September 12, 2013

Not So Little Any More

Written by Hysen Sisco, MIM Intern

While reading Soraya Chemaly’s Salon article about the over-sexualization of young girls, I couldn’t help but think about how pornography has contributed to this. The article, “The Six Ways We Talk About A Teenage Girl’s Age,” emphasizes that “The idea that a teen can be ‘older than her chronological age’ puts young girls in danger.” Girls are sexualized disproportionately as a direct result of porn.

Having grown up in an exponentially sexualized culture where certain assumptions have been made about me, personally, I can testify that this is true. Grown men would cat-call at me during my after-school jogs, leer at my friends at the mall and make inappropriate comments and gestures during school, all during my middle school years. In porn, young girls are complicit in these, and worse, situations where they are expected to participate as adults. This idea has leaked into our society so pervasively that it is assumed even in our justice system.

In a ruling in a Montana court on August 26, Judge G. Todd Baugh declared a 14-year-old rape victim “older than her chronological age,” and “as much in control of the situation” as her 54-year-old perpetrator, reducing the teacher’s sentence from 15 years to 30 days. The lack of justice outraged the community and the nation. Judge Baugh has since tried to backpedal, to no avail. It is sickening to think that if a girl were to choose to come forward, confront her attacker and seek justice, none would be given and she would be shamed in public. All this, simply because the image of young girls has been forced into a twisted fantasy by porn.

Chemaly asserts that girls’ ages are viewed in six different ways—all but one are incorrect—in order to make them into consenting, sexual, adult women. While the first half are things that can be directly attributed to the girls, only in that they own their age, bodies and minds, the last are outside influences put upon them by social constructs. These have been used by the pornography industry to sexualize the first three.

The age of how old her body looks according to its shape “for too many people in and out of the justice system, apparently makes a difference in rape.” This is unfair because they cannot control how their body looks and matures. To imply that a young girl wanted aggressive sexual attention because she went through puberty early or inherited certain genes is idiotic.

Her emotional age is, to me, the most legitimized excuse thrown around. Chemaly counters this pretext with “An emotionally and intellectually mature 15-year-old is still not allowed to vote. When a 49-year-old provides a 13-year-old alcohol, does a judge take into account how much the 13-year-old may have wanted to drink, or that the 13-year-old can hold his liquor?” There are age laws for a reason. I don’t think precocious, logical, sensitive girls should be punished for these qualities with sexualization and objectification.

Porn shows girls who have certain qualities and it leaks into mainstream media through consumption. Her age of commercial profitability heralds in when she can be sold sexualizing products, “marketing messages about body enhancing products and ‘fun’ ideas about how to look, dress, stand, speak, run, sit, eat, walk, work, sleep, starve, fix their hair, shave, bleach, cut bits off, add bits on and pose so that they are sexy. In other words, so that they are pleasing to boys and men.” If the porn industry’s making money off this stuff, so can Hasbro. This leads to a warping of her “media age,” where girls are regarded as sexual prizes or targets for their male counterparts. They are sexual products considered only for their bodies. Chemaly writes, “Girls get a great deal of social sanction for turning themselves into eye candy.” This objectification leads neatly into the age when she is “’fair game’ for older men”:

“When you consider the many ages of adolescent girls, it is clear that our cultural imagination encourages boys and men to think of young girls as fair game. By the time a girl is 12, she isn’t even seen as a whole human being, but regarded for her parts. She’s ‘forbidden fruit,’ ‘a temptress,’ ‘a man trap’ and ‘asking for it.’ … This is a male fantasy.”

It all culminates to outright pornography, in fantasizing about a young girl’s assumed womanhood. This dynamic mirrors the unequal relationships shown in porn. Implying a girl is going to be an adult automatically makes her one, while “boys will be boys” even among grown men is a sickening double standard where only the girls lose out.

WRITTEN BY HYSEN SISCO

Hysen graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a degree in English. She is from Tokyo, Japan and enjoys reading, biking and analyzing movies and other people’s relationships.

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