Perhaps because my writing draws from a rich history of dysfunction, I receive a number of questions for which I do not have the formal training to offer clinical answers. Please keep in mind that I answer purely from personal experience. The ideas underlying the writings come from the clinical work of Donna Bevan Lee of The Legacy Center, and Pia Melody of The Meadows.
Continuing from my review of “Madonna & Me” in PLOP! Review:
The 2007 report by the American Psychological Association about the sexualization of young girls by the media (discussed in my review) states that the culture of pink and princess marketed directly to girls and its “emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ susceptibility to depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and risky sexual behavior.”
Know which other subsection of girls exhibit the same susceptibility? Survivors of child sex abuse.
When children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.
The above is from the section of the APA report, yet reads like it was taken from a book I once gave the man I eventually married. That book was a manual for the parents and partners of sex abuse survivors.
As did the book I gave my now-husband, the APA report outlines the components of sexualization that distinguish it from healthy sexuality. With extraordinary similarity to the book, the APA report states:
Sexualization occurs when:
a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.
Deliberately marketed infatuations with Disney princesses lead girls to equally marketed infatuations with Disney Channel’s “tween” stars such as Britney Spears, Lyndsay Lohan, and Miley Cirus. Beyond teaching girls to pine for Prince Charming, beyond teen pregnancy, beyond convincing kids that fame and excess are their birthright, beyond just being a really bad look, fluffy pinks lead to a hardened sexuality projected by children who have yet to feel their own sexual impulses.
Lyndsay’s mom, Dinah Lohan; Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus; they exploit their daughters’ sexuality. The clinical term is emotional sexual abuse.
Does this mean that when regular ol’ non-famous parents establish environments where girls are encouraged to turn otherwise healthy sexual exploration into a public act, that they are committing emotional sexual abuse?
On Monday, PLOP! Review will publish my review of a new anthology, Madonna & Me: Women Writers On The Queen of Pop. Behold, a teaser:
For more than a decade, psychologists, parents, and child advocacy organizations such as Common Sense Media have expressed alarm over the hyper-sexualization of young women in the media for the explicit purpose of making money. Writers such as Lyn Mikel Brown (Packaging Girlhood) and Diane E. Levin (Too Sexy Too Soon) have made it part of conventional parenting wisdom that advertisers target children.
In her 2001 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein was the first to connect the dots between a little girl’s devotion to all things princess-like and the emotional jeopardy of a sexual attitude developed too soon. A 2007 report by the American Psychological Association went on to demonstrate the jeopardy posed to girls’ happiness, self-esteem, sexual health, and academic performance as they learn to project a hardened sexuality before experiencing any sexual feelings of their own.
You’ll never guess the rock star to whom Orenstein traces the trend.
Laura Barcella, the editor of Madonna & Me, counts herself a proud, Madonna-in-her-living-room fan since age six. It comes as no surprise that many of her contributors also write about imitating Madonna’s sexual acting out as six-year-olds. While no one can specify what is too soon to be sexy, I don’t need an APA report to know that six years old is too soon.
It floors me that Madonna & Me does not address the obvious question posed by Madonna’s popularity and power: is Madonna good for girls?
(Continued in my piece on PLOP! In the meanwhile: if you can stomach it, you can watch the 2-year-old’s Madonna routine here.)
I had the phrase in mind as I put together my submission to the SheWrites Passion Project. The phrase is not in my submission. I submitted the concept of hope being the reason; the only element of sanity, really, if you examine the facts of family from a cost/benefit perspective. We hope to create something better than our experience. Perhaps because a parent’s wants and needs by definition must fall second to keeping a child alive and thriving, often unsaid is the idea that in the attempt to create something better, we experience the joy of the attempt.
These thought arrived this AM, during a Feldenkrais session. I was working with my upper back and felt a long-in-coming truth about a connection between the belly muscles, upper back, and shoulder.
I didn’t think, “Back, shoulder, belly.” I thought, “Most truth comes quietly.”
“You had me laughing, admiring your writing, and then getting all teared up. Sheesh, girl, you have some catastrophic writing skeels! OMG I wanna be you when I grow up. Even though I am unsubscribing from like every email I get, I signed right up, quick as a bunny, to receive your crisp and lively missives.” Julie Genovese, Nothing Short of Joy.
“Nice essay. I’m still defragging. I must be running on motherfucking Windows.” Dave Gilbert.
“A great swirl of themes in a compact package. Fantastic.” Susan Barrett Price, Passion and Peril on the Silk Road.
“Dear Alle: I gasped and choked at your last words. Wow. I do love your essay. Your thinking. Your persistence. Your survival. As I am yet another person wound up in the web of your ability to love, I am thankful.” Chris.