Sex sells… even to little girls

This is an old argument – the sexualization of little girls. Where does it come from? Why is it encouraged? How can we stop it?

A quiz on PBS (“Is Love in Our DNA?”) referencing another article (named below), makes a good point:

Beautiful young women are sexually attractive to men because beauty and youth are closely linked with fertility and reproductive value. In evolutionary history, males who were able to identify and mate with fertile females had the greatest reproductive success … A 14-year-old woman has a higher reproductive value than a 24-year-old woman, because her future contribution to the gene pool is higher on average.
–David Buss, “The Strategies of Human Mating,” American Scientist, 1994

It’s not a pleasant thought, but if you think about it scientifically, it makes sense. A 14 year old girl is (typically) sexually mature… in nature, that’s usually good enough. So, if you look at it that way, it’s pretty much going against nature to say being attracted to young girls is wrong.

Does this mean we need to encourage it? Of course, not. It’s an evolutionary thing that has, like pinky toes and the appendix, become obsolete in the human race. Why? It’s not like we’re hurting for people, here – there is no immediate, urgent need to perpetuate the species. So, while there are reasons why men are attracted to younger females, there aren’t really any good reasons to act on it.

So, then, we tend to view men with this attraction as evil predators. While I agree that men who actively pursue underage girls against their will are wrong, I do have issues with this. It’s perfectly natural for men to be attracted to young girls. It’s how they act (or don’t act) on that attraction that makes the difference.

Dressing little girls up in “sexy” clothes and putting all the responsibility on men is a problem. Again, there are some men that actively pursue young girls… but the girls aren’t always innocent in the matter. Today, I heard a story about a group of fifth grade girls who saw their teacher’s IM window, in which she had been talking to her boyfriend during downtime. A few days later, said teacher gets a call from her boyfriend, asking her who all these girls are who are IMing him. Apparently, they were having a sleepover, and one of them remembered his name, so they IMed him pretending to be adult women and hit on him. He was smart enough to know that something wasn’t right, but I’m sure that this isn’t the only time that men have been pursued by underage women. Just because these girls wouldn’t have known what to do in the event this man really did show up at their house ready to have sex, doesn’t take the blame off of them completely.

So, who is to blame? Mothers? Fathers? Advertising? All of the above?

Parents need to pay attention to their kids. Easier said than done, but still true. They need to say no, and enforce it, when girls want to do/wear/watch things that aren’t appropriate. They need to be honest and open with their kids about sex (boys and girls), so that they learn more from their parents than from a porn site. And, they need to stop letting their little girls wear things like this:
Abercrombie & Fitch thongs for girls
(Yeah, that says “wink, wink” and “eye candy” – and they’re sized for girls ages 10-16)

and this:
Sexy toddler clothes
It’s not “cute”.

There are others, but I (obviously) can’t find pictures on the ‘net without going through some rather unsavory channels. And, quite frankly, I don’t want to see little girls who could be my students wearing skin tight ass pants, shirts with phrases like “little hottie” and “sexy princess”, and padded bras for six year olds.

Alright, so what does this have to do with education? All this came from an experience I had with my fourth graders. They are all learning how to write letters for a purpose – they’re writing to somebody to ask for something. One girl is writing the president to ask for peace, a boy is writing his apartment manager to ask them to clean up the apartment complex he lives in, and several are writing celebrities to ask for autographs.

A rather large group of girls has decided to write Hannah Montana (warning: link goes to a Disney.com site) (or, more correctly, they’re writing to Miley Cyrus, the actress that plays her). I had no idea who she was (I really should brush up on my pop culture to keep up with the kids), but I learned very quickly that finding her address was hard.

Actually, it was impossible.

The Disney website says on its FAQs page that they can’t “…provide contact information, forward e-mail, or grant meetings or interviews on their behalf…” because “the performers you are referring to are not permanent employees of The Walt Disney Company…” and, instead, they recommend you “start your search [with the] Internet Movie Database.” So, knowing the joy of imdb, I decided to go there. I had to click on the link to her official site pretty quickly, though, because at the bottom of the page, where the discussion forums are, there happened to be a topic titled “She’s Got a Really Great Ass!!!” This girl is 15.

But, when you dress her up like she’s 18+:
Miley Cyrus, Hannah MontanaMiley Cyrus, Hannah Montana
I can see how people might be confused.

So, yeah, I finally got so frustrated with having to tell the girls, repeatedly, “no, that’s not really her address” and “that’s not really her website… you really shouldn’t send your letter there” that I gave up.

I’m not really surprised that Disney is using sex to sell its kids’ shows… I mean, look at The Cheetah Girls:
The Cheetah GirlsCheetah Girls
So, yeah… anyway. This post has been entirely too long, already… mostly, I’m angry because (1) the girls in my class deserve better female role models than that (2) Disney should take some responsibility and at least give an address to send mail to the studio – I wonder how many little girls have written letters to creepy pedophiles trying to get to “Hannah Montana” (3) viewing women as sex objects is already a problem – do we really need to shift this pressure to 10 year olds?

I do hate to sound prudish, but seriously, this is a problem. My 10 year old girls are wearing ass-pants and writing letters to girls who look like they should be starring in porn. What ever happened to characters like Clarissa?

16 thoughts on “Sex sells… even to little girls

  1. Miss Fox says:

    The following series of comments are a conversation between me and a friend (on another journal) about this post:

    Friend:
    Amen repeatedly. Well-said. Have you seen this book on the shelves that came out last fall – something like, “Hey Moms Stop Dressing Your Girls Like Sluts”? I forget the real title, but it looked interesting.

    These kids don’t have jobs. They aren’t buying these clothes themselves. Parents are dressing their children and allowing these kids to walk out of the house looking like whores.

    And while that leads to possible attraction from perverts, that does not ever give anyone the right to sexually abuse those kids. I don’t care if they’re running around naked on the beach, but that never gives the right. So I kinda shy away from using phrases like, “they’re partially responsible” when the heinous event happens that a child is molested.

    But it’s such a shady area because these kids shouldn’t even be dressing like that. I am reminded of a Chris Rock sketch: I see you in a fireman’s uniform, I’m going to assume you’re a fireman. I see you in a policeman’s uniform, I’m going to assume you’re a poliecman. I see you in a prostitute’s uniform…

    Me:
    …about shying away from saying the girls are partially responsible. I realize that even that partial blame truly lies somewhere else (most likely parents), but the fact is, society seems to think that these girls have done absolutely nothing out of character for an innocent 10-15 year old girl. The truth is, that while they might not fully understand the ramifications of their actions, in many cases it is *their* actions that are directly responsible for their vulnerability. Yes, if the parents/guardians/whatever responsible adult had done x, y, and z it would have prevented those actions, but that’s more of an indirect cause.

    Kind of like… I don’t agree that a woman wearing a mini skirt is asking to be raped. But I also think that a woman wearing a mini skirt in a dark alley where previous rapes have been reported is not exactly protecting herself from being attacked. It’s NOT her fault if she is raped, either way, but in the second case she is directly causing her own vulnerability. The only difference between here and with the kids is that the woman should know the risks and ramifications of her actions (and she would probably go prepared, knowing self-defense or being armed in some way), and the kids don’t really understand that.

    There’s a fine line between allowing our little girls to explore and do things on their own with guidance and letting them do whatever they want because “Well, what am I supposed to do? She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her way…”

    Friend:
    Parents need to keep in mind that they are supposed to be the main educators of their children. They are the primary educators. They are ultimately responsible for their children’s well-being until a certain age. Kids don’t understand, like you said, the real dangers. And too many parents strive to be their childrens’ friend rather than their parent. It will not harm your child’s psyche if you say “no” once in a while.

    Me:
    And, I totally agree with you. As a matter of fact, I’ll take your last sentence and expand it – it will probably harm your child’s psyche if you *don’t* say “no” once in a while.

    This also brings up another point, that perhaps it’s not just lack of policing that’s the problem, but also lack of education. I’m not saying we should sit all the 10 year old girls down and tell them there are creepy men out to get them – we don’t necessarily want to scare the crap out of them, but I feel like when a girl wants to wear something that’s not appropriate, instead of just saying no, explain why. Our society is so hung up on talking openly about sex (yet so open to letting little girls wear thongs??) – lack of education is probably a lot of the problem. Or *the* problem.

  2. erica says:

    wtf is your problem?!?!?!?!

    Miley Cyrus dresses herself, sorry that girls that are 16 YEARS OLD can go shopping.
    I’m 13 years old if you were wondering.

    and the cheetah girls arent even looking like that,
    i still dont see how that is sexy.

    But i do agree with you on the thong for little girls, thats wrong.

    but Disney channel has nothing wrong with it conserning sex.

  3. Miss Fox says:

    Yes, I’m sure she does dress herself, but when you are an actress, you have less say in what you wear and do. She has an image to uphold, even on her own time. Unfortunately, because she is a woman, part of that image relies on her attractiveness.

    Sex is not wrong. Wanting to be attractive and sexy is not wrong. However, when I put on a strapless, form-fitting dress, I fully understand that I might get some unwanted attention and I know how to handle it. When I wear a shirt that is low-cut, I understand that it will produce an involuntary reaction in men of all ages and types to be physically attracted to me. It does not give anyone the right to do anything to me that I don’t want them to, but I understand the risks involved.

    I’m not saying you don’t understand all this, because I am not that condescending or clueless. You are a woman, not a child, with the ability to think for yourself. However, you are underage, and less experienced in these situations. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the truth. I was 13, once, and in the same place. It’s just how life is – the older you are, the more you experience. Therefore, it is your parents’ responsibility to help you figure things out on your own without getting into a situation that could cause you serious harm. If you go out dressed the way Miley Cyrus dresses (heavy makeup, hair done up, low cut tops, form-fitting jeans, short skirts, etc), you very well may end up in one of those situations. It’s not your fault, and it shouldn’t be a problem, but that’s nature.

    All I’m saying is that having a female role model for underage girls that wasn’t based on her sexy body and ability to appeal to men would be awesome.

  4. erica says:

    If it ok i would like to ask you what ‘dangerous’ situations you are talking about?

    because i have been is.. some situation that are very umm.. you know what i mean

    and though i may be nderage, i still know a lot

    and for anything that i may have said to offend anyone i didnt mean, just because i offend people a lot sometimes, and i dont mean to.

  5. Miss Fox says:

    As stated in the article, men are attracted to youthfulness – because you are younger, and especially if you dress to accentuate certain features, you run the risk of getting sexual attention from men that you don’t want. Unfortunately, there are some men out there who will take advantage of your lack of experience and age, and might force you into doing something you don’t want to do. And, even if you do want to do them, you are not legally allowed to, because you are underage. The reason you aren’t considered old enough to consent to sex is because you are still under the care and responsibility of your parents. You are not old enough to support yourself, and the consequences of sex and rape (pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional trauma) are often permanent.

    Sex is completely natural, but it is much more complicated than physical pleasure and hormones. There are many things to consider, talk about, and explore, and it is a process that should be done over time. Just like a pilot shouldn’t fly a plane unless they know what to do during a crash, men and women should not have sex unless they are ready to deal with the negative possibilities as well as the positive ones.

    I think it’s sad that we, as a society, are afraid to talk to kids about sex honestly and openly. I discovered a lot about sex from friends and magazines, most of it misinformation. Even in school, we are forced to teach abstinence rather than how to take care of your body, consider birth control, and prevent STDs. In this same society, it is perfectly acceptable for six year old girls to wear thongs with suggestive phrases on them, and to give young girls the appearance of having breasts. Essentially, you’re being given the tools to attract someone to have sex with you, but none of the information to help you take care of yourself in the process.

    I don’t know your individual situation, of course, but it’s similar for many girls. We’re bombarded with images, suggestions, and expectations that make us feel informed. The truth is, many women don’t know what or where their clitoris is. Many girls don’t understand how the menstrual cycle works before they lose their virginity, and they believe that sex is supposed to be painful, and don’t realize what an orgasm is and/or how to achieve one. Young men and women both have misconceptions about how pregnancy occurs, how to prevent it, and the permanent changes that occur in the female body during pregnancy. Still others have no idea how many sexually transmitted diseases there are, how they are contracted, and what they symptoms or how to prevent or treat them.

    Society and corporations need to stop shoving sex down everyone’s throats while simultaneously refusing to discuss it seriously and treat it like something natural. I am not a prude – I believe that humans are animals, just like any other animal, and the two main goals of any living thing are to survive and procreate. Dressing little girls up in sexy and suggestive clothing sends the wrong message – especially since that message is geared toward older men, who have no business sleeping with underage girls.

    I would suggest you keep an open dialogue with your parents, teachers, friends, etc – the more you talk about sex, the changes taking place in your brain and in your body, and the way you are thinking and feeling about these topics, the more you will learn and understand. If you are uncomfortable discussing sex, then you should work on that. If you have trouble finding somebody who is comfortable discussing it with you, then you should look for books on the topic at the library. I’m sure you know quite a lot, already, but I guarantee there will always be more to learn.

  6. erica says:

    i completly agree with you on the little girls dressing up in thongs, I just recenly went shopping and i saw a thong, but it was in the little girls section, and the bra sizes are getting smaller and smaller.

  7. erica says:

    i completly agree with you on the little girls dressing up in thongs, I just recenly went shopping and i saw a thong, but it was in the little girls section, and the bra sizes are getting smaller and smaller.
    When i was in kindigarden, I had a freind that wore a bra. It was odd to see a 6 year old with boobs.
    And yes, I think that i know a lot about sex. I am very open about; I going to just come out and say it, I am bisexual, no way to tell me other wise, I dont know your opinion on that, because I am 13, but i have been asked, actually asked to have sex with someone,. and now i dont know what to do.
    I cant really ask my parents what to do because theyll just say ‘Dont say yes, just completely ignore them’
    but i cant ignore my boyfriend that goes on my bus;is in my class; and lives on my same street.

  8. Miss Fox says:

    I have no problem with you being bisexual – I am, as well. I think it’s great that you are open and willing to admit that to yourself and others.

    I could ask the obvious questions, here: how old is your boyfriend, how long have you been together, etc? However, none of that really matters, except to indicate his intentions, which I can’t really know unless I know him.

    The questions you should really ask yourself are: are you comfortable with the situation? Are you comfortable knowing that you will have to discuss birth control with him? Are you ready to deal with the possibility that you might get pregnant? Are you willing to tell him to stop if it gets painful or you change your mind? Do you trust him?

    You need to trust your intuition on this one. I know that the responsible adult in me is supposed to tell you to wait until you’re older, but that is stupid, vague advice. Of course you should wait until you are comfortable, and with somebody you trust fully, but I don’t think age has very much to do with it. The hard part for you is separating what you want from what you know. For instance, you want to have sex. You want to please yourself and your boyfriend, and sex is a new, exciting way to do that. However, this is your first time – for a lot of girls, the first time takes patience. It should not be more painful than it is pleasurable, but a lot of guys don’t realize that it can be painful, or they get too wrapped up how good it feels for them. Your experience is just as important as his, and he should know this. If, for any reason, you decide to stop – either you change your mind, or it’s painful, or whatever – you need to trust that he will stop, too. You should talk to him about this. If you can’t discuss sex with your boyfriend, you really shouldn’t have sex with him.

    I lost my virginity at 16, with my 15 year old boyfriend. Before I was willing to have sex with him, we talked about what birth control we would use (condoms), what we would do if either of us changed our minds, what we would do if I got pregnant, and that we would start off slow. This was not a five minute conversation right before sex, either – we talked about these things for weeks beforehand, to make sure that we understood each other. It was a great experience for both of us, and a very pleasant memory, even though I’m no longer dating him.

    That is how sex should be – it should be pleasurable for BOTH of you. If it isn’t, you should be able to tell him, “that hurts, slow down a bit” or “I need to stop.” If he isn’t willing to use protection, or uses the excuse that “I don’t think I’ll be able to stop once I’ve started” – don’t have sex with him. If you are at all concerned that he will not listen to you or stop, you should not have sex with him. If he does refuse to stop, that is rape, and that will leave a permanent scar on your ability to be intimate with people in the future.

    I know a girl who is currently 26, and bisexual. She cannot have sex with men, and is worried that she will have trouble having sex with women, because she was raped by her boyfriend many years ago. She blames herself, even though it isn’t her fault, and has been in bad relationships ever since. Even when she is in a good relationship, she can’t bring herself to be intimate with her partner, because her past experiences were so negative.

    I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just trying to make sure you understand that there is a reason your parents want you to say no. A lifetime of regret, pain, and trauma is not worth one pleasurable experience. That being said, if you trust him, discuss this with him, and are careful and patient, this could be a positive experience for both of you.

    If you find yourself constantly doubting this, then please don’t do it. Trust yourself. If he persists, and doesn’t listen to you, then I think you should tell him to fuck off. You don’t need to be pressured into this, even if it seems easier to say yes than to say no and deal with him on a daily basis. Think of it this way, if you have sex with him and it’s a miserable experience, then it will be much worse to have to see him every day than if you say no. You have friends and adults who care about you and will back you up if you decide not to sleep with him. Remember that you are doing this for you, not just for him, and you get as much say in what happens as he does.

    And, even though you know what they will say, you should talk to your parents about it. They care about you, and want the best for you. They are also ultimately responsible for your well-being. They should know what you want, and you should be able to explain it to them. It’ll be harder to tell them you are pregnant or that you were raped than it will be to tell them you are considering having sex because you want to, won’t it? Just be sure you are talking about what you want, not what your boyfriend wants. They will automatically assume that you are being talked into this, and it’s important that they understand that it is YOU who wants to have sex, and you should be able to explain why. Frankly, if your only reason is because your boyfriend wants you to, that’s really not a good reason.

    If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask – before or after the fact. I’m not sure how much help I can be, but I’d rather you had somebody to talk to than you have to deal with this alone. Planned Parenthood is a great resource, as well: http://www.plannedparenthood.org Find the one nearest you and call or go in – or just browse the website. You’ll find a lot of information about preventing and dealing with pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (something else you should consider), and the health of your body. These pages deal specifically with teens: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/sexual-health/teens-4315.htm and http://www.teenwire.com/

    There is no reason for you to go through this alone, and I hope you’re able to come to a decision that makes you happy. Again, don’t hesitate to leave me a message here, or email me at owner [at] starwidget [dot] net.

  9. Danielle says:

    WOW! Fantastic work and I am totally in agreement. I live in South Africa and have a 10 yr old daughter who is a Miley fan, but sadly I am now having to explain to her why a 15 year-old dresses like a 21 year-old and is made up to look even older!!
    With South Africa having the highest rape rate in the world, I think we have created a terrible anti-child cutlure in which we use children to make money, even if it means selling adult underwear in kiddies sizes. Young girls are not mature enough to handle the attention they will receiv e from wearing sexually provocative clothing. Little ones struggle to wipe themselves properly after being to the loo because their arms are too short. Think of the health problems when the g-string rubs to and fro and the resulting infections. Dont we teach our girls: Wipe from front to back? I have seen g-strings at a retailer for 4-5 yr olds and when I had a hissy fit, they removed it from their shelves. Lets work together to look after the innocence of our children, irrespective of how early they mature sexually because nature made them that way!!

  10. TCG FAN says:

    While i agree with what has been said about the clothing industry targeting kids, you have to realize that it is the parents responsibility to make sure their kids are dressed appropriately. Being a parent does npt madate giving into you kid’s every wish. There is nothing wrong with the Cheetah Girls. Yes, they are good looking but if all you see is eye-candy then you have missed the whole point. They are around to promote friendship, loyalty, and believing that you can accomplish your dreams.

  11. Miss Fox says:

    I already mentioned that parents need to step up and take responsibility for this. There are a lot of things wrong with the Cheetah Girls – not the least of which is that the members are interchangeable and lipsync their concerts. We are teaching our girls that dressing sexy and wearing lots of makeup is okay, and that you don’t need to have talent to be famous. What about all the girls who are naturally talented musicians? If Disney can’t package it up in pretty, flashy ribbons and bows, it’s not worth the company’s time (or money).

    You know who else promotes friendship, loyalty, and believing in your dreams? Parents, sisters, brothers, friends, and people kids actually know and interact with on a daily basis. If all the role models for children are celebrities, we are missing the whole point as a society.

    Maybe that’s the problem.

  12. alex says:

    bitch you a ho just because the chattah girls dress in dresses you picking on dem. well fuck you. you littl shit fucker. you motherfucker. bitch i will beat your ass.

  13. Miss Fox says:

    Wow, Alex. Thanks. I’ll be sure to be on my guard in case you come calling.

    Also, um… did you have a point to make? I gather you like the Cheetah Girls… but why? Just curious.

  14. Andrea says:

    I agree with everything you said EXCEPT for using the Cheetah girls as examples. Because 1) They are all grown women and 2) what’s wrong with how they are dressed? If anything they dress more age-approriate (or tv-age approriate) than Miley or Vanessa or any other Disney “girl gone bad”. They wear makeup bcuz that’s what performers wear and even teenagers wear makeup.

  15. Tyler says:

    yes i agree, and attraction isnt natrualy obsolete just obsolete via societey & clarissa was great.

  16. Mike says:

    Alex was just riffing off another sort of very problematic cultural role model that’s out there.

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