American Psychological Association: Media and marketers drive girls to be sexy early; sexualization linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression

The American Psychological Association finds that media and marketing have a big impact on girls, reports the Washington Post (2/20/07):

American girls, say experts, are increasingly being fed a cultural catnip of products and images that promote looking and acting sexy.

“Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner,” declares the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, in a report issued Monday. The report authors, who reviewed dozens of studies, say such images are found in virtually every medium, from TV shows to magazines and from music videos to the Internet.

While little research to date has documented the effect of sexualized images specifically on young girls, the APA authors argue it is reasonable to infer harm similar to that shown for those 18 and older; for them, sexualization has been linked to “three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

…[T]he authors say they focused on girls because females are objectified more often. According to a 1997 study in the journal Sexual Abuse, 85 percent of ads that sexualized children depicted girls…

When do little girls start wanting to look good for others? “A few years ago, it was 6 or 7,” says Deborah Roffman, a Baltimore-based sex educator. “I think it begins by 4 now.”

While some might argue that today’s belly-baring tops are no more risque than hip huggers were in the ’70s, Roffman disagrees. “Kids have always emulated adult things,” she says. “But [years ago] it was, ‘That’s who I’m supposed to be as an adult.’ It’s very different today. The message to children is, ‘You’re already like an adult. It’s okay for you to be interested in sex. It’s okay for you to dress and act sexy, right now.’ That’s an entirely different frame of reference.”

It’s not just kids’ exposure to sexuality that worries some experts; it’s the kind of sexuality they’re seeing. “The issue is that the way marketers and media present sexuality is in a very narrow way,” says [report contributor and psychologist Sharon] Lamb. “Being a sexual person isn’t about being a pole dancer,” she chides. “This is a sort of sex education girls are getting, and it’s a misleading one.”

…[I]n 2003, tweens–that highly coveted marketing segment ranging from 7 to 12–spent $1.6 million on thong underwear, Time magazine reported…

[The APA report] points to a 2004 study of adolescent girls in rural Fiji, linking their budding concerns about body image and weight control to the introduction of television there…

Pre-adolescents’ propensity to try on different identities can make them particularly susceptible to media messages, notes the APA report. And for some girls, thinking about how one’s body stacks up can be a real downer.

In a 2002 study, for example, seventh-grade girls who viewed idealized magazine images of women reported a drop in body satisfaction and a rise in depression.

Such results are disturbing, say observers, since eating disorders seem to strike younger today. A decade ago, new eating disorder patients at Children’s National Medical Center tended to be around age 15, says Adelaide Robb, director of inpatient psychiatry. Today kids come in as young as 5 or 6.

The Washington Post relays strategies and resources from the APA report to counter negative influences on girls. These include:

Media literacy programs, which can be included in school sex-ed classes, foster awareness of sexualizing images. Media awards for portrayals of girls “as strong, competent and nonsexualized” make sense, too, the authors note. Organizations that focus on this issue include the Girls, Women + Media Project (…

Activism can empower girls and promote change, the report’s authors say. They cite a 2006 grass-roots letter-writing effort initiated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood ( and Dads and Daughters ( that persuaded Hasbro to cancel a line of dolls based on the Pussycat Dolls, a musical group known for its sexy songs and dance routines.

To see how a pornographer like Capital Video views women, see this profile (explicit) on MySpace. Among other things, it features the movie “Bait” from the Mayhem studio. Tagline: “What’s young, dumb and hooked on cock?” The profile includes a photo of a classroom scene, a customizable South Park cartoon, and a promotion for the CD “iNDooR ReCeSS’.

In August 2006, MySpace visitors included 6.6 million people aged 12-17, according to comScore Media Metrix.

See also:

A Review of Can’t Buy My Love
I believe there is a connection between the throwaway world of advertising and today’s throwaway approach to marriage. All too often our market-driven culture hooks people into adolescent fantasies of sex and relationships. And there is a connection between the constant images of instant sexual gratification and passion and the increasing burden on marriage and long-term lovers.

Victor Cline: “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children”
…for someone to suggest that pornography cannot have an effect on you is to deny the whole notion of education, or to suggest that people are not affected by what they read and see. If you believe that a pornographic book or film cannot affect you, then you must also say that Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, or the Bible, or the Koran, or advertising have no effect on their readers or viewers.

Link of Media to Violence Accepted, But Porn Has No Effect?
““More than 3,000 research projects and scientific studies between 1960 and 1992 have confirmed the connection between a steady diet of violent entertainment and aggressive and anti-social behavior”.”[37] The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded: ““The vast majority of studies conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between media violence and real-life violence. The link is undeniable and uncontestable…””[38]

A Review of Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values; Women’s Desire to Have Daughters Plummets
The most astonishing effect of prolonged pornography consumption on
family values, however, concerns the desire to have children…
[E]xposure to pornography reduced the desire to have children, and it
did so in a uniform fashion. Male and female respondents, students and
nonstudents alike, wanted fewer children on the average. The desire to
have male offspring dropped 31%. The desire for female offspring, being
lower overall, dropped by about twice that margin: 61%. This reduction
proved specific to gender. Male respondents expressed little desire for
female offspring altogether. It’s the desire of females for offspring
of their own kind that, after consumption of pornography, shrank to one
third of its normal strength…

Jenna Jameson’s Tragic Backstory; Seeking Virgins with Paris Hilton
…Jameson and Paris Hilton have been engaged by a new TV reality show, Virgin Territory.

The series will feature real life virgins and follow their quest to have sex for the first time. Paris and Jenna will help to educate the uninitiated contestants.

Producer Kevin Blatt said: “Paris and Jenna have been contacted about participating in the show.

“We will be unveiling giant billboards in Time Square and Los Angeles advertising for virgins to take part in the show.

“Finding virgins in New York or Los Angeles is no easy task.”

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