Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part Two

May 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm 1 comment

Welcome to the second part of this discussion on the oversexualization of our youth. Check out Tuesday’s post for background on the topic.

We can’t know how these specific girls feel about it. But let’s remember that the name of the song is “Single Ladies” and here is a sample of some of the lyrics:

  • If you like it than you better put a ring on it, Don’t be mad once you see that he want it. [Twice during the dance they point at their ring fingers.]
  • You decided to dip (dip) And now you wanna trip (trip) Cause another brother noticed me I’m up on him (him) He up on me (me) Don’t pay him any attention
  • I got gloss on my lips (lips), A man on my hips (hips), Hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
  • Here’s a man that makes me then takes me and delivers me, To a destiny, to infinity and beyond

In my experience growing up in the 80’s I understood what “sexy” felt like at a pretty young age. And as we all know, media representations of girlhood (toys, tv, film, advertising) are being sexed-up at a younger and younger age. So while these girls are amazing athletes, I just can’t believe they think the dance is as innocent as ballet. There is absolutely no shame in them executing this dance, but I question the adult choreographer.

So what effect do sexualized portrayals of youth have on kids? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.” They break down the negative effects into five categories:

  1. Cognitive and Emotional Consequences – Self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004). In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust.
  2. 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; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman, & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994;Thomsen,Weber, & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004).
  3. Sexuality – Sexual well-being is an important part of healthy development and overall well-being, yet evidence suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences in terms of girls’ ability to develop healthy sexuality.
  4. Attitudes and Beliefs – Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002;Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006).
  5. Impact on Others and on Society – The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups (i.e., boys, men, and adult women) and on society more broadly. Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness may make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (e.g., Schooler & Ward, 2006).

There you have it folks. Let’s continue to talk to young girls about their own views of female identity and media images. We can’t protect them from the negative messaging they receive everyday, but we can teach them to celebrate childhood.

-Vanessa

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Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part One Mother Daughter Music

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