The American Psychological Association (APA) released a report linking the abundance of sexualized images of women and young girls in the media to girls’ poor development and negative self-image. The APA studied content in every form of media including, television, song lyrics, movies, magazines, music videos, video games, the internet, as well as advertisements and the merchandizing of products specifically designed to target girls.
According to the report, the APA defined sexualization as “occurring when a person’s value comes only from his/her sexual appeal or behavior to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.” The report also found that influence and pressure stemming from parents, siblings, and friends can also put unnecessary demands on young girls.
Negative effects of sexualization include emotional and self-image problems such as shame and anxiety, eating disorders, and depression. The APA named schools, parents, and health officials responsible for taking measures to prevent this harmful pattern from continuing. In an effort to combat the sexualization of young girls, the APA says that schools should teach “media literacy skills” to all students and should educate them about the negative effects of sexualization, as well as improve the existing sex education programs.
“As a society, we need to replace all of these sexual images with ones showing girls in positive settings–ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls,” said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force.
LEARN MORE Read the APA’s report (pdf)