The sexualization of girls is pervasive and over so increasing problem and comes with a strong cost to girls. Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet, and advertising. (Zurbriggen, 2007). There are multiple examples of sexualization of young girls. For, example, large department stores sell thongs sized for girls as young as 7 years of age and the ever so popular Bratz dolls that are dressed in sexualized clothing. Many of the Bratz dolls are dressed in fishnet stockings, and miniskirts. If you have not watch MTV lately you will be the surprised to the pervasiveness sexualization of girls in their daily programming. Over 40% of viewership of MTV is persons under the age of 18. When MTV does show videos it has been know that approximately 75% of videos broadcasted involve sexual imagery.
Societal messages that contribute to the sexualization of girls come not only from media and merchandise but also through girls interpersonal relationships (Brown & Gilligan, 1992). Parents can also be a large culprit to the sexualization of their daughters. For example, parents purchasing and encouraging their daughter to wear clothing that sexualizies their daughter. Parents may even go as far as recommending plastic surgery to alter their daughters physical appearance to better meet societal demands. At the extreme end, parents, teachers, and peers, as well as others sexually abuse, assault, prostitute, or traffic girls is the most destructive form of sexualization.
Sexual objectification occurs whenever people’s bodies, body parts, or sexual functions are separated out from their identity, reduced to the status of mere instruments. (Bartkly, 1990). It has been known that sexualuation of girls teach girls to see themselves as objects and their values are based on their appearance. It is most likely that girls being exposed to the sexualization of women increasing their chances of being chronically preoccupied with their appearance.
Sexualization versus Healthy Sexual Development
Sexualization occurs when a person’s values comes only from their sexual appeal; when physical attractiveness is narrowly defined as being sexy; when a person is sexually objectified, made into a thing rather than a person; and when sexually is inappropriately imposed on a person (Brown, 2007). Self-initiated sexual exploration is considered typical age appropriate development and is not considered sexualization. Girls and women tend to see themselves through a veil of sexism, measuring their self-worth by evaluating their physical appearance against our culture’s sexually objectifying and unrealistic standards of beauty (Fredrickson, 1998).
Cost of Sexualization of Girls
The sexualization has many negative effects that impact many different spheres of a girls functioning.
Cognitive and Emotional Consequences (Fredrickson, 1998)
Cognitively, self-objection has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus’s one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Fredrickson, 1998). It has seen that girls that are exposed to sexualization of girls have a tendency to see themselves as sexual objects, and thus have a tendency to be preoccupied with their appearance which significantly impacts their mental capacity. In addition, it has been know that the sexualization of girls leads to other significant difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, guilt, and other significant emotional difficulties. Sexual objection of one’s body leads to shame about one’s body.
Mental and Physical Health
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women; eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood. Abramson & Valene, 1991).
The sexualization of girls has significant impact on young women sexuality. Self-objectification has been linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescents girls. It has been shown that sexualization of girls has demonstrated a decrease in condom use and a decrease sexual assertiveness of girls. (Impett, 2006).
How can we decrease the negative consequences of sexualization of our young women?
-It is important to teach boys and girls critical skills in viewing and consuming media, focusing specially on the sexualization of girls and women.
-Continue to provide opportunities for young women to build healthy and stable self-esteem that is not based on their bodies and appearance. -It is important to view TV, internet, or other forms of the media with children to help them to appropriately interpret the messages that are children are being bombarded by.
-Organized religious and other ethical instruction can offer girls and boys important practical and psychological alternatives to values conveyed by popular culture. ( Zurbriggen, 2007)
-Overall monitor and limit what your child is exposed to.
-It is not only important to educate our young women of the negative impacts of the sexualization of girls. We need to mentor and educate our boys of the negative impacts of sexualization of women.