There have always been young models and actresses – Shirley Temple would be a prime example of this but the problem nowadays is that the young models and actresses are not made to look like little girls anymore. They are made look like adults and with this the sexualisation of children becomes a phenomenon. The child has more or less disappeared in the media and is now being depicted as a miniature adult.
In the last year there has been wide dispute within the United Kingdom about the sexualisation of children with both the Bailey Report and the Papadopoulos report being published – both reports looking into the sexualisation of children. It is becoming a concern for both those in government and parents of young girls that fear what the consequences of this could be in regards to their child’s mental health and their future sexual reputation.
The disappearance of children in the media is reinforced by the increase in underage sexual activity over the years. According to a health survey done in England 27% of girls aged 17-24 had sex before the turned 16.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos in her review of sexualisation of young people commissioned by the UK Government – analyses how sexualised images and messages may be detrimental to the development of some children. She feels that -“Sexualisation is the imposition of adult sexuality on to children and young people before they are capable of dealing with it, -mentally, emotionally and physically”.
A body that is not showing much concern towards this though is the fashion industry. The fashion industry appears to show know concern about some of the controversial and somewhat shocking images it has produced in the name of fashion and therefore art. Most of the shocking images come in the form of advertisements from the big fashion houses such as Marc Jacobs.
A recent example of this is the Marc Jacob’s ‘Oh Lola’ advert featuring 17 year old Dakota Fanning. The advert was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency in the UK on the basis that the perfume bottle was placed in a position that could be construed as sexually provocative and this was argued to be too sexually provocative for Fanning’s age by the Advertising Standards Agency.
The images of ten year old French model Thylane Blondeau used in French Vogue are tame, in my opinion, in comparison to Fanning’s photos though.
Dr Soumitra Datta, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, advises that the advertising industry target young girls as commodities. The images presented in these adverts are usually depicting the ‘ideal’ body – Datta believes this can lead to anxiety related to body image, eating disorders and even clinical depression among women and young girls. She feels that the sociological reasons can be debated but she thinks it is mostly linked to a false sense of increased self esteem and confidence which is associated with society’s acceptance of increasingly feminine role models. The way society comes to understand their surroundings are largely created and presented through the media and advertising.
If children understand the world through what they see then according to this photo of rising super model Valerija Sestic (age 15) who has lied to many fashion houses about her name they should look in their twenties when they are mid teen.
Natasha Walters – The Author of Living Dolls – feels that sexualised images of young women are replacing other, perhaps more positive, images of women and that the sexualised image is presented to a young audience through, surprisingly. There is a striking difference between the image of Snow White (1937) and Jasmine (1992). Snow White is in a high-neck dress and Jasmine not wearing very much at all – with very prominent breasts. This example shows that even the most innocent of images may not be so innocent after all. This also conveys how the change in culture has influenced the artists who work for Disney. The arguably more influential female celebrity also plays a prominent role in guiding young girls – for example Beyonce dressed in a leather catsuit for a Pepsi advert.