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Over sexualisation of Teen Artist in Media

You don’t have to look far at how the media has sexualised teenagers in one way or another. The sexualisation of teen artists has always been a problem in the entertainment industry, but we are starting to realize the gravity of it now. It not only disturbs the teen’s behaviour but also their mental health as well.

What is Sexualisation?

When the characters especially the teen characters are viewed from a sexualised lens their identity as an individual is placed beneath their sexual appeal. Some profound examples are fashion dolls marketed for kids feature sexualised clothing, like fishnet stockings. Sometimes women are dressed to resemble little girls in Pornography and sexually explicit music videos are also some obvious cases too.

 However, the sexualisation of teenagers is not only limited to girls, young boys are often sexualised in many films and music videos. Kit Harington, a lead actor on the TV series “Game of Thrones” gave his statement on this issue saying “to always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning. It really is, and it’s in the same way as it is for women”.

How it affects the mental health of teenagers?

The sexualisation of teenagers creates perpetuating gender stereotypes that can lead them to experience various health and mental health issues. Some of the most common issues include anxiety, eating disorders, depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. 

Sexualisation gives people some unrealistic expectations about what their bodies should look like. Mostly, any sexualised women in films or music videos have body proportions that are incredibly hard to achieve, and how men are the central focus of their lives.

 For boys, the culture of toxic masculinity can lead them to experience body image issues when they compare themselves to superheroes or any social media influencer with a perfect body and face.

How the entertainment industry and social media contributed to over-sexualisation? 

A report by The American Psychological Association found that girls are depicted sexually more than boys, dressed in revealing clothing, and with bodily postures or expressions that imply sexual readiness. According to the study published by The American Journal of Psychiatry, social media has “amplified age-old pressures for teenage girls to certain sexualised narratives”.

Instagram models can portray unrealistic standards that teenagers will feel pressured to live up to. Mostly edited photos with the help of angles and filters can do wonders but these pictures are often portrayed as reality.

Society is obsessed with sexualizing underage boys and girls and it became a problem that goes beyond the TV screen. Shows like “Riverdale” might not be the cause of this problem but contributes to it.

These shows are teaching young girls that being sexual is somehow a part of being a feminist. These shows are simply repackaging sexism as empowerment and most of the characters in the show are still in high school.

 Another issue is the lack of sex education in schools, teens are being exposed to these sexualised scenes without the education to contextualize them. Sex scenes in shows like Riverdale can have an unfavourable impact because it is applied to underage characters. Portraying a realistic high school experience while having real conversations about sex and relationships can be more appropriate. Shows like Sex Education and Big Mouth already did a good job in this.

Hollywood’s music industry plays a big role in this as well, from sexual lyrics to explicit videos portraying young school girls.

For example, Britney Spears’s 1998’s hit “Baby One More Time” in which she was portrayed as a schoolgirl wearing a revealing school uniform and not to mention she was just 16 years old. The issue of over-sexualisation made it hard for stars like Britney Spears to maintain a sexy image. Britney told Boston radio station AMP 103.3 “A lot of sex goes into what I do. But sometimes I would like to bring it back to the old days when there was like one outfit through the whole video, and you’re dancing the whole video, and there’s like not much sex stuff going on”. The pop star said she wanted to remain true to herself and protect her two sons from her sexualised-on-screen image. There is a huge difference between being sexy and sexualised for being sexy. 

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor criticized the music industry for how it tries to sell the records of its young male and female stars. “You can’t take the sex out of rock’n’roll – that’s really important. What bothers me is that the artists that are most sexualised look like children and their audiences are children” she said. The 47-year-old singer added, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to start sexualizing an artist like Justin Bieber at the age of 15-16 years of age – he’s too young to know the decision he’s making”.

Comedian Jeff Garlin spoke out against the sexualisation of young stars such as Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande in 2014, telling the Huffington Post “This is disgusting it’s happening so young”.  The way 22-year-old Gomez and her former Nickelodeon star Grande who was 21, are portrayed was dirty according to Garlin.

Even now, singers like Billie Eilish, Loren Gray, Charli D’Amelio, Johnny Orlando, and a lot more were sexualised because of being in the spotlight at a really young age.

Sexuality is linked to music and performance in our commercial society. With the increasing sexualisation of these mass forms of media, it is important to pay attention to the way all genders are portrayed. The sexual nature of music is not the issue but the way it manipulated the stereotype of male-female is.

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