Over-Sexualization of Children in the Media

By: Claire Levin

Children are the leaders of tomorrow. We should value the development of youth strongly due to the potential outcomes. Objectification and sexualization of women is a driving force in our current culture in the United States and it all begins with the over-sexualization of children. I find this theme important because if awareness is increased then maybe we as a society can potentially break the norm and allow our children to be as they are, no longer portraying them in a hyper-sexualized way. I chose to pick a variety of mediums because this trend is not segmented into just one, children are sexualized in many aspects of our lives.

Dance Precisions – Run The World

At first glance, this looks like a fairly impressive dance performance. The girls are clearly talented and probably could hold their own your average music video set. At second glance, you may begin to notice their underdeveloped physiques and short stature. That is because each member of this dance team is 8 years old. An 8 year old is either in the second or third grade. The dance moves these 8 year olds are doing are not age appropriate in any way. Media has no problem over-sexualizing girls of any age, including children. In this specific case, the girls are scantily clad in very provocative clothing and are dancing sexually. I find this ironic since the song they are dancing to, Run The World by Beyonce, is a song with lyrics that is meant to empower women and they are already degrading themselves at such a young age by feeding into this societal trend that young girls are sex objects.


Fergie – Fergalicious

The over-sexualization of children in the media is not it’s own entity. This trend is fueled by the objectification and sexualization of women from every walk of life. In this music video, released in 2009, Fergie is reinforcing the sexualization of women and through her actions reinforcing the sexualization of children. 47 seconds into the music video, Fergie, along with her dancers, are seen in sexy versions of Girl Scout uniforms. Showing grown women in this light connects Girl Scouts with sex and vice versa. The lyrics talk about how people want a piece of her and a slice of what she has while calling her tasty throughout the entire song. Fergie is single handedly objectifying herself, portraying herself as just a piece of candy that is to be devoured. Connecting these ideas with children and something as innocent as the Girl Scouts makes little girls identify with this behavior feuling the cycle of objectification, especially when the girls and women objectify themselves.

December 2011

December 2011

French Vogue

There was an uproar in 2011 after French Vogue printed a series of images in which young girls, later found to be 6 years old, were shot as if they were young adult women. The girls were in full make up, wearing dresses with plunging neck lines and high heels. These girls were exploited for their youth. The objectification of children comes in several forms. One is the sexualization of children which is seen here and the other is the infantilization of women (Wade). The fashion industry plays between the two by altering images of grown women to make them appear to be younger. The pose in this image with the slightly spread legs and “come hither” gaze cover this young girl in a sexual cloud, stripping her of the youthful innocence that is so sought after by the older women in the fashion industry. If the girls who are actually young are not allowed to embrace their youth and grown women are denying their age and aspiring to come across more youthful, is anyone really living in reality any more?

Toddlers & Tiaras – Pretty Woman

Toddlers & Tiaras is a TLC reality television show that documents youth beauty pageant. Beauty pageants objectify women through judging participants on superficial standards. Youth beauty pageants are even worse because they hold young girls up to similar standards even though they are far too young to be so critically analyzed for the way they look. Young girls should be empowered and be taught to find beauty within themselves and not have to worry about their spray on tan or false eye lashes. In this specific example, a young girl is dressed up as Julia Robert’s character from the film Pretty Woman, who just happens to be a prostitute. The youth beauty pageant industry is objectifying enough as it is without adding the extra element of dressing up like a prostitute.


Disney Princesses

When I think of my childhood, coming across Disney is unavoidable. The Disney brand is targeted towards young girls specifically. Why then are many of the Disney Princesses portrayed in skimpy clothing. Ariel (seen in the image above) and Jasmine are the first to come across my mind. Both are exposing cleavage and their midriffs. Throughout the films, the attire of the Princesses, who are idolized by millions of girls across the globe, is instilling the idea that it is okay to expose yourself in such a public way. When little girls play dress up or pick out a halloween costume, a Disney Princess is probably high up on their list of outfits. We have been ignoring the influence the attire has on young girls of this generation. The Disney stamp of approval seems to be all parents need to validate the movies. We need to be asking ourselves if a change needs to be made in the portrayal of the Princesses and in turn, their impact on movie viewers. I doubt it is Disney’s intention to sexualize all of America’s youth, but they need to understand the reception and interpretation of the images and themes they are putting into the cultural network.

We live in an image based culture, as stated by Sut Jhally, a culture that, after years of media outputs, has created a hypersexualized norm for women in the public eye and specifically in the fashion industry. This norm has slowly trickled into youth culture, as media outlets began to objectify children as well as full grown women. The issue started through the lens of women as a whole but you need to differentiate between sexualization of women as a whole and young girls because there is a different result.  Everyone became a consumer under the idea that “sex sells.” In the case of adultification of children and infantilization of women, society is selling an unobtainable product, youth as well as early sexual maturity. This product, if you view it as such, is marketed both to children and women, creating discord in values and a cycle of objectification of women which turns into objectification of children. My playlist provides insight into the holistic view of the cycle, highlighting the result of the cycle, the origins of sexualization of children, and the way society ignores these trends even when they are so explicit. The dance routine depicts what seems to be a normal facet of our culture that we have become desensitized to and no longer see as inappropriate. Fergie’s music video highlights how objectification of women with themes of youth and childhood can trickle down to objectification of children through association. The French Vogue images portray the young girls in the most classic form of sexualization because they are essentially adult images with underage models. The Toddlers & Tiaras example is more extreme than the others because it goes past just objectification and crosses the line of turning young women into sexual products in the literal sense. However, the television show itself objectifies the young girls too. Finally, in the case of the Disney Princesses, I wanted to show that objectification can be subtle and easily go missed if we do not make ourselves aware to the cycle in place. Together, the artifacts create the context for  the argument that we are in fact over-sexualizing our youth, the evidence is undeniable.

Works Cited

DancingWithYT. “Dance Precisions – Run The World.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. Youtube, 17 Jul. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

FergieVEVO. “Fergalicious.” Online Music Video. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Jun. 2009. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

“Part of Your World.” Disney Princess. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

TLC. “Pretty Woman” Toddler ⎪Toddlers & Tiaras.” Television Show Clip. YouTube. YouTube. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Wade, Lisa PhD. Adultification & Sexualization of Girls in French Vogue. Sociological Images.  8 Jan 2011. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/01/08/adultification-and-sexualization-of-girls-in-french-vogue. Web.


One comment

  1. I agree that its despicable the run away destruction of children’s psyche at an early age through sexual objectification

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