Does Discussing The Sexualization Of Girls Further Sexualize Them?

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sexualization of girlsThe sexualization of girls always makes for a salacious headline. In these media-driven, Internet-saturated times, what can start off as a legitimate parenting concern, like the hypersexualization of girls through pop culture and products, can very easily become just a cheap trick to snag eyeballs. And given that one mother is filing a $30 million lawsuit against three media outlets for allegedly sexualizing her five-year-old daughter in their coverage, the thin line between discussion of this phenomenon and clear embellishment for the sake of viewership evidently needs some definition.

While I do think TMZ, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail, all ascribed actions to the Toddlers & Tiaras child that she wasn’t doing such as “gyrating,”  the discussion of the sexualization of girls in the press can often be a toss up in terms of coverage. Although this is a concerning trend for parents that rightly deserves more attention, some media outlets and blogs use the concept of a little girl being “sexy” as just another way to further fetishize these girls. I run across news reports all the time in which some writers seem to just delight in using suggestive language nearly befit for an adult romance novel to describe the “sexy” behavior of a young girl. Words like “gyrating” are right up there with word choices like “panties” and “Lolita,” all intended to titillate audiences and readers rather than incite concern.

A similar tactic was used when ABC News reported on the predicament of young Angie Varona and how a website where she kept private photos for her boyfriend leaked all over the Internet. ABC reported on the impact of these pictures on both she and family — but they also showed them. Topless photos of a 14-year-old girl, her nipples obscured, were presented during the TV segment for all too see as well as pictures of her pushing her cleavage into the camera and posing in a thong. These photos were taken for the most part in the privacy of Angie’s bedroom and were intended to be seen only by her boyfriend, a minor just as she was. They were not snapped with the intention of being shown to adults. Yet there they were, being approved by grownups to be shown to other grownups during a public broadcast.

It’s unfortunate that this dilemma in modern parenting often falls to the hands of those who are more occupied with generating viewership than they are in expelling the trend. Such suggestive media attention, although highlighting the issue, often seeks to further exploit the child by giving audiences illicit permission to view the child sexually. And even though a mother who willfully signs her daughter up to appear on Toddlers & Tiaras obviously isn’t all that concerned with sexualization, her suit could very well impact how producers and writers consider framing this important phenomenon to the public.

(photo: Shutterstock)