Raising daughters in an era that values thigh gap and size zero can be a bit daunting. Add to that the constant barrage of images of barely-dressed women next to fully-dressed men in both advertising and entertainment, and you might understand why parents are struggling to teach their daughters (as well as sons) the difference between a healthy sexual identity and sexy for sexy’s sake.
Here’s the problem: When we define sexy as a one-size-fits-all look that is completely focused on the exterior features of women, then how do women who don’t fit that mold feel about themselves? When we teach “sexy” as being only about one’s outward appearance, what are we teaching our daughters about healthy sexuality? And, for that matter, what are we teaching our sons? If you can only be sexy at a certain weight, with a specific body type and a pouty look on your face, how will you ever find a way to a healthy sex life? Further, if boys are raised to see only those features as sexual, how will they cultivate healthy sexual attitudes?
As these children, who have been inundated with sexualized imagery, reach adulthood, I fear for their ability to enjoy their partners on a meaningful and emotionally deeper level. It seems obvious (at least to me) that raising our daughters in a world that marginalizes women and girls in the media will hurt their self-esteem, but what about the damage to their future selves? How will an adult woman who has been told that her body doesn’t fit the media norm get into bed with a partner and feel confident and sexy? How will men find normally-shaped women sexy when all they’ve viewed are highly sexualized women with photoshopped bodies?
To assume that images such as the nearly naked Miley Cyrus twerking against the fully-clothed Robin Thicke don’t influence how we all think of sexuality might be a bit naïve. We are all being sold a package of sexiness and sexuality that doesn’t have much to do with the real thing… it will most likely leave us feeling as if something is missing. Isn’t it time to stop using sex to sell — particularly to our children? Shouldn’t we allow our children to develop a healthy image of themselves that leads to a healthier self-esteem? That is what will ultimately lead to a healthier sexual activity as they grow into adulthood.
I’m proud to stand with a group of business owners, activists, and mental health professionals who are actively seeking to change the face of media for our children; particularly our daughters. They are the force behind Brave Girls Want, an organization dedicated to removing the toxicity of the media’s influence on our daughters. When we put girls in a box of imposed femininity and sexuality, we not only limit them now as children, but also as fully realized, sexual adults.
Here is the website to join us for our exciting Times Square event, http://www.bravegirlswant.com/index.html
Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com
To contribute to the Brave Girls Want campaign, http://www.bravegirlswant.com/our-campaigns.html
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