Monday, February 26, 2007

APA Report on Increased Sexualization of Girls

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:

Report of the APA Task Force on the Increased Sexualization of Girls

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.

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