- Heather Hansen
- Category Advice Column, Parenting, Tech, Tween & Teen
The other day I read an excellent blog written by a mother of boys addressed to all the young teenage girls out there. In it, she says: “I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it? You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you? And so, in our house, there are no second chances with pics like that, ladies. We have a zero tolerance policy. I know, so lame. But, if you want to stay friendly with our sons online, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you post a sexy selfie (we all know the kind), or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – it’s curtains. I know that sounds so old-school, but we are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”
It got me thinking because I have two sons – one soon to be 15 and the other turning 12. I too hope to raise boys with a strong moral compass. I too question some of the photos posted by young girls on SnapChat, Instagram, BBM, FaceBook, Twitter and other social media platforms. I don’t think these girls take the time to think about the fact that by posting scantily clad or pouting, provocative poses, they are giving our boys a message. They are doing themselves and other girls a disservice by encouraging male sexual objectification. Sexual objectification occurs “when a girl or woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as a physical object of male sexual desire” (Bartky, 1990). Not only this, but Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) asserted that women to varying degrees internalise this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating themselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance. This can lead to various issues like eating disorders, depression and sexual dysfunction.
We need to keep reiterating the message to our kids that there’s a lot more to girls than just how they look. How they act is so much more important! Having said that, girls need to think carefully about the message they’re putting across when they go out wearing tight little shorts or tiny minis and skimpy tops showing lots of cleavage. Just because celebrities do it doesn’t mean it’s okay at their age. One of the questions I ask in an exercise I do with boys is: “Do you think girls are asking for trouble if they wear revealing clothing?” The vast majority say YES. There’s a fine line between trendy and sluttish. Interestingly, many of the boys I’ve talked to said that although they’re happy to look at (and perve over) “hot girls”, they’re far more likely to have a longer-term relationship with girls who are comfortable enough to be “one of the guys”, confident and comfortable with themselves, funny, honest, loyal and intelligent.
Girls have so much power – they don’t need to be sexually provocative to attract boys – at least not the right kind of boys – the ones who’ll stick with you through thick and thin! So here’s the thing. You may get the attention you crave if you portray yourself as a sexual siren, but will it be from the sort of boys you want – boys with integrity, who really care about you as a person – not just you as a sexual object to be used and then discarded for someone else? Bottom line is girls, if you want to be taken seriously, don’t sell yourself short. If you want to be respected, treat yourself with respect. Think before you post.