The American Psychological Association heeded the evidence that girls were increasingly becoming more sexualized--that is, seen as sexual objects--and so formed a task force to further explore and research this phenomenon. Below is the introduction to the report, and the full report may be downloaded as a PDF here:
The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls' self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image.
There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. 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.The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized.