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Sexualisation of girls

Sexualised images of children and early adolescents have increasingly appeared in all forms of media, the internet and advertising over the past two decades.

Direct sexualisation of children occurs when they are presented in advertising and magazines in ways that are modelled on adults who are clearly sexualised. Less obvious sexualisation of children occurs through their exposure to widespread sexualised advertising and popular culture targeted at adults.

Key points

  • The values implicit in sexualised images are that physical appearance and beauty are intrinsic to self-esteem and social worth, and that sexual attractiveness is a part of childhood experience.
  • In addition to the sexualisation of children via the media, broader socio-cultural influences also have a sexualising effect.
  • These influences include products that promote images of sexy, sexualised people to children, such as clothing, make-up, and dolls. Children's interpersonal relationships with parents, teachers and peers can also support and promote sexualising messages.
  • Research has shown that the exploitation of children, particularly girls, as sexual objects has a detrimental effect on adolescent development, increasing the risk of depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.
  • The unrealistic depiction of children in a sexualised manner is not only harmful to girls and women themselves, but has wider consequences in the community.

How the APS is involved

The APS submissions to several government inquiries have provided evidence of the harm caused by the sexualisation of girls. These have included inquiries relating to pornography and promoting the safety of children online.