Inescapable media images of sexed-up girls and women posing as adolescents can cause psychological and even physical harm to adolescents and young women, a study in the US has warned. The pressure of what experts call "sexualization" can lead to depression, eating disorders, and poor academic performance, said the report, recently released by the American Psychological Association. "Sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls," it concluded.
Adult women dressed as schoolgirls in music videos, bikini-clad dolls in hot tubs, and sexually-charged advertisements featuring teenagers were among the many examples cited. Such omnipresent images -- on television and the Internet, in movies and magazines -- can also have a negative effect on a young girl's sexual development, the study cautioned.
Based on a comprehensive review of academic literature, the 66-page report noted that young adolescents and girls were particularly at risk because their sense of self is still being formed. School performance can also suffer. In one experiment cited, college-aged women were asked to try on and evaluate either a swimsuit or a sweater. While they waited for 10 minutes while wearing the garment, they completed a math test. The results revealed that young women in swimsuits performed significantly worse ... than those wearing sweaters. No differences were found for young men. Imagine that if the brain cells of college girls are affected by dressing provocative, the affect on younger girls must be devastating. I often see young girls on their way to local middle schools and high school overly sexed-up from their hair to their apparel. Unfortunately, it's out of the schools hands because if school officials reprimand inappropriate dress the parents will claim the child has been emotionally damaged and seek legal resolve. In my own personal experience, I have noticed in the Sunday school class that I teach that young girls with too much emphasis on the appearance are less likely to grasp the lesson.
The study, which includes numerous recommendations for concerned parents, coincides with a growing wave of public concern about the impact of highly sexed imagery. The study said, Sexualization occurs when "a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior," when sexuality is inappropriately imposed, or when a person is sexually "objectified."
Looking at popular music videos, the authors quoted songs by several popular artists emphasizing lyrics that they suggested sexually objectified women. The report said, "Sexualization of women is particularly prominent in advertising," and singled out beer commercials as a major offender. Also cited was a shoe ad that features pop singer Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned while licking a lollipop. The report called on parents to take a more active roll in helping to shape the sexual self-image of their children, and to exert consumer pressure on manufacturers and advertisers. Ultimately, some girls are lobotomized by popular fashion.
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