“It’s a really warped sense of what it means to be sexy.”
(This photo is one I Photoshopped for a post from way back in October 2006:
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) – Two volunteer cheerleader coaches have been dismissed after one of them repeatedly lifted her shirt during a youth football game to show her 7- and 8-year-old girl students a smiley face drawn on her belly.)
I was reminded of that post when Laura sent the following article to me with her thoughts and a comment from her brother, George.
George: “As usual, NO mention of the economic dimensions…just as in similar pieces about LGBT sexual representation.”
Laura: “Yeah. Empowering… obviously, porn, objectification of women (and by extension girls, because the younger, the better) has been a staple of our society forever and a day, although it has taken a different shape (and become more accessible) with the “democratization” of the Internet. There are other examples – pole dancing classes, strip dancing classes and make your own porn movie – all are within easy reach of all. Yes, empowering, indeed.
Just yesterday, Nils and I saw a twisted old man literally teaching some young Latina girls (16 yrs old or so) how to smoke dope. (I think they’d come out of a nasty, bling-bling, cigar bar that opened up in my neighborhood.)
Then they all piled into his car and drove off. What were the influences on those young girls? All dressed in ways my mom and dad would have made clear was unacceptable with just one look! I suppose in some quarters the girls who piled into the car are liberated and I, by comparison, was oppressed.
And to your point, George, of course the economic and racial dynamics completely absent from these discussions.”
“Does the trend build confidence in young women — or diminish it?
By Martha Irvine
Updated: 3:15 p.m. ET June 3, 2007
CHICAGO – Porn used to be relegated to a video hidden in the bottom drawer, or a magazine under the mattress. Today, it’s part of everyday life.
Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends have become TV’s “girls next door.” Porn stars have MySpace pages and do voiceovers for video games. And while “porn on demand” is standard for hotel TVs and upgraded cable packages, it’s even easier to find it with a few clicks on the computer.
In April, more than a third of the U.S. Internet audience visited sites that fit into the online “adult” category, according to comScore Media Metrix.
So the message is clear: In today’s world, sex doesn’t just sell. The pervasiveness of porn has made sexiness — from subtle to raunchy — a much-sought-after attribute online, at school and even at work.
Many agree that the trend has had a particularly strong influence on young women — in some cases, taking shape as an unapologetic embracing of sexuality and exhibitionism.
“I am one of those girls,” says Holly Eglinton, a 31-year-old Canadian who recently won a talent search competition to appear as an unclothed newscaster on the Internet’s “Naked News.” She auditioned after meeting a producer for the show on a social networking site where she’s posted provocative photos of herself — an increasingly common practice.
For Eglinton, taking off her clothes for an Internet audience was freeing, fun and a little rebellious.
“It’s something that sort of suits my personality,” she says. “I’m kind of an extrovert and a bit of a camera hog, a poser.”
It’s a prevalent sentiment in our look-at-me culture. But many wonder if it really is empowering, especially for younger women and girls who try to emulate what’s already on the Web.
Too often, educators and health professionals say, the results are cases of “Girls Gone Wild” — gone wild.
Michael Simon, a therapist and high school counselor in the San Francisco Bay area, has seen an increasing number of girls and young women in his private practice after episodes in which they undressed or masturbated in front of a Web cam for people they met online.
“Instead of pornography or performative sexuality being one choice among many ways of being sexual, it’s essentially become the standard of sexiness,” says Simon. “It’s also the standard by which a man or woman is a prude, depending on how much they embrace that kind of sexuality.”
Yvonne K. Fulbright, a sexologist and author who co-hosts the “Sex Files” program on Sirius satellite radio, also has seen the shift in attitude.
She’s posted messages on Craigslist looking for people who want to comment on various topics for the show — and, instead, often receives responses from young women who send descriptions of their breast and waist sizes.
“They’re under the impression that they can be the next big thing,” Fulbright says. “Unfortunately, for a lot of females that means taking off your clothes and being sexual.
“It’s a really warped sense of what it means to be sexy.”
Indeed, there was a time when dancing for the masses in barely there outfits was the realm of music video stars and strippers. Then the Internet and reality TV came along, providing new platforms for young women to flaunt it for a shot at fame.
In one hit prime-time series, for instance, eager young contestants perform soft-core porn dance routines in hopes of becoming the next member of The Pussycat Dolls singing group.
The fascination with being “hot” also has made its way into the workplace, where confidence is often conveyed in the way one looks and dresses.
“I would say that, in the world of Washington, D.C., power brokers, it’s important to be sexy, but in a more sophisticated, muted way,” says Charles Small, a 25-year-old young professional who works in the nation’s capital. That’s in contrast, he says, to cities such as Los Angeles and Miami, “where overt sexiness is more the status quo.”
Some employers — taken aback by the trend — have responded by setting tougher dress codes. Many school administrators have done the same.
“As a high school teacher, I see 14-year-old girls dressing in a way that makes me shake my head. Where do they get that?” asks Dennis Brown, an educator and parent in Huntley, Ill., outside Chicago.
Recently, he says his own 5-year-old daughter proclaimed, “Daddy, I look fat.”
“And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go,”’ he says. “Now I have to start deconstructing that mind-set.”
It’s a big topic of discussion among researchers. A 2007 report from the American Psychological Association compiled the findings of myriad studies, showing that the sexualization of young women and girls, in particular, can hurt them in many ways. Problems can include anything from low self-esteem and eating disorders to depression and anxiety.
Simon, the California therapist, has seen those symptoms in several of his young female patients.
While boys tend to seek out porn for their own sexual pleasure, he sees a sexual disconnect with girls who exhibit provocative behavior they’re not ready for — from undressing online to performing oral sex on boys.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with their sexual pleasure,” says Simon. “It has to do with pleasing somebody else — the grasping for attention.
“As a parent, it makes me want to cry.”
And while they tell him they feel empowered, too often, he says they end up getting pegged as “sluts.”
Julie Albright, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has noted that dynamic in her research. She’s working on a book about “players,” men who juggle more than one sex partner and earn a title of esteem for behavior that much of society still frowns upon for women.
“If you ‘act like a man,’ in that sense, you’re trying to grab hold of that same kind of power, that same kind of lifestyle — and claim male privilege,” Albright says.
“The problem is, you’re still female and it’s still a man’s world.””
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