What happens to girls when we sexualize them?
We talk about how popular culture and the media sexualize girls. But what exactly is sexualization, and what impact does it have on a young person’s future? This video, produced for educational purposes as a project for a Women in the Media course at Prescott College, documents the increasing prevalence of sexualization, society’s often blasé acceptance of it, and how it affects children when they become adults.
The report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls says sexualization is when any of the following four things occur …
- a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
- a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
- sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
The negative effects of sexualization on women include: cognitive and emotional deficits, mental and physical health problems, diminished sexual health, and the development of self-limiting attitudes and beliefs.
Sexualization of women also affects men:
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).
Creating a standard of perfection for women that is impossible to achieve sets them up to fail. While the focus of this video is on women, it is important to note that advertising objectifies men as well, in both similar and different ways.