The Oversexualization of Young Women

Lately, I have found it difficult to watch media: commercials, movies and music videos, for instance, without feeling a great deal of sadness and frustration. Many young women in the media have been placed in the position, and feel compelled to make themselves sexually attractive, primarily to men. The message, then, is broadcasted to several states and all over the world, and young women, as well as young girls, get the message that their worth is almost solely tied up in their bodies and their sexuality. By no means am I suggesting that women not celebrate their bodies or their sexuality. In fact, there is remarkable beauty is women’s bodies. And our sexuality is to be proudly cherished. But, I long for young women to value themselves fully. I sometimes wish that I could hold up a mirror and ask young women to look, not so much at the bodies, but to look in their eyes. To see their beauty. To see their value. To see their hopes and dreams. So much emphasis on the physical can render moments of self-scrutiny that are primarily impacted by scrutiny from others. I find it curious and sad that we as a society feel we have the right to approve or not approve of women’s bodies. The damage that this is doing to our community of teen girls is far reaching. It shows up differently in various cultural communities, some teen girls moving towards attempts to control their bodies through food restriction; other young women using their bodies to make money or to survive, i.e. exotic dancing or sex work. Whatever the manifestation, the messages are the same: to communicate that something is not quite right with some aspect of a young woman’s body, or that the way to be loved and appreciated is through putting her “self “out there. I do not mean to trivialize these very complex issues or to pathologize young women as if they make these decisions in a vacuum. I know that there are so many influences that support these decisions. I just long for a broader, richer conversation about how young women can reclaim their worth from the hands of those who would advertise their bodies as a product for sale. I support young women in celebrating their bodies and their sexuality, and am most appreciative when I hear women of influence in the media celebrating women’s minds and hearts.

As parents, it is important to talk with our teens about this. Not only is it important to equip young women to stand up to such forces that would reduce them to their sexual body parts, but to talk with our sons to exam these ideas about girls and women
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