Oct 10, 2009

Fragment: some out of context thoughts on the Primark padded bra thing and young girls' sexuality/sexualisation


I wrote this ages ago as part of a wider rumination on how we panic about the sexualisation of young girls because it might lead them to have sex, and possibly even enjoy it; but we pretend that what we're worried about is pedophiles and sexual predators, because we're so uncomfortable with female sexuality, at any age, that we just assume any expression of it spells disaster. The feminist angle of sexualising and objectifying people, again of any age, never gets a look-in: the underlying assumption is that all female sex is bad and dangerous, so the potential damage to young girld through being sexualised is that they may be introduced into that evil state earlier than is strictly necessary.

Young girls are not binary, digital little femibots. Empowered to listen to their
own feelings and with their agency acknowledged by society, they are able to react differently in different situations, in accordance with their own wishes and depending on the circumstances. Almost like they were, you know, actual people or something.

In other words, if girls are encouraged to explore and acknowledge their real (not performative) sexuality at a young age, rather than being exhorted to suppress it entirely, it does not follow that they will become sexually available to predators, or more vulnerable to abuse. Quite the opposite, in fact.

If girls are taught what pleasure feels like (which we are not, not even as women - there isn't even medical agreement on what an orgasm is, the G Spot veers widely from non existent to all important every few years, and the British Film Council still thinks that female ejaculation is urination), they will be more likely to know what dis-pleasure is when they feel it. If they are allowed to say "yes" when they want to, they will know when the time is to say "no".

At the moment we teach girls that their job is essentially to say "no" until somebody bullies them into changing their minds. We teach them that sex is rape. Not feminists, who never actually made any such claims, but the worthy family focus conservative types who teach them about abstinence and chastity. And when you teach someone that any expression of their sexuality is damaging to their better self, be it with their first love or their creepy middle aged neighbour, how are they to tell the difference between what they experience with one versus the other?

Of course girls can tell the difference, because we're not as stupid as the patriarchy would like; we know perfectly well that kissing the school stud is wonderful while being rubbed up against on a crowded bus is horrible. But we bury both our desires and our misgivings under layers of shame and self-blame. Far from offering any protection, that toxic mixture just means that we sublimate and absorb the abuse that we are left vulnerable to, turning the damage inward.

1 comment:

  1. I hate the padded bra thing and the slogans on clothes thing because it pushes the objectification thing (god I'm articulate today) when kids are supposed to be still figuring things out, and I think the performance thing is basically unhealthy.

    More infant sex education and fewer playboy bunny accessories, say I.