Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com.