There is a difference between sexualising and sexuality

In short: sexualization is performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. Sexuality is understanding and connecting to your own desire.

At the reading, Orenstein shared this passage from Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Let me be clear here: I object– strenuously– to the sexualization of girls but not necessarily to girls having sex. I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage. I do, however, want her to understand why she’s doing it: not for someone else’s enjoyment, not to keep a boyfriend from leaving, not because everyone else is. I want her to explore and understand her body’s responses, her own pleasure, her own desire. I want her to be able to express her needs in a relationship, to say no when she needs to, to value reciprocity, and to experience true intimacy. The virgin/ whore cycle of the pop princesses, like so much of the girlie girl culture, pushes in the opposite direction, encouraging girls to view self-objectification as a feminist rite of passage.

This distinction between sexuality and sexualization is not made often enough. If you’re against the sexualization of girls, it’s often concluded that you’re somehow anti-sex, on the same team with Phyllis Schlafly or a fan of “traditional family values.” The political agenda to promote healthy sexuality is actually the opposite and must include access to contraception for all women, sex education in schools, and full reproductive rights.

This is such an important point from Margot Magowan and Peggy Orenstein – a point I have argued here previously – and it is where, I believe, people like Melinda Tankard Reist really let the discussion down here in Australia.

Cross-posted at blue milk.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, parenting

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. No doubt about it- many fail to grasp the significance and meaning of concepts like commodification, socialisation, individuation and sexualisation (as a form of commodification). There is an unfinished historical process at work, we are at a certain point in our speci-al and civilisational development that seeks the next stage for the realisation of human psychic individual potential, now free of material want.
    The reactionary, control-obsessed hierarchicism of the Koch bros/ Murdoch types is based on fear induced lack of consciousness, but surely history can have a better outcome than the processing of generation after generation into modes controllable by the mindless few, of the continuation of society as nothing better rather than a mindless Panopticon.
    The New Left of the late sixties had it right when they proposed “make love not war”.
    That is, the reclaiming of birthright for the new generation against the rationing and controlling impulses of the system, set up during Industrialisation, with its disastrous accompanying move from community to factory serfdom through the sexual division of labour and its sexual economy including the alienation inducing isolated nuclear family, a means for subsequent alienation from life and “others” for all subjects, male and female, hence greater vulnerability to conditioning by exploitative forces.

  2. When looking at the Myer kids catalogue last night it struck me how different it was (in a good way) to some advertising for kids clothing that I had seen. The photos were all shot with the kids of various ages in poses you would expect to see in kids that age, the smiles were all genuine and some quite cheeky but in a loveable kid way not in a come to the bedroom way. I can’t understand that some people can’t see the difference between that and some of the sexualised poses in other children’s advertising – more prevalent before the campaign to stamp it out but still around in some places.

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