The sexualization and fetishization of young girls has been so deeply immersed into pop culture and media, that it has become a normalized and accepted facet of American society.
While so many aspects of American culture comfortably advertise pedophilia and child sexualization, the Netflix movie, “Cuties,” has recently attracted attention and anger.
After the film’s promotion on the online streaming service, several Netflix subscribers were quick to hop on social media to call out the movie and its director for sexualizing children, without watching the film long enough to realize “Cuties”was intended to highlight the repeated hypersexualization of young girls.
With such widespread outrage on the internet over the film’s release, it reveals a false support for the social issue at hand.
Schools are still teaching girls, as young as 5 years old, that their bodies do not belong to them. Social media affects and pressures growing females to conform to sexuality standards and body images. Pornography websites still support pedophilic predators and give young teens severely toxic and destructive expectations for future sexual experiences.
Change is not just criticizing a movie, then brushing off your hands and calling it a day. Real changes start with the overlooked hypersexualization of adolescents. To effectively minimize the sexualization of young women, people need to identify and address the hypersexualization that happens everywhere.
Intended for growth, education and prosperity of male and female students, K-12 schools are ironically one of the biggest culprits of normalizing sexualization among prepubescent and adolescent women.
Throughout their early education, female students are often given strict dress code restrictions on tank tops and the permission of shorts, but only if they are at knee-length or longer. These pointless, highly-detailed regulations imply that female dress codes are not necessarily enforced to avoid disrupting classroom atmospheres, but rather to avoid disrupting the attention of male classmates.
Faculty and school districts that force girls to cover their legs and shoulders to preserve the attention of their male peers, subliminally reinforce the notion that young girls’ clothing choices must be made for the benefit of male student’s education, instead of their own comfortability or confidence.
Rather than treating young girls as sexual distractions and reprimanding them for wearing provocative clothing, schools should instead hold sexual assault and harassment seminars to teach boys to respect their female classmates’ bodies.
The dress code that the education system implements in its schools teaches young men and women that if a female does not wish to be harassed or attacked, she must dress modestly -- a disgusting excuse that seems to be continuously upheld in a court of law. Adolescence is difficult enough as it is, and girls at such a young age, being forced to take responsibility for the attention spans of their male classmates teaches them nothing about body autonomy or a healthy sexuality.
But the sexualization of young girls does not stop at school, it continues online.
With today’s middle and high schoolers growing up in the age of social media and celebrity idolization, many succumb to negative influences regarding sexuality. Mediums such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat offer a way for young women to express themselves and share important moments with their friends and family, but these light-hearted platforms turn cold when they become a means of degradation and competition for likes and comments.
A major problem regarding social media is the idolization of women who have exceptionally beautiful faces and/or bodies according to the standards of society.
This idolization is especially harmful for young girls as it influences them to believe they must look similar to these women in order to have substance in their lives. While these girls may gain popularity from their male peers for showing their bodies and posing sensually in pictures online, these same girls also face being bullied by their female counterparts.
The clash between popularity and slut-shaming regarding women’s sexuality over social media reinforces toxic gender stereotypes, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. Girls lack the ability to understand their own sexualities through social media and are instead pulled into a balance beam of male popularity and slut-shaming.
While some pornography websites, oftentimes aimed for women specifically, portray sex as a healthy, intimate partnership between two or more people, the more popular sites convey it in a much more vulgar way. Although the vulgarity is what attracts much of its audience, it unfortunately displays a dangerous expectation of sexual experiences such as teaching young boys to be abusive and young girls to submit and accept abusive partners.
A disgustingly popular category on several of these porn sites is its “teen” category, advertising petite “teen” female stars and their dominant, and clearly older, male counterparts. While legally, it is expected that the women in these videos are over the age of 18, the title of the category is intended to reel in audience members who fetishize young women.
Though seemingly harmless, offering a teen genre in pornography encourages pedophilia and normalizes statutory rape. Genres like these encourage predators and cause young women to form unrealistic expectations of healthy sexual experiences and settle for situations similar to the ones they’ve seen online.
All of these issues pertaining to dress code, pornography and social media existed long before “Cuties” was released, yet the backlash on these every day, influential topics are met with silence.
As generations of women continue to grow up in this double-standard, hypersexualized society, it only makes issues like these more common, while simultaneously making them less serious. If no changes are made, society will continue its ugly cycle of toxicity with our daughters, granddaughters, mothers and every woman we cherish, becoming a victim of society’s twisted hypersexuality of young women.