Thursday, May 13, 2010

Backhanded Enhancement of Sexploitation

After writing my post on a workshop given by Mayo Clinic doctor Marcie Billings on sexploitation, I was thinking about how the responses of some individuals and organizations put forth to reduce examples of sexploitation actually further dangerous attitudes which are part of the foundation of sexploitation.

For example, a dangerous attitude is contained in the term prostitots. This term is often used by people who claim to condemn sexploitation. I say "claim" rather than "are" because this judgmental labeling is a key part of sexploitation. This labeling of small girls as miniature prostitutes solely because of how they look semantically approves of sexploitation while condemning those who have this label slapped on them.

This type of label normalizes the sexual trafficking of girls and makes those who benefit from the prostitution of children invisible. This is reinforced by all those who claim that girls who look too sexy should expect to be seen as offering themselves sexually to whomever sees them. When modesty is put forth as rape prevention then sexploitation has been supported to the point of presenting certain rapes as normal. This again reinforces the idea that most rapists are not the root cause of the rapes they commit.

When people talk about the goal of living in a society where anyone, child or adult, could walk naked down the street without fear of rape they are talking about living in a society free of sexploitation. Yet many people still support the idea that nakedness or even a bare midriff can cause rape.

Boys and men who exploit girls according to their perceived sexualness are often falsely presented as passive entities who are controlled by the behavior of girls. A PSA called Everyone Knows Your Name released in 2007 normalized troubling responses from boys and men as it sought to educate girls about online safety.

According to RAINN 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12 and 34.2% of those sexually assault juveniles are family members and 58.7% are acquaintances. If we are to effectively prevent these crimes and the actions which support them we need to change not only the visible manifestations of sexploitation, we need to change the attitudes which contributes to people committing sex crimes with the belief that they are doing nothing seriously wrong.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:15 AM   10 comments links to this post

10 Comments:

At May 14, 2010 1:54 AM, Anonymous Social Worker said...

I am not clear on what you are saying here. I am only recently familiar with the term prostitots and have heard it used in conjunction with child beauty pageants and "dance" competitions using very young girls (5-7 years old) dressed in what could charitably be described as revealing cheerleader uniforms and more like stripper garb.
Are you saying that to judge these types of events is wrong? I think many of us working in rape prevention see these "contests" as very much contributing to the inappropriate view of children as sexual beings, which the children themselves sadly adopt. And I don't mean that in the prurient context that children don't, of course, HAVE sexual feelings. But for adults to place them in roles that are clearly sick parodies of adult sexualized contests.
Unless you are saying that it is those of us who are AGAINST these displays that are part of the problem. Or are you saying it is the parents in these situations we should remain focused on rather than labeling the children forced to participate in these debasing rituals?
Please set us straight here.

 
At May 14, 2010 8:49 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Social worker, when it comes to the term prostitots it isn't the criticism of dressing very young girls sexually which is problematic, it is choosing to label very young girls in a way which reinforces the sexualization of young girls.

The focus needs to be on parents and other adults who support the sexualization of children or who label children who look sexier than their age.

An effective focus needs to be free of sexist labeling or claims that minimize the responsibility of those who treat children as sexual objects.

Too often the criticism of sexualization reinforces dangerous attitudes instead of eliminating them.

 
At May 14, 2010 12:04 PM, Anonymous SW said...

Thank you for clarifying.
You are saying the word itself, and words like it, is a critique of the sexualization of children AND used as a label to diminish them at the same time.
Am I getting you?

 
At May 14, 2010 12:20 PM, Anonymous Kali said...

Social worker, I don't think the best way to criticize the sexualization of little girls is by calling the little girls an insulting term. It's a victim blaming term. Unfortunately, many well-meaning people too get caught up in this kind of victim blaming without realizing it.

Marcella is absolutely right. Let's focus our criticism on the adults who do the sexualization.

 
At May 14, 2010 5:21 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

SW, You've nearly summarized my points. What I'd add is that how people critique the sexualization of children can both diminish children who have been sexualized and it can enhance the attitudes which allow people to rationalize treating certain children as sexually available when they are not.

The bigger point is that only part of the problem of sexualization of children comes from those who allow children to look sexy, the rest of the problem is in how that presentation is used by people to diminish certain children and to diminish the responsibility of those who exploit children who appear sexual or who have any sexual mannerisms.

 
At May 14, 2010 7:05 PM, Anonymous SW said...

Kali & Marcella,

I got it. I actually got the concept from the start; I was just making sure I heard what you were saying.
And, Kali,I completely agree. I hope there wasn't anything in my post insinuating that I thought using sexually-charged terms for children was appropriate.

Cuz I didn't.

Good post. And, dear god, I wish someone could explain to me the existence of those child pageants. It always seems it's the mothers who are pushing it. The dad's always seem disturbed.

How about we have some child science pageants? I think we'd all be okay with the term, sciencitots.
You know, as long as people didn't think we meant Scientology.

 
At May 14, 2010 9:31 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

SW, I'm glad you did ask for clarification and just wanted to be sure that I clarified the issues beyond just that one phrase.

I agree on the wish to have child pageants which have nothing to do with looks. Too often girls and women who excel in other areas are still expected to show sexiness when their male counterparts would not be expected to do the same.

 
At May 17, 2010 8:10 AM, Anonymous Kali said...

I wish someone could explain to me the existence of those child pageants. It always seems it's the mothers who are pushing it. The dad's always seem disturbed.

I think many women don't realize the sexual objectification involved in this kind of dressing up and dancing. On the one hand we have pervasive sexual objectification of women's bodies, and on the other hand this sexual objectification is presented as something fun and innocent. I have heard several times people argue that porn is innocent fun, the adult equivalent of playing with Barbie dolls. I think many women believe this argument and don't realize the harm in sexual objectification. They don't connect the dots between objectification and rape and violence and harrassment. And the popular response to sexualization of children is not to condemn all sexual objectification, but to draw the line at age 18. So, to many people, they see the harm in objectification only when it is obviously illegal. Oddly enough, I think men understand the harm in objectification (though, they won't usually acknowledge it unless it hits close to home) because they know what is going on in their own minds.

 
At May 17, 2010 8:29 PM, Anonymous m Andrea said...

"I wish someone could explain to me the existence of those child pageants. It always seems it's the mothers who are pushing it. The dad's always seem disturbed."

I think many women don't realize the sexual objectification involved in this kind of dressing up and dancing.


I would have to respectfully disagree, Kali. Or at least suggest a different interpretation. I'm quite positive that these mothers are very much aware that dressing up a little girl to look like a hooker is indeed sexualizing little girls. The moms aren't dressing them up in monkey suits, after all.

I would suggest that the mothers literally don't see a problem with sexualizing any female -- it's the way they themselves would perform gender if they felt they were beauty-compliant enough. And like you said, they can't -- OR DON'T WANT TO -- connect the dots between objectification and sexism. They prefer to conflate male objectification of females with male admiration of females, because otherwise they'd have to reconsider all those nice guys they love so much... who continually dehumanize them.

Trust me, the very last thing women want to hear is this: it is logically impossible for a man to love you as an equal if he is loving you as an object.

Btw, if anybody objects to the term "hooker", then go take a gander at this:

http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2010/05/gone-viral-7-year-old-girls-perform.html

 
At May 18, 2010 9:29 AM, Anonymous Kali said...

I would suggest that the mothers literally don't see a problem with sexualizing any female -- it's the way they themselves would perform gender if they felt they were beauty-compliant enough.

I agree. I think the women realize (or admit) that it is sexualizing, but don't realize (or admit) that it is sexually objectifying. They think that the sexualization is harmless (i.e. they are not trying to actually harm their children) because they don't admit the objectification part of it. And I agree with you about the reason why they don't want to admit it.

 

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