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Sexualization of Girls Report by the APA
American Psychological Association came out with a report that shows girl as young as 4 and 5 years old are wearing new clothing styles such as push-up bras, thongs, mini skirts and other adult type outfits. Following the onslaught of media images girls see on TV, there is a changing standard born out of the pressure these images give to children to “get with it” or “fit in”. This report brings up the decrease in self-esteem and the increase in depressions and eating disorders linked to the increasing sexualization by the media. It also emphasizes the increasing underage sex rate.
Defining Sexualization of Girls
The APA taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these public concerns. The APA taskforce also produced reports on the Violence in Mass Media, Advertising to Children, Video Games and Interactive Media among other similar reports. The “sexualization” process was defined having one of the following criterias.
- a persons’ value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy;
- a person is sexually objectified – that is, made into a thing for other’s sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
- sexuality is inappropriately imposed on a person
Examples of Sexualization in Advertising
Sexualization of Girls is pervasive throughout all media. The report outlines a few categories:
- Ads – Sketchers “Naughty & Nice” – featured Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop
- Dolls – Bratz Dolls – dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stocking, and feather boas
- Clothing – thongs sized for 7-10 year old, some printed with slogans such as “wink wink”
- TV – Televised Fashion show in which adult models in lingerie were presented as young girls.
In addition, I find the most powerful media messages are often a lot more subtle. It is true that the constant barrage of images of pretty women with questionable outfits changes what we consider the “norm” in terms of how we define “beauty” and what is “appropriate” behavior. However just as powerful, is the message found in the lifestyles of sitcom characters. People love watching sitcoms. They become attached to characters and they see the characters in the context of “life”. When people watch their beloved characters living a promiscuous lifestyle or behaving in a sexualized way (using their beauty to charm guys, chasing after pretty woman, gawking at a pretty girl who walks by) we take in these “behaviors” as normal reactions and how things actually are in the real world. We learn what is normal through what we observe in carefully constructed sitcoms that milk on what sells and let’s face it – sex sells.
Interesting Studies of Sexualization in Report
List of some interesting studies covered in the report:
Note that these bulletpoints are not at all comprehensive.
- Sexualization inhibits Mental Capacity – Women who were in bathing suits trying to conduct a test did poorly then when wearing sweaters. Men found no such drop off. Thinking about the body and comparing to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity.(Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge 1998; Gapinski, Brownsell, & LaFrance, 2003)
- Mental Health Problems – Researched links sexualization with 3 of the most common mental health problem of girls and woman: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002)
- Diminishing Sexual Health – Self objectification linked directly with diminishing sexual health among adolescent girls measured by decreased condom use and sexual assertiveness. (Impett, Schooler, & Tomlman 2006). Negative effects such as shame due to sexualization may lead to sexual problems in adulthood (Brotto, Heiman & Tolman, in press)
- Sexual Stereotypes – Girls and young woman who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsements of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006)
- Effects on Men – Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (Schooler & Ward, 2006)
Problem of Sexualization of Girls is Deep
The problem is not just the clothing they wear or even what girls are learning about sex – the problem is that girls at a young age are being taught how to approach relationships and how to approach intimacy. Media is teaching girls that being sexy and using their sexuality is important. Even Disney is responsible for using pretty, skinny woman characters using their beauty to get what they want. In the real world, many big name celebrities also are using their “sexuality” for all it’s worth.
Parents: Protect Your Child from Sexualization!
The ultimate message is that parents must protect their child. Some may think it’s cute to allow their young daughter to wear t-shirts that say stuff like “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” (the main line from a popular song) or allow your daughters to those “cute” mini skirts or short-shorts that have things written on their bottoms. To buy them make-up kits as a child and teach them to adorn themselves with beauty products. But it won’t be funny when those very children becoming sexuality active by middle school and learn to objectify themselves, placing their self-worth on how they look.
Download & Read the Full “Sexualization of Girls” Report Below
- Please let us know what other good pieces of statistics or information you find below in the comments section!
- Also what are your thoughts about the Sexualization of Girls? Do you see it as a big problem?
- What do you think we can do?
Summary: Executive Summary
Full Report: Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (PDF, 408K)
The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. – American Psychological Association
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