Child sex trafficking has become a more regular occurrence in the United States. The average citizen of the United States was either unaware of the extent of child sex trafficking or social media has enlightened all of us. The sexualization of girls has become very progressive over the decades.
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Society has made over sexualization of girls a norm. The issue of over sexualization of girls and the controversy of child sex trafficking could very well be linked together. When girls are represented in the media as sexual objects and valued based on their outward appearance or sexiness, the deviants of society are more likely to come out of hiding. These deviants (sex traffickers and sex predators) are more brazen. They believe they are entitled to what does not belong to them. They see the children as objects, which is what the media is advertising them as. Our culture has become increasingly comfortable with the sexualization of children.
There are many examples of the sexualization of girls in the media. From magazines, to clothing, to toys, to Hollywood actresses, girls are being overly sexualized. Magazines display pre-adolescent girls made up to look like adult women and adult women dressed to look like little girls. “Sexually objectifying images portrayed in popular culture have been found to negatively impact women in multiple ways” (Graff, et al 2013:572). Clothing advertised to girls has been sexualized in the fit and style. “In December 2007, under pressure from outraged parents and activists, Walmart pulled a pair of pink girls’ underwear off the shelves of its junior section, because the underwear had the words “Who needs credit cards…” printed across the front and “When you’ve got Santa” printed across the back” (Goodin, Van Denburg, Murnen, and Smolak 2011:1). There are other companies such as Abercrombie Kids that refuse to pull over sexualized clothing from their shelves. “Currently Abercrombie Kids is still selling “cute butt sweatpants” and “skinny” jeans that are “fitted with a little stretch for a sexy look to give you the perfect butt” (Goodin et al, 20011:1). Beauty pageants with girls under the age of five have young girls prancing around on stage being judged by their adult make up, fake teeth, wigs, swim suits, and high heels. Pop music that is sexually explicit where the performers dress in close to nothing at all such as Beyonce, Brittney Spears, Rhianna, the list goes on and on. Movie actresses show up to award shows, with clothing that barely covers their private parts.
Unfortunately, women are just as guilty for sexualizing girls as men are. In our daily lives we see the sexualization of girls in stores, on TV shows, in the movies, etc. “Though problematic for both genders, sexualization primarily affects girls and women” (Moloney and Pelehach 2014:120). Not only do girls begin to view themselves as a sexual object but child sex traffickers view them as sex objects as well.
When young girls are overly sexualized, sexual deviants are more likely to view them as willing sexual participants. As society continues to accept the sexualization and objectification of girls, sex child trafficking continues to grow. The continual portrayal of girls as sexual objects has led to a toxic society. The normalization of girls as sexual objects through media has led to the desensitization of society, and furthermore, sexual predators. “This objectification by self and others “reinforces gender inequality… perpetuates associations of masculinity and predatory sexual prowess, and justifies sexual violence” (Moloney et al, 2014:120). In a society submerged in sexualization of girls, unhealthy forms of sexual compulsivity come into play. “This suggests that viewing sexualized imagery may be a cause as well as a result of withdrawal from normal intimate relating in favor of pornography or other addictive behaviors” (Hatch 2011:204). When an individual lacks normal intimate behavior skills, they are more likely to become deviant. “Likewise, the work on sexual addiction and compulsivity might further explore the question as to whether the societal trend toward viewing more sexualized imagery of girls is contributing to the incidence of child pornography addiction” (Hatch 2011:204). Research has shown that sexual objectification has increased in recent years, as has child sex trafficking. “In fact, women were likely to be portrayed as “hypersexualized” in more recent years such that they were portrayed with multiple sexualizing characteristics including revealing clothing and sexualized body position” (Graff, Murnen, and Krause 2013:572). Unfortunately, to their own demise, women have fallen for a false sense of power through the cultural promotion of sexualization being viewed as the norm. “The societal encouragement of sexualization practices for young girls might lead them to accept a sexualized role as both normative and ideal without realizing that there might be negative consequences associated with a sexualized appearance” (Graff et al, 2013:572).
“Sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons through force, fraud, coercion, or abuse for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation” (Fedina, Williamson, and Perdue, 2016:3). Child sex trafficking includes all children under the age of 18. There are many harms associated with child sex trafficking. Physical violence, sexual violence, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, poor physical health, and death. “Moreover, without early intervention, children engaged in the commercial sex industry are at high risk of continued involvement in the commercial sex industry into adulthood, which can lead to long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health consequences” (Fedina et al, 2016:4).
As a society, objectifying girls comes with consequences. Not only are there consequences with self image and sexual inequality when sexualizing girls. But more serious consequences are child sex trafficking. By valuing girls based on their sexual appearance, as a society, we are complicit with the objectification of girls through child sex trafficking. Through all forms of media, girls are being sexualized, which leads deviants such as child sex traffickers, and sexual predators to see girls as sex objects. Our society is sitting back and allowing the sexualization of girls which can very often lead to child sex trafficking
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