Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 5 (5 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   12 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Why Are We Sexualizing Young Girls?

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H4 1/27/11

            It may be true that eighty is the new sixty and one hundred is the new dead.   But such innovative formulas aren't funny when looked at from the other end of the lifespan.   Why, for example, is six the new sexy and twelve the new twenty?  

            Walk through any mall in America and I guarantee you'll see some disturbing trends in merchandising.   Children's stores now sport infant wear that says things like "Sexy" on their six months' size undershirts while T-shirts for the pre-teen set offer slogans like "Eye Candy" and thong underwear with "Who needs credit cards?" scrawled across the crotch.   There are push-up bras and pull-in pants and high-heeled sandals for eight-year olds.   Several years ago Tesco (the British version of K-Mart) actually launched a Peekaboo Pole Dancing Kit, a play set meant to help young girls "unleash the sex kitten inside."   Concerned parents got the play set removed from the toy section of the megastore, but Tesco kept the product on the market.

            Take a look at advertising too.   Younger and younger girls are now the target audience for increasingly sexualized sales pitches for everything from fancy footwear to cheesy cosmetics.    Messages underscore sexuality and the need to be "hot", thin, scantily clad, overly made-up, and preferably white.   All this while avoiding the behavior of a "slut."

            Writing in her book The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Co About It, M. Gigi Durham points out that Marilyn Monroe was twenty-seven years old when she starred in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," making her America's most well-known sex symbol.   Sophia Loren was twenty-three in "Desire Under the Elms."   In contrast, Brooke Shields was twelve when she played a child prostitute in "Pretty Baby," and Jodie Foster was fourteen when she appeared in "Taxi Driver."

            Writing in The Guardian last year, Durham said "increasingly, young girls are seen as valid participants in a public culture of sex. " The highly sexual poses imply they are Lolitas -" knowledgeable, wanton, seductive.   It sends a message that little girls should be viewed as sexy."

            Lolita, of course, was not a seductress.   She was the innocent adolescent victim of prurient pedophilia by her stepfather, Humbert Humbert, in Nabakov's acclaimed novel.   "The Lolita Effect" says Tana Ganeva writing in AlterNet "has become the way our culture and our corporate media have constructed little "Lolitas" by sexualizing them and constructing them as legitimate sexual actors when they aren't."

            Some analysts see this disturbing trend as a backlash against feminism.   At a time of increased economic power and autonomy among educated women, men, they say, feel threatened.   Sexy little girls reassure them that the ideal woman is docile, compliant, obedient -" and one-dimensional.

            One organization speaking out about the need to protect girls from messages encouraging them to become sexy too soon is the American Psychological Association.   An APA task force found that the sexualization of girls and young women is pervasive, with sexy dolls being marketed to four-year olds, and cosmetics directed at young girls. The task force also cited pornographic and degrading music and videos, as well as sexualized advertising.   "The consequences of the sexualization of girls in the media today are very real," says psychologist Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the APA task force, citing low self-esteem, shame, anxiety and self-image problems.

            Diane Levin, a Boston-based educator and author of So Sexy, So Soon:   The Sexualization of Childhood in Commercial Culture, says the problem isn't that kids are learning about sex; it's what they are learning about relationships.   Boys, she told an interviewer, learn to be violent while girls are taught to be sexy.   "They're not learning to treat others as people, they're learning to treat others as objects."

            There are things parents can do to combat be-sexy messaging.   For one thing, they can avoid getting caught up in the culture of sexual commercialism themselves.   They can support products and companies that promote positive images of girls and boycott those that don't.   They can let manufacturers and advertisers as well as TV and film producers how they feel about their offerings.   They can discuss what's going on with their kids (girls and boys) and encourage them to focus on sports or other activities that emphasize skills and abilities over physical appearance.

            When I was a kid we couldn't wear pants to school let alone tube tops and miniskirts that "let it all hang out."   Our gym suits were beyond ugly, all in a move to de-sex us.   Love scenes in movies consisted of a goodnight kiss before Mom and Dad got into separate beds.   I'm not advocating we regress to 1950s ridiculousness about sex, and I don't think the "experts" are either.   They're just making a plea for good taste, and asking parents to watch out so that their kids don't feel like an aberration for wanting a childhood free from the kind of pressures that poor Lolita didn't even know were coming her way.

 

www.elayneclift.com

Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

What Happens When "Jane" Comes Marching Home Again?

Orifice Politics; What the War on Women is Really About

Why Are We Sexualizing Young Girls?

Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Attacks on Activist Women

DSM-5 Could Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

Is America Really as Safe a Place to Live as You Thought?

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
10 people are discussing this page, with 12 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

The French also seem to think that sexualizing you... by Perry Logan on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 4:53:57 AM
Money to be made.....Most troubling..... human bei... by zonie on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 7:08:16 PM
Yes, humans are revenue to the government. Those... by Beverly Prather on Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 10:35:18 PM
a TV commercial where a father spies a skimpy skir... by Allen Oliver on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 7:24:56 AM
My husband and I are also very offended by that co... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 5:46:53 PM
Last summer, a woman came into the store I work at... by Dave Maclean on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 1:47:04 AM
Thank you for this. I knew it was bad, but I didn'... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 4:54:02 PM
So few of todays parents actually have lives so th... by Michael Hayes on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 5:23:19 PM
A few years ago my neice had a baby girl. I have n... by Kathy Stuart on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 6:59:21 PM
After reading this article I feel more and more th... by Ruby on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 2:22:46 PM
... we'll soon return to the ideals of the Middle ... by Debbie Scally on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 12:04:23 AM
There is nothing cute about sexually precocious te... by Allen Oliver on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 7:50:49 AM