An online journal called Sex Roles has just published a study about the “sexiness factor” in clothes made for pre-teen girls. To conduct their study, the researchers looked at the clothing available online at 15 popular stores in the US, and assessed the clothes on how “sexy” each item was. They defined sexy clothing as: “clothing that revealed or emphasized a sexualized body part, had characteristics associated with sexiness, and/or had sexually suggestive writing.” They also looked at whether or not these clothing items also had “childlike characteristics,” like a child-like fabric (such as polka dots) or a modest cut.
The findings of the study are no huge surprise if you’ve been in a tween clothing store in the past five years. More than 25% of the clothes they looked at had both childlike and sexualizing characteristics. What exactly does that mean? It means that clothes clearly made for young girls are weaving in sexual characteristics, most often emphasizing the look of breasts, or drawing attention to the buttocks. The worst offender? Abercrombie Kids, which had the highest proportion of sexualizing clothing.
The authors of the study had this to say about the results: “Confused parents might be persuaded to buy the leopard-print miniskirt if it’s bright pink. Clearly, sexiness is still visible beneath the bows or tie-dye colors. We propose that dressing girls in this way could contribute to socializing them into the narrow role of the sexually objectified woman.”
So what happens to young girls when they dress “sexy,” want to wear clothes that have “sexualized characteristics,” or live in a society where sexy clothes for tween girls is the norm? Here are just some of the consequences of young girls being sexualized according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA):
- Self-objectification (which is basically seeing yourself the way you think others see you) can actually make it harder for you to concentrate and focus
- Self-objectification also undermines confidence, and results in shame, anxiety, and self-disgust
- Sexualization in young girls is linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression
- Self-objectification has been directly linked with diminished sexual health among adolescents (decreased condom use, less sexual assertiveness, etc.)
- Young girls who are oversexualized are more likely to be okay with women being seen as sexual objects and name physical attractiveness as the most important criteria for a woman’s value
And those are just a few. Can you think of more negative consequences?
Listen. I’m all for girls and women wearing clothes that make them feel good, that accentuate their beautiful bodies, and that are comfortable. Grunge, preppy, goth, emo, indie, scene…it’s all good. But when it comes to clothes for young girls that are overtly sexy, that draw sexual attention to their breasts and butts (remember these padded bikini tops from Abercrombie?), that’s where I have a problem. Wearing clothes like this doesn’t just make a fashion statement – it also reinforces the message that girls are sexual objects, both to the world at large and to the young girls clad in the very clothes.
What’s your take? Do you ever find yourself trying to dress sexily because you want to be seen a certain way? Do you believe young girls dressing sexy is a problem?