Clothing Firms 'Sexualize' Pre-Teen Girls

Jim Liebelt

This isn't anything new... simply research confirming what we already know is happening.

Some clothing firms in the United States are marketing sexy garments for pre-teen girls, reinforcing a destructive stereotype of female attractiveness, research released on Monday said.

Girls as young as six are being pitched clothing that highlights their breasts, buttocks or slimness or sends a message of sensuality, the study says.

Researchers led by Sarah Murnen, a professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Ohio, looked at 15 websites of popular clothing stores, ranging from bargain to high-end sectors of the junior U.S. market.

Clothing was rated according to whether it had only childlike characteristics; revealed or emphasized an intimate body part; or had characteristics that were associated with sexiness.

An example of a "childlike" characteristic would be a top with a butterfly print in pastel colors. In contrast, a bikini was coded as "revealing" because it exposed the waist and part of the chest. The bikini was considered "emphasizing" if, for instance, it outlined each breast with triangular pieces of fabric. Similarly, highly-decorated back pockets on trousers — adorned, for instance, with a bird or sequins — were deemed "emphasizing" because they drew attention to the buttocks. Material that was lingerie-like (such as in slinky red or black fabric) or in leopard or zebra prints was categorised as having characteristics associated with sexiness.

Researchers found sixty-nine per cent of the clothing assessed in the study had only child-like characteristics. Four per cent had only sexualizing characteristics, while 25 per cent had both sexualizing and childlike characteristics. One per cent had neither sexualized nor child-like characteristics.

The researchers said the biggest sexualisation was in clothing sold by "tween," or pre-teen stores, especially Abercrombie Kids, which came under fire in 2002 for selling thong underwear in children's sizes with "wink wink" and "eye candy" printed across the front.

Source: Vancouver Sun