Milkshakes, lady lumps and growing up to want boobies: how the sexualisation of popular culture limits girls’ horizons

COY Maggie
Journal article citation:
Child Abuse Review, 18(6), November 2009, pp.372-383.

Considering Every Child Matters (ECM), this literature review explores American, Australian, Canadian and European research on the harmful impact of sexualised popular culture on girls. Sexualisation of culture describes erotic imagery of women in advertising and music videos. This, by redefining femininity and beauty as of most importance, can transmit messages about girlhood that constrain the opportunities of girls. Also with the impact of sexualised culture on boys skewing their masculinity and viewing women as sex objects alone, girl’s aspirations and achievements can be limited. The negative effect on the quality of sexual relationships with specific focus on the portrayal of black girls in terms of gender and race is explored through hip-hop or rap music lyrics where young black women are portrayed as hyper-sexual, their power restricted to attracting male attention, and young black men portrayed as predatory. The gender neutral basis of ECM obscures the differences in experiences for boys and girls and the author calls for a gendered analysis of sexualisation to be incorporated into ECM indicators. Although the United Kingdom government review of sexualisation, as part of wider strategy on violence against women is welcomed, the author recommends a counter steer of government policy like in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece and Belgium where advertising to under 12’s  has been banned or restricted.

Subject terms:
literature reviews, personality development, sexuality, young people, adolescent girls, attitudes, black and minority ethnic people, gender, girls;
Content type:
research review
Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Sweden
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