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6-year-old girls want to look ‘sexy’!

One of my relatives living in the USA had a 8-year-old girl. I was shocked when I found out she desperately wanted to look sexy, and more desperately wanted to have a boyfriend. She reached puberty at early age. Her paediatrician said that girls hitting puberty earlier than ever because of hormones in food. I noticed she watched TV non stop and she never listened to her parents.
A new study says, most girls as young as 6 are already beginning to think of themselves as sex-objects.

Another study says, 30% of Girls’ Clothing Is Sexualized in Major Sales Trend.

6-year-old girls chose the sexualized doll as their ideal self. After seeing it, the researchers said, ‘It’s very possible that girls wanted to look like the sexy doll because they believe sexiness leads to popularity, which comes with many social advantages.’ Because of this, girls as young as 6 are already feeling the pressure to be sexy. It is definitely very alarming if little girls feel the pressure to be sexy.

The researchers say:

Media consumption alone didn’t influence girls to prefer the sexy doll. But girls who watched a lot of TV and movies and who had mothers who reported self-objectifying tendencies, such as worrying about their clothes and appearance many times a day, in the study were more likely to say the sexy doll was popular.

Mothers’ religious beliefs also emerged as an important factor in how girls see themselves. Girls who consumed a lot of media but who had religious mothers were protected against self-sexualizing, perhaps because these moms “may be more likely to model higher body-esteem and communicate values such as modesty.

Another interesting finding:

Girls who didn’t consume a lot of media but who had religious mothers were much more likely to say they wanted to look like the sexy doll.This pattern of results may reflect a case of ‘forbidden fruit’ or reactance, whereby young girls who are overprotected from the perceived ills of media by highly religious parents … begin to idealize the forbidden due to their underexposure. It means, low media consumption is not a silver bullet against early self-sexualization in girls.

I believe ‘the proliferation of sexualized images of girls in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development’. I also believe that ‘parents can play a role to protect girls from the sexualizing culture. They can help their daughters navigate a sexualizing world by instructing their daughters about their values and by not demonstrating objectified and sexualized behaviors themselves.’

I do not think religious mothers can ultimately save their daughters from self-sexualization. Non-religious mothers who want women to live with dignity and rights can do it. The difference between religious and non-religious mothers is, religious mothers believe in patriarchal religion, so obviously they do not believe in women’s equality or women’s freedom. Women who believe in religion believe that women are somehow inferior to men.
Treating yourself as an inferior being is not less dangerous than treating yourself as a sex-object. The two are related.

Parents have no right to snatch the childhood away from their daughters. Children deserve a childhood. But I think it will not always be possible for parents alone to save their girl children from self-sexualization if the sexual objectification of women in the media continues.

Comments

  1. ... says

    This makes me want to throw up things I have forgotten eating. I mean, kids like pretending to be grown up, but to twist it like this… Don’t always agree with what Peter Hitchens says, but he was bang on about this.

  2. ... says

    It’s worth, however, looking at #5 on this list:

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-terrible-things-you-cant-stop-your-children-from-doing/

    “I asked 10 women at random what age they started wearing makeup, and the average answer was sixth grade (about age 11). None of them grew up to be skanks, and none of the mothers who raised them were skanks (though I admit this is a difficult question to get an accurate answer to).
    […]But think about that. At that age, do you honestly think that when they’re putting on eyeshadow and picking out jeans, that they’re thinking of enticing a fellow sixth grader into bed? Hell no. They want to feel grown up, so they dress like the grownups. The overwhelming majority of women I’ve asked about this told me the same thing: “We didn’t wear makeup back then to attract boys. We wore it to fit in with other girls.””

    Uh-huh.

  3. Daniel Schealler says

    I’m reminded of a 12-year-old girl I met recently. She was shy but – when coaxed into speaking – managed to be quietly charming.

    Later I found out from an older relative of hers that she’d been making comments along the lines of “I’m fat.”

    Which was messed up. She was 12, and already starting to value herself as a thing first and as a person second.

    (Incidentally, it was also untrue – she wasn’t overweight by any stretch of the imagination – but that’s besides the point).

  4. Ysanne says

    Could I remark that the photos with the “grown-up looking” girls (the one lying on the tiger fur and the one in the silk armchair) are part of a photoshoot that focused on the absurdity of fashion magazines aimed at adult women having the fashion modelled by 13-year-olds? The whole point was to show that there’s something really wrong with casting children in poses implying and appealing to adult sexuality.

    And most of the other pics look like costumes: I’m not sure whether dressing up as “sexy-looking model” or “Britney Spears” so much worse than princess, fairy or ballerina. Same for the “beach babe” girl with the bikini and props. Dressing up as a “sexy lady” for fun doesn’t mean “sex object” any more than dressing up as “vampire zombie” means “future murderer”.

    Yes, there is sexualisation of kids (and girls) but IMHO only the Fancy Mancy picture gets it marginally right: Almost all girl clothes these days go are pink, with glittery prints of “love” or similar on them, and are cut in a way that says “girl” while being totally unsuitable for physical activity. At the same time, little girl’s bodies are regarded as frighteningly sexual and sinful due to the fact that they grow into women one day, and thus in need of covering up: With bikini tops for non-existent breasts, and school uniform dresses that distort a normal child’s body shape into a something bag-like. All in the name of “not sexualising”.

    • mynameischeese says

      “are part of a photoshoot that focused on the absurdity of fashion magazines aimed at adult women having the fashion modelled by 13-year-olds”

      No. The photos originally appeared IN a fashion magazine (Vogue) in a photo-editorial called “Cadeaux.”

      • Ysanne says

        Yes, and it was one of the few instances when a photo-editorial in Vogue addressed a topic other than fashion: It was intended and expected to stir controversy about depicting children in a way that implies adult sexuality.
        With very young teen models routinely featured in fashion magazines, styled in a way that blurs the line between child and adult, the creepiness of this blurring was clarified and highlighted by the absurdity of a photo editorial with girls who unambigously look like the dressed-up children they are.

  5. Ysanne says

    she desperately wanted to look sexy, and more desperately wanted to have a boyfriend

    Um, did you make sure she meant what you understood there? Just asking because the neighbour girl, 7 years, has been going on about boyfriends a while now, and recently she told one of my boys: “I’m not gonna be your boyfriend.”
    It turned out that she thought that a “boyfriend” is someone who is friends with a boy. The adults clarified, but she still doesn’t quite get that there’s a difference between a friend who is a boy and a boyfriend. (Not that surprising, seeing how she’s a child, after all…)

  6. Shamim Ahmed Laskar says

    I have always done some “Plagiarism” of Taslima’s work. In Indian sub-continent nobody writes in so detailed way about the problems of woman. and they devoid of that courage or chivalry to raise the voice against patriarchy. I am just a follower of Taslima in every sense. I borrowed ( in reality, like a pirate)some posts of her, translated and used them in some Bangladeshi community blogs.But with clear reference from “No Country For Woman”. Even I have sent that write-up in a local newspaper at Silchar town. Alas! it wasn’t published. I think they engulfed that article. They are afraid of Taslima’s name.
    Taslima is another name of terror to those dumb-ass yellow journalists, who always search for spicy news with juicy details. But someone writes ‘loud and clear’ about woman’s right and evils of patriarchy those idiots get panic stricken by a small hint to loose their readership,sympathy and reader( read ‘customer and advertiser’ instead of ‘reader’)attachment. This is very harsh reality.

  7. Uncephalized says

    This study is troubling, if its conclusions are actually supported by the data.

    But looking at the pictures of the “dolls” they used for comparisons, a couple of potential problems spring to mind:

    The outfit pairs they are presenting are not similar at all–different colors, completely different styles of clothing, etc. So how do the researchers know what differences the girls are keying in on? Seems to me if you want to draw a valid conclusion you need to isolate the “sexiness” of the outfit from the other variables as much as possible. Obviously some things have to change when hemlines change if you want them to keep looking like real clothes, but it’s easy to imagine conservative vs provocative versions of styles that look much more similar than the pair they showed in the article. As one commenter pointed out it could be something as simple as the black outfit being preferred because black is a “cool kids” color.

    Second, and I think this is VERY relevant: the dolls are clearly images of teenage or young-adult women, not elementary-school girls! And in that regard I think we are not necessarily giving enough credit to these girls’ level of social sophistication. When the images have obviously-adult proportions (narrowed waist and flared hips, developed breasts), it is the researchers who are pre-biasing the images to be sexualized! If they had shown dolls with childlike proportions, I wouldn’t be surprised if the results were very different. The sample questions they gave, even when couched in “which would you rather be” terms, could easily be interpreted by a smart 7-year-old (and they are mostly pretty smart at at age) as “which one of these teenagers would you like to be when you get older?” In which case it would be perfectly reasonable for them to apply fashion characteristics they have learned from older girls and young women to judge which girls they think might be more popular or desirable.

    I also wouldn’t be that surprised if the results of a better-designed study were the same, because this may well be a real and important issue. But this study seems very poorly thought-out to me, so it’s hard to judge whether its conclusions mean much of anything.

  8. says

    For folks who want more information beyond the study- the APA had a friggin task force on the sexualization of young girls a few years back, there is a ton of research that shows that sexualizing young girls destroys their self esteem. It is an enormous problem for appearance to be the main way women gain status in society.

    Its a bunch of shit to be a girl now. I am in Utah with very conservative religious people making up the majority, and most girls dress very modestly because they don’t want to be called sluts by everyone in the community (and then basically discarded as worthless). I don’t know why this is even an issue- why should young girls know what modesty is? They can’t understand modesty, or all its implications (like the assumption that women have to dress a certain way to protect men from feeling aroused). Why should they have to worry about how adult men see them? I loathe that the only mainstream alternative available to sexualization is religiously enforced modesty- all of this is about how adult men react to young girls, and how to best address that, instead of being about what young girls need.

    • says

      Little girls wearing nothing look better than wearing bikini tops. Burqa looks vulgar. Women wearing make up and clothings with the intention of becoming sex objects look ugly. I do not think women who sexualize themselves always believe in sexual freedom. Many people mistake sexual slavery for sexual freedom. Without wearing mini skirts and any pink or red top showing cleavage and high heels I have been fighting without any compromise for women’s sexual freedom, freedom to wear whatever women like without being sex objects, and freedom to say yes to sex, as well as no to sex.

      Little girls learn from everywhere. If objectification is everywhere, it will be impossible for a handful of feminists ,who want to see that women are considered as human beings with brains rather than nothing but bodies with some sex organs, to prevent girl children from dreaming to be sex-objects.

      I always admire your thought-provoking ideas.

        • uncephalized says

          Only if they are pedophiles, in which case they would have been titillated anyway.

          The sight of a pre-pubescent child–in any state of (un)dress–should not stir sexual feelings in a mentally normal person. If you find that it does, there is something wrong with you and you should seek help before the feelings you are repressing lead you to harm an innocent child.

  9. lorn says

    Make believe and dress-up are entirely natural for kids that age. making a living photographing them and running kiddie pageants isn’t. And too much TV isn’t good for anyone.

    Kids need to spend time playing in the woods and rolling in the mud. Girls focusing on their appearance, and how they can manipulate other with it, that early isn’t healthy. Pushed into that mindset by adults is perverse.

  10. S Babu says

    I hate the two-piece bikinis for little girls who do not have breasts yet. It looks really creepy. They don’t have breasts, why do they have to cover their chest with an imitation bra?

    • says

      Why should they cover them when they are big? Oh yeah, religion, society just accepts that as a given. However different they are, hatred of the human body is what unifies them all.

  11. says

    I look at it this way: sex is one way that adults have fun, and we adult women choose how and when we look sexual with such purposes in mind, and we try to negotiate between our desires and social norms.

    But when kids play, it’s almost never about sex. A lot of those outfits are physically restrictive, one has to move carefully to make sure they stay in place. I wonder if the little girls do that? If so, that means less playing in the physically active ways they might want to. Little kids might care what their clothes look like, but they should care a lot about being comfortable in them!!

    And for both women and girls, we also have to deal with the men who think sexy clothes mean they can rape us, conflicting with the cultural knowledge that we will be better loved if we dress sexy. That’s a BIG problem that nobody should have to deal with, but especially young girls.

    So yes, there are many sides to the problem, but it is a problem.

    I (born 1986, USA) was a weird kid. I had a late puberty, loved to run and climb, and wasn’t good at socializing, so it was a while before my clothing choices conformed to the norms and other girls were nice to me. But even the other girls didn’t worry so young about dressing sexy. I was also misogynistic for a long time, and thought women who “dressed sexy” were less intelligent and more useless; now I don’t. Now I have figured out my own (queer) sexuality and make some dress choices around that. So once again I get negative feedback for those choices, but I can deal with it.

  12. Alok says

    You should learn some Biology about sexuality, Sexuality starts at womb! Naturally We both Man & Womens are sexmachines for nature!

  13. says

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  14. James Cooke says

    I like your page and what it represents! Well done for taking this stand.
    I have one clarification to make though…
    “Religious” mothers as you called them, I preffer the term “Christian mothers” or “godly women”; do not believe they are inferior to men and the men do not believe they are superior to women.
    Both know the Bible teaches everyone is loved equally and valued equally by God even those ignoring Him.
    They simply have different roles but know that both are equal in value, they are equal in worth.
    A leadership role in a workplace does not make the boss superior to the employees…they are all equal in value even though one is in a leadership position.
    I can understand how some of these mothers may over protect though and its important for them like you said to discuss things and model healthy behaviour.
    I hope this helps your understanding of Christian women, the better you understand them the better you can help them with their little girls : )

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