The bumping, grinding little girls in the now infamous “Single Ladies” dance recital routine caught our attention with their slutty costumes and very adult dance moves, but they weren’t doing (or wearing) anything their Bratz dolls don’t do every day.
Our kids are surrounded by a hyper-sexual culture all the time. Little girls in particular are being trained to be not only pretty but hot as soon as they learn to dress themselves. Just try finding a plain t-shirt and comfortable jeans for your 5-year-old; one that hasn’t been attacked by a Bedazzler before being offered up for sale.
In a thoughtful piece in this weekend’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein explores this phenomenon from an interesting perspective: what does marketing “sexiness” to little girls do to their developing sexuality when they grow up?
The sight of little girls dancing like strippers is disturbing no matter how you slice it. But are the girls getting something out of it? Does an early awareness of desire make them more assertive with their future partners, more able to ask for and receive their own pleasure?
Not so much, research says. Orenstein focuses on this disconnect between the performance of desire and the feeling of it. Girls growing up in a world where the cultural imperative is to be desired don’t get enough opportunity to explore their own desires, she worries.
By learning to make themselves desirable before they understand what the desire might be, they don’t get a chance to organically discover what they want and grow into it.
I have received, and thrown out, an endless parade of sexy hand-me-downs for my kids. There were toddler-size halter tops with suggestive darts where they’ll grow breasts a decade from now. String bikinis in size 3T. Most recently, my 6-year-old and I are tousling over a pair of high heels she picked out of a friend’s giveaway box. She’s attached to them, but has skinned her knee more than once running in the things.
With my little girls, I’m clear that I want them to stay little until they have their own desires to express. It’s easy to throw away the trashy fashions and uphold a ban on Bratz. I’m less sure what I’ll do when they hit puberty, and it becomes less clear where their own emerging sexuality meets the marketing of “sexiness”.
Like Peggy, I want my kids to grow into a strong, passionate sexuality all their own. Putting on the moves and clothes of a pole dancer at age 6 is not the path to that.