Sexualization of Girls and Women
There has been a growing public concern over girls who have been sexualized. That is, girls who have been inappropriately forced to appear or perform sexually or have been told that their main goal in life is to become an attractive sex object for the pleasure of others. A task force was formed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to study this growing problem. Much of the following are the facts found by this study.
Girls are cognitively, emotionally and relationally harmed by this trend. The media is a driving force but parents, relatives and peers can also be promoters of this degrading phenomenon. A child can place upon themselves the idea that their only value comes from their physical attractiveness, sex appeal or believing that their self-worth only comes from their sexual value to others. A person is sexually objectified or made into a sex object by the influence of others or by self-deception.
Virtually every media studied had ample examples depicting girls and young women that were sexualized. Examples in advertising, the internet, video games, sports media, magazines, movies, music lyrics, music videos and television all are guilty of representing youth women and girls as sex objects. Girls are encouraged to emulate these models of femininity by the media, family and peers. One example from clothing advertisement advocated the purchase of thong underwear for girls ages 7 -10 years old with slogans such as “wink-wink”. In study after study young women are portrayed in a sexual manner such as: the use of revealing clothing, bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness. These examples show that women are presented as merely a decorated object (like a Christmas tree) for limited use and not a human being with intelligence and ultimate intrinsic value. (see page on Self-esteem/dislike)
Messages contributing to the sexualization of girls can come knowingly or unknowingly from their interpersonal relationships, not just the media. Parents promote the sexualization of their daughter by emphasizing physical attractiveness as the most important goal for their girls. Some encourage plastic surgery or breast enhancement to help girls meet that goal. Girls want to emulate their older sisters or relatives who have been sexualized and are considered fashionable and attractive. Young people are vulnerable to the misguidance of their elders. A girl’s peers can place a lot of pressure on them to conform to agreed upon standards of thinness and sexiness. Boys are notorious for sexualizing girls. Girls want love and unstable girls will do almost anything to cling to what they consider “love”. Boys can harass or talk girls into sex. Some boys consider themselves “players” and just want girls for sex. If the girls are “players” too, then you end up with boys and girls sizing each other up for their physical attributes only. Casual sex never seems to end up casual, like it is portrayed in the media. There are a lot of broken hearts, depression, anxiety and pain surrounding casual sex. (see page on Teen Dating and Sex)
Most girls or women, who have been sexualized, feel that they must “put out” sexually in order to attract a partner. By doing so, they attract guys who are only interested in a female’s external looks. It becomes an endless cycle of using each other without finding out if their partner has any character or substance. If sexualized women could learn to wait on sex, they could find out if the guy is just using her or that they are actually interested the real person inside. They could attract someone who admires a woman’s inner beauty and qualities.
The most destructive form of sexualization is sexual abuse/assault, rape, forced prostitution and human trafficking. By forced objectification, a woman is hurt for the rest of her life and her relationships with men are impacted negatively. Her boundaries are trampled and she does not believe that she has the right to say “no” and to be protected from abuse. The duration and intensity of the sexual abuse determines the troubles and issues a woman will have through her life. The inability to trust, difficulty with intimacy and self-esteem, shame, guilt, fear and depression can all emerge from their abuse.