Sexuality versus Sexualisation
As published in Huffington Post
Twerking. Ever heard of it? It’s something that most teenage children know about. It involves bending your knees, leaning forward and pretty much wobbling your butt up and down. Oh, and I forgot to mention it’s dancing; you do it to music and in a public place.
My daughters, aged 12 and 14, were explaining it to me recently and I was intrigued (and not to mention somewhat confused). Was this to them what Dirty Dancing was to my generation? A lot has changed since the days of Baby throwing herself from the stage into Jonny’s waiting arms to the words I’ve had the time of my life. Now we have Nicki Minaj dressed in chains and a black G-string “twerking” to My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun. Hmmm....deep.
This got me thinking about the influence of pop culture on my children and how important it is that they understand the difference between and sexualisation and sexuality.
Sexualisation refers to a person being sexually objectified, where the standards are imposed by another person rather than by the individual. The media is very much responsible for creating sexual stereotypes that send the message that to be beautiful, you must display sexual appeal or behavior. For an example of this we need look no further than the Kardashian family who galvanise sexualisation by ranking body and fashion above all else. The problem is further perpetuated by social media that creates a labyrinth for our children where they are under the constant scrutiny of their peers and rely heavily on their feedback for validation.
In contrast to this is sexuality that relates more to the person and their connection to their own desire. Two very different concepts where the lines get blurred but must stay clearly defined. As a mother I hate the thought of my daughters dressing in a way that makes them the object of pleasure for others, but I also want them to be able to express their own individual identity as women and have a healthy expression of their sexuality
The questions we must ask are how can children figure out how to become sexual beings without being objectified or stigmatized? Do they dress and act a certain way because it makes them feel empowered, or because they feel pressured to fit in? Further, is pop culture influencing girls to idealise beauty and thinness, giving the impression that a woman’s value is based on her appearance, and that popularity is derived from beauty?
Whilst change is inevitable, I am often floored at how wide the gap between my youth and that of my daughters, but this is not to say that we don’t face the same insecurities and challenges. I can remember dressing to fit in with my peers and then at some stage to be the object of desire for men.The difference is that our children rely on virtual 'likes' so much that the feedback of others determines who they outwardly become and challenges their own personal judgement.
As adults we know that the furthest thing from reality is reality television. We know the long-term implications of not being authentic plus we know that it is highly probable that there will come a day where Miley Cyrus will wish that she had put her tongue back in her mouth and smiled like a normal person when posing for a photo. Our children do not have this wisdom.
As the lyrics go ...For the times, they are a changing. We must ensure that we stay modern in our thinking and in touch with the pressures facing our young girls. We need to raise proud and confident children who have a strong sense of their self worth but to be able to do this we need to be mindful of the external influences and pressures facing them.