Clothing stores sell thongs for seven- to ten-year-old, some with slogans like “wink, wink” or “eye candy.” In child beauty pageants, girls as young as five wear fake teeth, make-up, and hair extensions, and are encouraged to flirt with the audience by batting their false-eyelash-laden eyes. The 2005 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on prime time television featured models made up to resemble young girls dressed in sexy lingerie. Magazines, television, and the internet abound with images portraying girls and women as sexualized objects. There is growing evidence that this sex-saturated culture harms healthy psychological development among both boys and girls.
Sexualization is not to be confused with healthy sexuality, which is important for mental and physical health. Sexualization occurs when:
- a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour
- a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy
- a person is sexually objectified – made into a thing for others’ sexual use
- sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person
The task force’s report was recently published by the American Psychological Association. In it, the authors define sexualization, describe how it takes place, describe its effects on girls and society as a whole, and recommend positive alternatives. Their findings and recommendations have implications for families, schools, organizations, and professionals that work with children and youth, and government policies.
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