I was recently walking around with a friend and saw a girl (who looked to be around nine years of age) wearing a shirt that proclaimed “Born to be SEXY” – which caught me off guard. Not to be a prude, but it bothers me that cultural messaging strategies continue to induce girls to think of themselves primarily (or even partially) as a commodity that can possibly (or actually) sexually benefit others. I think that this is problematic even if a grown woman is wearing it. Justin and I have seen anecdotally through screenshots collected by our research team as they scour Facebook and MySpace that girls who present themselves in line with this message seem to have more online “friends,” and receive more Wall posts and comments on their profiles. This attention and feedback consequently reinforces and promotes the behavior, and provides the affirmation and validation that we are all looking for and hoping to receive – albeit in different ways. The major concern I (and many others) have is that feelings of self-worth and identity will be tied somewhat exclusively into physical attractiveness and sexual exploration/experimentation. This, as psychological research has shown, may lead to future victimization – or, at least, unhealthy and even exploitative attraction and interest from boys and men. The APA Report on the Sexualization of Girls details this phenomenon in a fascinating writeup, and our colleague Rachel Simmons discussed it recently on her blog. I was curious if any of our readership has been unsettled by similar observations, and would love to hear some balanced thoughts on this issue.
...identifying the causes and consequences of cyberbullying