“Role models” like amateur porn star Paris Hilton and her underwear-challenged cohorts Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are prompting more and more young girls to “go wild,” but with negative consequences.
Mental health experts say more and more youngsters are being influenced by the “sexualization of girls,” a term coined in a report released earlier this year by the American Psychological Association.
The research analyzed the content and effects of virtually every form of media, including television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet. It also examined recent advertising campaigns and merchandising of products aimed toward girls.
What they found was a sort of “Girls Gone Wild” effect in which young girls are succumbing to the pressure of sexualization by posting nude pictures of themselves on the Internet, allowing boyfriends to photograph them in the nude and making their own amateur porn videos.
“The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chairwoman of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earlier this year in reference to the report.
As a result of an over-sexed society, young girls are reaping the following mental health issues:
Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
“As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings—ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls,” said Zurbriggen. “The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents—boys and girls—that lead to healthy sexual development.”