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Sexualisation - why is it happening?

(26 Posts)
LilBB Thu 23-Jun-11 09:02:03

Ok this may be a bit rambling but some things have been going round in my head and I need to get them out there to see if anyone else has any ideas about the subject.

I'm 25, my brother is 18. The difference I see between my peers and his is quite shocking, with regard to sex and the sexualisation of women. It makes me wonder why, in such a short amount of time has this happened. I started to think about what has changed in this time.

The loss of childhood - I went out all the time. I used to be bouncing off the walls waiting for an acceptable time to go get my friends. We then rollerbladed, had bike rides, collected frog spawn, climbed trees etc etc. Then, and I think it started to happen around the time of Sara Payne, children seemed to stop playing out as much. My 8 year old neice never plays out and cannot ride a bike!! I think theres a certain sadness to the fact that parents think there their children are safer indoors when there are probably more sexual predators online than there are trawling the streets.

Accessibility of porn - until I was an adult the only pornographic thing I saw was a joy of sex book found in a friends parents bedside table and a playboy jigsaw found in another friends attic. We actually did the jigsaw which is bit strange. The Internet we got when I was a teen but it was so incredibly slow it would have taken 3 days to google the word porn. The computer was also huge and in a room where it was constantly seen my family members. Now kids have laptops and smartphones. Anything can be accessed straight away without parents being aware.

The rise of the glamour model - I was aware of page 3 models although they were not advocated in our household and I didn't know much about it. Now nuts/zoo is cheap and easily accessible, as well as being tolerated by most people. Katie Price is heralded as a role model and her (porn star) look replicated by a lot of people. The playboy image is sold to children on pencil cases, my pencil case had Hanson on it and came free with smash hits.

Clothes - I find a spongebob squarepants bra and knickers set, which I have seen in New Look, rather disgusting. The clothes and shoes aimed at teenagers is shockingly sexual. I also notice a big difference between how I dress for a night out and how younger women do.

TV - now I must admit some of the tv I would sneak a peek at as a teen was rather risqué. There was queer as folk, footballers wives, sex and the city etc. If anything it seems post watershed has calmed down a bit but pre watershed they seem to be constantly pushing the boundary of whats acceptable. Although I only had 5 channels on my little portable. With many teenagers having a lot more channels can they access similar programmes to what I saw easily?

Music videos - the Britney spears video where she dressed as a sexy schoolgirl is quite wrong but seems tame compared to what there is now. Katy Perry, Rhianna et al have videos that make me feel uncomfortable. Yet you can walk round shops hearing about whips and chains exciting them or liking the way it burns when a violent partner sets fire to them. Makes Oops I did it again seem rather preferable.

I can't really think of anything else at the moment although I'm sure there's more. Does anyone have any thoughts on what I've said or anything to add? Am I talking absolute bull poo and completely missing the obvious reason why this is happening?

MillyR Thu 23-Jun-11 11:13:47

I don't think it is because of changes in the way children behave. My children still play out and have a very similar childhood to the one I had in the 70s/80s. The only difference is that they have access to the internet, but they don't see a lot of stereotypical sexualised stuff because that is not the kind of thing they want to watch.

The Britney Spears video has never bothered me. DD has watched it and I cannot see that the dancing style is sexual at all. The issue seems to be because of the connotations that school uniform is inherently sexy - that is caused by porn, not music videos. But if you are a child who actually wears a school uniform, you won't see that connotation - you just see a teenager dancing in her school uniform and some standard sportswear. The Rhianna video is another matter entirely - totally inappropriate IMO.

I can't find a pic of the bra and knickers spongebob set, but can't imagine why spongebob would be seen as sexy or inappropriate! It seems entirely appropriate for a teen girl to wear. My DD has spongebob knickers.

I think the reason sexualisation has happened is because of the behaviour of adults. Adults have entirely taken over many public spaces with porn culture, town centres, supermarkets, newsagents. They think they can act however they like, and sell whatever they like, and it is the role of parents (really mothers) to keep their children away from public spaces. It means that families either can't go into many everyday places or children will become sexualised by what they see around them. Even if you avoid such places, it is still impossible to avoid adults behaving inappropriately in front of children. Mine went to a children's halloween party where some of the mothers turned up in burlesque type halloween costumes.

When parliament had a debate recently, and one of the MPs mentioned the sale of porn mags and porn inspired mags in newsagents, the immediate response of one of the other MPs was - why do parents take children into newsagents? We are being expected to bring kids and teens up in a bubble, but they have to learn from wider society, and wider adult society is really messed up.

LilBB Thu 23-Jun-11 11:41:20

That's a good point about the Britney video. At the time I don't remember it being 'sexy' but probably because I have been told it is I just believe them.

I can't believe women would go to a children's party in sexualised outfits. That makes me wonder though why do those women do it? What makes them think it's acceptable?

The spongebob thing was a few year ago so maybe they dont do it anymore. It just struck me as odd. The bra was padded, underwired and cut like a wonderbra (very open in the middle IYKWIM) but it was also so so tiny. It seemed so different from a bra that serves it's purpose, from the plain white cotton ones I had as a young teen.

MillyR Thu 23-Jun-11 13:13:02

I may be in a minority over the Britney video!

I think the reason why bras for teens are padded is because many teens don't want the shape of their developing breasts or nipples to be visible, and a padded bra covers everything up and keeps breasts warm when they are growing and sensitive. School shirts are very thin polycotton material, and everything is visible through them. Where I live, many schools have a uniform of shirt and blazer, but no jumper. That is going to be cold in winter. DS wears thermal underwear under his uniform. When I was at school, we all wore double thickness crop tops because those thin teen bras were not fit for purpose. So I think that may be why teens wear padded bras.

Ormirian Thu 23-Jun-11 22:22:21

Sexualisation is the triumph of rampant capitalism. Sex sells so sex is everywhere. And what adults have, children hanker after.

HerBeX Thu 23-Jun-11 22:36:17

That is a really good point Milly and not one I've seen articulated before - the fact that adults are taking over all public spaces and expecting families and children not to be in those spaces.

Interesting. <Mulls it over>

MoChan Thu 23-Jun-11 23:24:10

Ormirian has it in a nutshell. Sex, porn, etc, has saturated popular culture, and children are as exposed to popular culture as adults are. And the more normalised it becomes, the more accepting adults are, the more likely they are to dress their children in inappropriate clothes, etc. It sucks.

MrsClown Fri 24-Jun-11 10:27:46

Really good point Milly. I have what I feel is a good example. My husband and 3 sons went to Menorca on holiday a few years ago. We went to the capital where they had a market then went to a lovely street coffee shop to have a drink. It was very busy with very few free tables. My sons were 11, 12, 15 at the time. Anyway, I went to sit down then noticed that a young teenage boy was reading Nuts at the next table. He wasnt even trying to hide it. He looked about 15 and was with his parents and younger brothers. I suggested to my husband that we find another coffee shop as I did not feel comfortable sitting there. Also, there was the fact that on the next table to these 'people' was a small girl with her family and she appeared about 5 years old. My husband refused to find another coffee shop and instead said to the 'people' whose son was reading Nuts 'you are in a public place with a small girl sitting next to you. Do you think it is appropriate for your son to be reading porn in here. My wife and I chose not to see it so we dont want it in our faces, or a little girl's face for that matter'. The mother of the boy reading Nuts said 'but that isnt my little girl!'. Anyway my husband told them that we werent leaving so they had better stop their son reading the porn and let him do it in the privacy of his bedroom. What shocked me was that no one else said a word! Thank God, they got up and left but were very huffy about it.

I was and am very proud of my husband.

LilBB Fri 24-Jun-11 10:55:50

I was just hoovering and I think I had an epiphany. Is there an irony to that?

We are told to make men happy we should act like 'whores' in the bedroom, that if we want to be treated equal to men then we need to act like men, that porn is perfectly acceptable and what it shows is normal sex. In fact people are made to feel that if they object to porn and glamour models that they are prudes. We are told that our role models are Rhianna and Katy Perry, one of whom was a victim or domestic violence and left her partner. She doesn't use her status to raise awareness or make it clear that it is unacceptable, instead she tells us how much she enjoys pain at the hands of a man. Our other role models are WAGs, women who seemingly enjoy spending every waking moment shopping or holidaying. Women who are cheated on by their husbands and show the world how happy they are by dressing in a little as possible in a conservative country and straddling their scumbag husband.

We are told that it's career or family, if we choose both we are bad mothers. If we choose to stay at home we are to be pitied and must be oppressed. Men can have it all, no one asks a man if he's going part time or if he finds it hard to be away from his children 40 hours a week.

We are told that if we are sexually assaulted or raped its our own fault. We were drunk, we were asking for it in high heels and a short skirt, we shouldn't have been on our own in that place or we said yes then felt ashamed so cried rape.

We must subject ourselves to, and enjoy, beautifying ourselves from a young age. Waxing off hair, having plastic nails, sticking on false eyelashes, putting on uncomfortable underwear to suck us in or push it up. Wearing increasingly higher heeled shoes. Now I do like to look nice especially on an occasion but I think there's every growing pressure to look perfect all the time. It's difficult to find mid heeled shoes, I see people shopping in shoes that are massive and some people turn up for work every day looking like they spent 3 hours getting ready. Celebrities who go out looking less than perfect, even to bloody tesco, get ridiculed. Their faults highlighted in magazines with a big red ring. Why??

LadyClariceCannockMonty Fri 24-Jun-11 11:54:23

What Ormirian said. The sex-heavy culture we live in is inextricably linked to capitalism.

You know, all these years I've never properly understood the Marxist-feminist theory, but all of a sudden I do.

Kids not playing out any more is a slightly different issue, or has some slightly different facets. Crime of all kinds is getting lower every year but people are getting more scared about crime every year, and one of the results of that is that they ferry their kids about in cars or keep them indoors. I think this has a lot to do with the way that the media penetrates and saturates our lives these days; it's not true that more bad things happen now, we just hear about bad things faster and more repeatedly.

Mind you, media has a big part to play in the normalisation of what used to be underground porn culture and the sexualisation of society too.

Sorry, I don't have any conclusions or even any very interesting points! Just musing aloud really. Depressing, innit?

<off to read up on Marxist-feminism>

mapleleef Fri 24-Jun-11 12:00:17

Why? I think it's part of a general commodification of everything: our sexuality, our lifestyles. Look at the way Cath Kidston takes a trend for the nostalgia of the 30s/ 50s make do and mend era, re-packages it and sells it to women who fall for the marketing and feel as if they are the ones who have made done and mended when they buy ready made bunting!
Popular culture with programmes like the X Factor promote the idea that you don't need to work hard or be educated to get by in this world, instead you can break lucky with your inherent talents for dancing or singing. This however as we all know only applies to a tiny, tiny percentage of 'talented' young people. Their hopes are being raised for the big break instead of encouraging them to fight the system and change things for the better for everyone.
I agree with everything you've said during your ironic ironing epiphany! Having lived outside the uk for 29 years but still visiting often, I find all the above much worse than when i lived there. In countries unlike the UK where there is much greater economic equality, there tends to be greater gender equality. When the status of women is higher in society there isn't so much pressure on them to conform to men's ideas of what is acceptable. When there is more affordable high quality childcare close to the workplace, there are more women who can continue to work full-time, be financially independant and be in a better bargaining position to share household chores with their partner.
As to the pornification of everything, it is a marketing of our sexuality made so much easier by the anonymity of the internet. The majority of men used to feel embarassed about having the odd magazine under the bed, now they're able to access the most hardcore porn without anyone else knowing. And somewhere along the line, the shame has gone anyway and some of them have become desensitized to the violence and must see women as one-dimensional sex objects who are less deserving of respect than men. I really fear for the present and next generation of teenagers who will probably learn about porn rather than lovemaking. I'd like to see education from parents and teachers counter this trend somehow.

ChantingAsISpeak Fri 24-Jun-11 16:25:27

I agree, there does seem to be a rapid increase in the sexualisation of our society, which seems to be running in conjunction with women being viewed as more and more passive and decorative.

I have been teaching for the past 10 years and have really noticed a difference in the attitude of the girls I teach. There is a much higher focus on appearance - almost all discussion revolves around fake tans, false nails, diets, pink, hair extensions and false eyelashes. A significant number of girls now come to school with false nails and eyelashes. The language the girls are subjected to has also become more derogatory.

What disturbs me the most is that many of these girls are treated like idiots because of the way they look. Many others don't want to appear intelligent because the boys won't like it. There seems to be a general consensus among them that the boys are superior.

I'm not sure if it is possible to pinpoint the causes, I make a point of challenging anything that suggests girls are less capable - eg. assemblies where all positive role models are male. As I teach media I also choose topics that encourage pupils to challenge the images they see, but I do feel like I am struggling up hill - many of the girls don't seem to understand why some of the representations should be challenged.

mapleleef Fri 24-Jun-11 17:14:42

I know it seems an uphill struggle. I've had teacher friends tell me about girls of 8 or 9 turning up at school parties wearing high heels.Why do they or their parents think heels are suitable footwear, there is the health issue not to mention the sexualisation. I teach swimming and so am able to encourage the girls to be competitive and keep fit. Have just been enjoying Wimbledon and thought why don't more teenagers see great sportswomen like the William sisters or Maria Sharapova for instance as someone to aspire to instead of the Katy Prices of this world - they're strong, confident, focussed young women (not so young but very fit in Date Krum's case.) They're also articulate and must gain immense satisfaction from their professions. They are admired for their skill and dedication to the sport not their sexual appeal to men.

mapleleef Fri 24-Jun-11 17:47:57

Or if one wants a British role model then Laura Robson, she played really well today despite losing to Sharapova!

LilBB Fri 24-Jun-11 18:10:17

To paraphrase something from another thread 'you can be whatever you want to be, be a beautiful doctor or beautiful lawyer'. I think that there is far too much emphasis on being beautiful. Its not enough to be hardworking or intelligent or driven, if you are a woman you need to be perfect. I think over the last few years, perhaps with the growth of the beauty industry, clothes industry and the rise of the womens magazines, the pressure to be perfect is enormous.

Growing up I remember my mum going for her eyebrows waxed and thats about it. Now for a lot of women its normal to wax eyebrows, legs, underarms, bikini line, have fake nails, regular facials, fake tan, hair done regularly (god forbid you have roots or grey hair!!). Oh and this hair needs to be perfect, I know lots of people who straighten their hair every day before work. Aging is unacceptable, if one of the many wonder creams doesn't work why not have poison injected in to your face? Still not good enough then get your face pulled over your head and stapled. Too fat? Then buy one of the celeb DVDs or replace your meals with half a bowl of cereal. Teeth should be white and straight. No one bats an eyelid if someone decides to have a boob job. Surey this must filter down to younger girls?

ziptoes Fri 24-Jun-11 21:19:12

What Ormirian said. Sex sells. Consumers of both genders buy it. Everyone slags off Nuts and Loaded but have you looked at the front of a "womans" magazine recently?

I teach at a university and am astounded at what female students turn up to graduation in. makes me feel like a frumpy old bugger, but I also think it shows a lack of respect of themselves and the ceremony they are going through which is about celebrating years of hard intellectual work. Not how toned your upper thighs are.

It feels to me like we are sliding backwards, but I agree, I am confused as to why. And what to do about it.

dittany Fri 24-Jun-11 22:09:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dittany Fri 24-Jun-11 22:16:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LilBB Fri 24-Jun-11 22:44:11

I think you make a very good point Dittany. I admit I do not seek out porn, it's not what I feel particularly comfortable with and not something I was exposed to as a child/teen. I have seen it and have recently been trying to educate myself more with. Most of the porn I have seen is in documentaries.

A while ago I was with some friends. I cant remember why it came up but someone mentioned double vaginal penetration, I think it was something to do with a clip they had been sent. Anyway it's not something I had ever heard of and I could not work out the logistics of this so ended up feeling embarrassed and prudish. When I think about it though was I right to feel like that? Why should someone be expected to know that? I think that just proves to me how acceptable porn has become. I know if that were to happen again my response would be much different!!

dittany Fri 24-Jun-11 22:48:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LilBB Fri 24-Jun-11 23:00:13

The thing is if I had not found this forum I would have always thought that I was being prudish. How many other people are made to feel like I was? The friends I was with where in the majority female and several of them gay yet they knew what it was, like its perfectly acceptable.

dittany Fri 24-Jun-11 23:03:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

forkful Sat 25-Jun-11 01:05:04

OP - it sounds like you've worked lots of this out just by doing some thinking.smile

I think you'd like the stoppornculture.org website, especially the slideshow/talks. Your posts prompted me to visit the site and it is the anecdote to the -lightweight- Bailey review (which does not concentrate on the right issues but then it was not politically meant to hmm).

Ormirian Sat 25-Jun-11 12:07:54

"The thing is if I had not found this forum I would have always thought that I was being prudish. How many other people are made to feel like I was? "

Me for one.

But I don't feel like that now.

bothsidesnow Sat 25-Jun-11 12:11:40

Objectification of women is an inevitable consequence of capitalism. Ormirian is right.

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