In a capitalist economy, we consume advertisements on a daily basis. Whether it be in a YouTube advertisement, or while playing an app we are constantly being exposed to new products. These advertisements affect consumers in multiple ways, by confirming gender roles and contributing to the hyper-sexualization of young girls.1 In the 1970’s, the main sources of advertisements were magazines and newspapers. Females were portrayed in the media as dainty figures and were objectified in many ways. The media commonly painted females in a light that appealed to the desires of men. Throughout time, women have been conditioned through the media to think that their worth comes from how desirable they are to the male gaze.
In the above image, we see a young girl in an advertisement for the perfume company, Love’s Baby Soft. The wording in the picture states, “because innocence is sexier than you think.”2 This phrase sexualizes the innocence of young girls. Words are not the only aspect of this advertisement that is sexualizing young girls; the young girl is wearing makeup and holding a teddy bear in the advertisements. The makeup appeals to the girl’s wish to look more mature and participate in sexual activities that older people tend to participate in. This unrealistic depiction of young girls encourages them to engage in sexual activities from a young age. In addition, the colors they use in this advertisement also point towards the hyper sexualization of young girls. The dark green of the background is a stark contrast against the young girl's skin tone which represents the opposing ideas of youth and sex. This hyper-sexualization can cause anxiety in girls about their looks and their self esteem.3 It can also cause more predatory behavior in older men because they are associating sexual activities with young girls.
The direct correlation between a girl’s value and beauty is a rhetoric that is fed from many advertisements. In the video Representation of Girls in Media, psychologist Dr. Sharon Lamb shows a padded lace sports bra built for someone going through puberty. When Dr. Lamb asks the designer of the sports bra who it was made for, the designer says they created bras for little girls to be discreet while developing.4 However, the embedded lace design reveals a different motive. The “sexiness” of the lace is an example of the hyper-sexualization of the culture surrounding young girls. Girls, however, don’t connect sexiness with the act of having sex. They see it as an image they want to obtain because this is what is portrayed all throughout the media.
This advertisement for Love’s Baby Soft also endorses plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures that encourage the youthful look of women. Women want to be perceived as young and vigorous because the innocence of youthfulness is sexy. There are billion dollar industries fueled by the insecurities of women caused by unrealistic advertisements. Dr. Sharon Lamb and Dr. Michael Brown studied many advertisements and found that advertisements of girls in the media are “not represented with the great diversity in which they live.”5 This is why women believe there is a narrow image of beauty that is virtually impossible to emulate. Studies have shown that by exposing young girls to media where girls are over sexualized have caused many negative effects on their mental health. For example, girls who have viewed this media are more likely to dress in sexual manner and are more likely to feel dissatisfied about their body and appearance.6
Images painting young girls out to be sex symbols in society has many long lasting effects. Child pornography and toxic gender roles are just a few of the effects caused by the hyper-sexualization of young girls in the media. This depiction of women as sex objects and the fetishization of young girls in the media is a concerning pattern that encourages the objectification of women.