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Author Topic: “Sexualization” Harms Mental Health
Heather
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From the American Psychological Association:

quote:
Media presentations of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development, asserts a new report by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The provocative research included a study of published research on the content and effects of virtually every form of media, including television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet. Researchers also examined recent advertising campaigns and merchandising of products aimed toward girls.

Sexualization was defined by the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls as occurring when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.

Examples of the sexualization of girls in all forms of media including visual media and other forms of media such as music lyrics abound. And, according to the report, have likely increased in number as “new media” have been created and access to media has become omnipresent. The influence and attitudes of parents, siblings, and friends can also add to the pressures of sexualization.

“The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” says Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force. “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

Research evidence shows that the sexualization of girls negatively affects girls and young women across a variety of health domains:

• Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
• Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
• Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

According to the task force report, parents can play a major role in contributing to the sexualization of their daughters or can play a protective and educative role. The APA report calls on parents, school officials, and all health professionals to be alert for the potential impact of sexualization on girls and young women. Schools, the APA says, should teach media literacy skills to all students and should include information on the negative effects of the sexualization of girls in media literacy and sex education programs.

“As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings—ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls,” states Dr. Zurbriggen. “The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents—boys and girls—that lead to healthy sexual development.”

Mind, some of this is a big Duh, but here are issues and concerns many have been talking about -- from young women and girls themselves to feminist groups and writers to parents -- documented pretty clearly in research.

So, what do you think? The one thing that gave me pause was this was the lack of discussion about women claiming their OWN sexuality (okay, and discussion on how capitalism is part of all this), and about where the room was for that. I'm all for balancing out how women are viewed and shown to show a whole person, multifacteted, and I'm all for working towards a culture where sexuality isn't a commodity, especially when we're talking about someone reaping benefits off of a body, person or sexuality which doesn't even belong to them.

I gotta say, it's also really cool to see objectification as a topic brought into a more mainstream sphere.

The full report lives here.

[ 02-21-2007, 10:33 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Ecofem
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I've been reading newspaper articles on this every now and then. For example, I read about even pre pre-teen year old girls having parties where they dress up in skimpy, spangly outfits and pretend they're Britney Spears. However, I'm still very confused and curious.

On one hand, dressing up is one way to try out personalities and a form of self-expression. On the other, the sexualization of it all (and I see very much how capitalism is involved) is clearly bad. It's not necessarily about the clothes or activities as such, but the attitude behind it. (As in, it's ok to dress up but not watch music videos? Or it's ok for kids to listen to Bikini Kill but no Britney Spears?) How does media censorship fit in to all of this? Where do parents come in?

(This is refering mostly to some specific articles I read and may seem odd out-of-context, so I'll try to dig some up.)

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Ecofem
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So I haven't found the articles yet, but here are some links they mentioned:

For the Libby Lu party concept or, if that doesn't work, mainsite. It doesn't seem quite as bad as what the article describes. Then again, I cannot.believe. that Girl Scout troops go there for "empowering" outings!?!

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hunnybunny888
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I don't think sensoring is the issue here. This is on to drastic a scale to be able to censor, and to fix this problem will take drastic measures.

It is a tough situation because the media gives society what they want (ie. what sells, what is in demand) and society becomes moulded by the media. If societies demands change, than media content will chage. And if media content changes society will be differently influenced. But where do we start? where do we have the most control?
My bet is in society.
The majority of people realize that sexualization is negative, yet they still watch the tv shows, listen to the music etc.
I can't remember the name of the magazine, possibly teen people or teen vogue, but for a while they had reader models model their fashion section. Yes the girls they chose sutied the medias standards of beauty somewhat, but they were not stick thin, or modelesque. They just looked like real pretty girls.
I think more stuff like this needs to be done in order to boost the self image of young girls. the power we have is writing in mass into magaizines from subscribers that they want something different then what is being given to them.

that is just one example, and with enough support from society other mediums could probably also be influenced.

However, as much as we all know that it is wrong to objectify and whatnot, there still stands the fact that sex sells. And it always will, sexual pleasure is something all humans share in common and well we love to visualize. especially the men, and because of that it is mostly women who get objectified which creates a nice bunch of double standards in society roles as well as dating and relationships.
But it's almost impossible to imbolish it from the media, because as much as my guy friend knows the girl he's trying to pick up over there in the mini skirt, stiletos, and belly-cleavage bearing top is only attracting him because of her body and he is objectifying her, she is allowing him to do it by wearing the outfit, and hey he can't complain because he enjoys to look. and the vicious cycle returns

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Ecofem
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quote:
Originally posted by hunnybunny888:
I don't think sensoring is the issue here. This is on to drastic a scale to be able to censor, and to fix this problem will take drastic measures.

I definitely agree with you here.

quote:
The majority of people realize that sexualization is negative, yet they still watch the tv shows, listen to the music etc.
Yeah, I think it's to the point where, for me, I don't realize how sexualized music videos or pop songs are until I watch them after not seeing TV for awhile or read the song lyrics. And it's like "whoa!" Surely it's going to my/our subconscious the whole time.

quote:
I can't remember the name of the magazine, possibly teen people or teen vogue, but for a while they had reader models model their fashion section. Yes the girls they chose sutied the medias standards of beauty somewhat, but they were not stick thin, or modelesque. They just looked like real pretty girls.
I really like reading magazines like Seventeen still (I like seeing the clothing, which is expensive but still so much cheaper than in like Vogue), but I find myself more and more frustrated and disguisted by the content. I've always known such magazines were "bad", but it's so amazing how they talk about empowerment or female exploitation in developing countries on one page, then show those models or give totally heterosexist advice on another.

quote:
I think more stuff like this needs to be done in order to boost the self image of young girls. the power we have is writing in mass into magaizines from subscribers that they want something different then what is being given to them.
I agree about doing new things to improve the self-image of young girls. I agree that such magazines should be doing more, but I don't think they'll ever get better-- they've had the chance to forever, but they keep existing the way they are. Having a section with "real-life" models isn't really even the tip of the iceberg.

quote:
However, as much as we all know that it is wrong to objectify and whatnot, there still stands the fact that sex sells. And it always will, sexual pleasure is something all humans share in common and well we love to visualize. especially the men, and because of that it is mostly women who get objectified which creates a nice bunch of double standards in society roles as well as dating and relationships.
Sex may be biological as well as consumer-orientated, but it's almost always the women/girls being sexualized. I remember reading about it before, the discussion about how they are scantily-clad women in magazines aimed at both men AND women. I was talking to a friend about the concept of women in Islam often being seen as the seducer whose sexuality needs to be calmed down as not to provoke men. (This is taking such a broad issue and way oversimplifying it/playing with stereotypes, so I apologize for that.) She pointed out that it's basically the same exact thing in Christianity with Eve and all, although it may seem less obvious with the role of mass media in "Western" culture.

quote:
But it's almost impossible to imbolish it from the media, because as much as my guy friend knows the girl he's trying to pick up over there in the mini skirt, stiletos, and belly-cleavage bearing top is only attracting him because of her body and he is objectifying her, she is allowing him to do it by wearing the outfit, and hey he can't complain because he enjoys to look. and the vicious cycle returns.
Well, in this scenario I don't see sexualization as exploitation as being a problem necessarily. I'm not saying it's not good or isn't objectification in some form, but if they're mutually enjoying the attention exchange. Then again, I do understand where you're coming from: the other day I was wearing a short skirt and totally got heckled by some men who normally wouldn't say anything to me. But it was as if, by dressing in a way sexualized by society, I opened myself up for this form of objectification. (I'll leave out what cultural background the men had, but I found they were the only ones reacting with the inappropriate comments on this day.)
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PenguinBoy
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I don't have any issue with what girls wear at all.

I just think it's attitudes towards them are important. If someone wears a miniskirt because they want to, they've got a right to be able to go about their day without being harassed. If they do so because they feel they're only valid if they get the attention of some male; then something is CLEARLY wrong.

The magazines won't change because it makes them money, to create a world that doesn't exist, it's fictional, so people can't access it without buying the magazines. Really people aren't that thin and shiny (as is known).

I saw someone reading a magazine and exclaiming "this is absurd" and disapproving to the articles they're reading, the people they portrayed, the advertising... I just said "You just paid them the money to do it?"... there was no answer.

The media has got a lot to answer for, but the more people buy into them the more incentive there is for them to continue.

The more people buy into it, the more the media will sexualise their advertising, the more women look at the success of the famous who earn money from the way they act. The more women will begin to act like them, the more men (being hetero-assumptive here) will think of this as a way that women SHOULD act. The more lyrics will be written by both of them to push their agenda of objectification to accelerate the cycle.

It's got to start from the people paying money for this really?

I wish could take the lead... but I don't see it happen, it's so out of control, especially in the uk. There's so many words in the air, you drown in them. And it's a one way conversation most of the time.

It's got to start from the consumers.

I don't like the idea of censoring, because it makes things more culty. Things benefit from popularity if they're thought to be censored.

Also censoring when ever I've seen it, usually means things get filtered that probably shouldn't, and censoring usually ends up denying sex as a part of life, and suppressing allot of things like homosexuality by people with views that are pretty homophobic and all those other words.

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Heather
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Censirship need not happen for consumptionof the media to be reduced.

That's an easy, self or family driven option, and I think it makes a lot of difference.

I know that one of the things I am grossy thankful for, when it comes to my body image, my self image, my self worth, my ability to structure my time and be self-motivated, is that I was not a child reared on media. I read books rather than watching television, I played outside, made up games with friends, what have you. In my teens, I had way, way too many other things to do, and places to put my money: I went to local clubs and shows, I had to work double-time at school, I made art, I played music on the street, I hiked, what have you. Same goes for college.

And as an adult, there still is little to no mainstream media in my life. The magazines I subscribe to are things like Mother Jones, The Nation, Paste ( a grassroots music, art & film magazine). Even though in the last year, I've moved to a house with a television in it (I've never lived with a TV in the house pretty much my whole adult life), it's generally used for film. Things like running Scarleteen (and quickly finding some line from some book or film I can't remember and is driving me crazy at 3 AM) and the other sites are what I use the 'net for. Et cetera.

This is a choice I make because it both benefits my well-being, and because it's vital to me to put my money where my mouth is or, more aptly, withhold it. Dollars drive this stuff: it won't see mine.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Ecofem
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I hardly watched TV growing up and rarely watch it now. It's something I could watch for hours on end, but my quality of life/satisfaction with my life is SO much higher when I don't. When available, I've enjoyed reading Oxford American, Bitch and Rockrgrl (which, unfortunately, had to cut back it's number of issues per year.) I used to subscribe to Rolling Stone and Spin, but it's gotten to the point where I'd rather read stuff by non-celebrities (like blogs) than famous people. Those magazines are also so latently sexist; I mean, the whole mainstream music industry is.

I don't mean to be like "MTV is the root of all evil" but I think it's done bad things for youth culture around the world. Arguably, it was something fresh originally, but nowadays I think it increases (some) people's unhappiness with their surrounding community or real life by making them aspire to something manufactored and far away. And then there's always that debate of the portrayl of women in music videos...

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Heather
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Oddly enough, I was visiting my stepfather's parents in Florida, who had television, the very week that MTV first aired, and saw the first videos anyone would see on that network.

Never watched a whole lot of it -- save that day, it was obviously incredibly novel -- but enough to see/know that back in the day, as it were, we really weren't dealing with the sort of thing we see now. Some of it was there -- duh, we live in a sexist world -- but nothing close to the degree or amount that's around now.

(FYI, Lena, if you're missing having a music mag around, I can't suggest Paste highly enough, and it's almost entirely indie. Best part is that every issue comes with a big sampler CD of bands and musicians that you'd often not discover otherwise: I've found some of my favorite new music that way. The CD also usually has a few vids and sometimes short films, to boot.

I'm afraid I also have to be the bearer of bad news: Rockrgrl just released its final issue. [Frown] )

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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One facet of this issue that I've striuggled with, by the way, is that I have always felt like we have to be very careful how we do things here at Scarleteen to avoid exerting any pressures for girls to feel the need to hyper-sexualize; to be careful in the community we make, the way wedo it, and the information we give so that it counters, rather than enables media sexualization.

For instance, in being fully inclusive -- which obviously, from my standpoint, is non-negotiable -- one has to also bear in mind how many young women are pressured culturally right now not merely to be bisexual, but to be bisexual in the way that culture wants them to, per sex-as-performance. I know for a fact that we have plenty of female users who ID that way even though it's really not something in their life experience at all, may never be, and the lens they've looked through per their orientation is vastly influenced by cultural pressures.

It's also, of course, a delicate line to walk that is completely accepting of sexually active teens, while not addressing that in a way that makes anyone feel any extra pressures not just to be sexually active, but to be sexual, or create a sexual identity, that isn't true to them, that isn't what they authentically want, etc.

There are so many reasons we don't create a tone that is salacious here, but this is a biggie. Even with very well-meaning, not-for-profit sex education, it's so incredibly easy to exert pressures or sexualize without even realizing it, especially when you take into account how the vast majority of people here (or anywhere) have grown up with these pervasive influences, so it's often been internalized unknowingly.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PenguinBoy
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I know what you mean, so many bad attitudes are accepted by the general populous that it can be so disorientating to actually have to go "How do I know what's right and wrong?"

I have, as everyone does, said and done things that I regret.

But what is really confusing is when I look at what I have let occur with disgust and guilt, then gone to the people involved to apologise, for them to tell me my behaviour had been totally acceptable and nothing out of the ordinary.

It's really hard to know what to do after that. But I just needed to decide, "I don't know whether it's right, but It's not how I want to be".

When no-one calls you up on being sexist, how will you know that it's wrong?

Or to be told I'm naive (or over-reacting) to say that someone else's behaviour is wrong, and have people say "No, You just don't understand, that's just the way they are, loads of guys talk like that! And there's worse than that"

As if I don't know!

It's a strange world.

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Jacob - my Scarleteen Blog - Please help sustain scarleteen

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