Summary: Sexualization of Girls Has Many Negative Consequences

The sexualization of girls, which occurs in a variety of manners, including through media and toys, has negative cognitive, emotional, physical, sexual, and social consequences.

  • A report of the American Psychological Association taskforce defines the variety of ways that girls are sexualized by the media, merchandise, and interpersonal relationships. The report identifies several components to sexualization, including: (1) a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, (2) a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy, (3) 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 (4) sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. Every media form studied has shown ample proof of sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, internet, and advertising. Such sexualization has many negative effects on girls and society, including impaired performance of mental activities, self-disgust, eating disorders, diminished sexual health, and increased rates of sexual violence. The American Psychological Association suggests the development and implementation of school-based media literacy training programs as a key in combating the influence of sexualization. Additionally, it is suggested that parents and other caregivers learn about the impact of sexualization of girls and co-viewing media with their children in order to influence the way in which media messages are interpreted.1

1Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls: Executive Summary, American Psychological Association, 2007, pp. 1-9.

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