I’m sure that many of you saw Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, a music video that was featured on Comedy Central and has been trending on Twitter for 3 days straight. I decided to explore around the YouTube channel that had produced the video, “trizzy66”, and found a strange series of wannabe Mileys, Selenas, and Taylor Swifts. In sifting through the videos, I found quite a few that portrayed these young women (we’re talking 12, *maybe* 13 years old) in an alarmingly hypersexualized way.
The sexualization of young people is a concern for anybody who advocates positive sexuality, because the expression of these complex behaviors, at the naive age of 10-13, suggest that these are ideas being imposed upon them. Contrarily, there is another school of thought that speaks out against the sexualization of youth because it reflects a decline in social morale. My approach is not directly related to morality, but rather, the reality that this behavior is a manifestation of indoctrination into pop culture; a hypersexualized world tells young people that their only worth stems from their body, their romantic relationships, and consequently, from sex. It is my belief that young people should instead be nurtured to find value in their abilities, in their ideas, in community contribution, in positive relationships, and in strong communication. Sexuality should instead be a tool toward self-actualization and identity when young people become capable of processing it physically and emotionally, typically toward the upper teen years. The trend right now is to push ideas of “sexiness” upon children before they are capable of understanding what “sexy” even is, therefore indoctrinating them into a particular idea of “sexy” that is often sexist, disempowering, objectifying, and materially based. Not only this, but exposure to these ideas without the capacity to properly process them predisposes young people to unhealthy sexual and cognitive development (APA Task Force on Sexualization).
Shorter, tighter, more skin, sexualized text (i.e. “eye candy”, “baby doll”, “wink wink”), higher heels, makeup acceptable at a younger age.
Music, even if aimed at an older audience, reaches young ears as it pumps through mainstream music sources. (Consider Rihanna’s “S&M”, Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop”, Britney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy”)
“Bratz” dolls, particularly Yasmin model
Lingerie Barbie (released in 2002)
Monster High dolls
Implications of the APA task force on Sexualization
1. Give primary acknowledgment to their achievements.
2. Talk to young people about being critical consumers. What kind of messages do their belongings send to them?
3. At the appropriate age, initiate conversations about healthy sexuality vs. sexualization.
4. Set a positive example yourself.