Sexy Six-Year-Olds: Do We Really Not See the Problem Here?

Posted on July 23, 2012


Well, we’ve been talking about this for a while now:  the sexualization of young girls, the difficulty in finding a bra that isn’t padded and push-up, the epidemics of sexting, the creepiness of Toddlers and Tiaras, the burgeoning numbers  of teens getting boob jobs to feel better about themselves.  Didn’t we kinda know that something was rotting in the state of young womanhood today?

Well, now a study has demonstrated and quantified what we already knew, and the news is not good:  as Jennifer Abbasi writes in the Huffington Post, most girls as young as six see themselves as sexual objects, and see “sexiness” as the route to popularity and social advantages.  I really don’t think the girls grasp the whole concept of sex itself – I hope not! – but they consistently choose trashy dolls over stylish but conservative-looking dolls, identifying them as more popular, more likely to be a friend, and more like themselves.  I shudder to think what mother wants to hear her six-year-old daughter  talk about how much she aspires to resemble a tiny hooker.

Now you may be thinking:  well, about the only so-called “surprise” here is that the girls were so frighteningly young.  It is creepy and alarming.  But that’s not the surprise.

The surprise is, the single biggest factor in preventing girl children from having this view of themselves was their mothers.  Not the media or their peers, which is what I would have guessed.  Certainly there are a lot of slutty little size 6X clothes out there these days, and slutty little dolls aimed at the tween set, and a lot of teen sex in the media; but mothers are not powerless in the face of all that, and in fact – even though there were several factors exerting influence on the girls’ views of themselves – their mothers were the single most powerful influence that was assessed in the study.

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, haven’t we been hearing for decades now that kids who have parents involved in their lives are more likely to graduate from school, stay out of trouble, stay off drugs – in short, to be successful and have a balanced view of themselves?*

So I will take a moment here to thank my Dad, who never told me that I couldn’t be an astronaut (even though there were no women astronauts in those days); who never said that I couldn’t run around with my brother’s cap guns, or that it wasn’t proper to climb trees, or that I had to wear dresses and look pretty.  I was an absolute Pippi Longstocking; the neighbors probably thought I was being raised by wolves.  But childhood ends, and however we get to adulthood, most of us launch fairly successfully.  I’m glad the route that I took wasn’t mined with all the pitfalls of feeling like my only value lay in “sexiness.”

*Quick aside:  not the same thing as helicopter parenting, where the children never get a chance to grow up.