Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sexualization of Teen Girls

Sex sells, but the price is high, at least in the long run. On December 17, 2010, reported,

Television’s portrayal of teen girls is becoming increasingly sexualized, and places underage girls in physically sexual situations far more than adult women, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council (PTC).

• According to the study, “Not only are we observing women becoming more frequently sexualized, the data show a troubling trend in which teen girls are becoming the prime target of the sexualized content,” states the PTC report’s authors.

• The report found that, while older women were “more likely to have sexual dialogue,” a younger girl was “more likely portrayed in sexual behaviors onscreen.” Underage female characters are shown in sexual situations 47 percent of the time, while adult women were in a similar situation 29 percent of the time, the study found.

• Only 5 percent of underage female characters communicated dislike of the sexualizing, and 98 percent of sexual incidents were outside the bounds of any form of committed relationship, the group reported.

The study concludes,

“Past and present research continues to demonstrate the power of media as a highly persuasive device for delivering images and messages into our homes. Unfortunately, television often presents teens with new models of bad behavior, frequently within a framework that is void of consequences,” stated the study’s authors. “The result is that today’s youth are growing up with a media-market version of sexuality.”

What’s wrong with that? Well, here are several possibilities:

1. The positive, no-fault portrayals encourage ex-marital sexual behavior with its many downsides – unwanted pregnancy, VD, depression, loss of fertility and eventual jadedness.

2. Personal value is reduced to a social construct – what others think of you. When value is socially based rather than God-centered, it heightens the likelihood of manipulation and abuse.

3. When value is equated with sex-appeal, this becomes a prescription for insecurity. Those who don’t have it are marginalized. Even the guy who doesn’t date the “class queen” might feel insecure that he is dating an “inferior” brand.

4. Those who “fail” the sex-appeal test will either force themselves to try to “rise” to the modern standards of sexuality or experience insecurity and loneliness.

5. This undermines things that are far more important – character and integrity, the substance of enduring relationships. Society will eventually become what it esteems, pedaling image and superficiality at the expense of substance.

6. In long term relationships, sex-appeal is found to be more associated with esteem for the character or person of the other, rather than superficial factors. Therefore, our preoccupation with the superficial doesn’t bode well for meaningful relationships, and the gulf between our expectations and relational reality will widen. Ironically, as society has become increasingly more sexualized, it has also become more dehumanized:

• “McPherson found that between 1985 and 2004, the number of people with whom the average American discussed ‘important matters’ dropped from three to two. Even more stunning, the number of people who said that there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled: in 2004, individuals without a single confidant now made up nearly a quarter of those surveyed.” (The Lonely American, 2)

7. This preoccupation does not favor faithfulness in marriage, but rather a sense that we have to have it all, even if it means having affairs in order to find it.

8. By placing the highest value on the bud of external beauty, which fades with age, we set ourselves up for future disappointment.

9. Today’s media sex-portrayals will have the tendency of making us dissatisfied with our own non-glorious sex lives.

• “Coleman [a San Francisco psychologist] says that the constant cultural pressure to have it all—a great sex life, a wonderful family—has made people ashamed of their less-than-perfect relationships and question whether such unions are worth hanging on to. Feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment are natural but they can seem intolerable when standards are sky-high.” (Psychology Today, March/April2004, 38)

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