Sexualization is the pernicious application of sexuality or sexual perceptions to an individual or class.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sexualization as occurring under one or more of these four conditions:
Some cultural critics have postulated that over recent decades children have evidenced a level of sexual knowledge or sexual behaviour inappropriate for their age group. A number of different causes are cited, including media portrayals of sex and related issues, especially in media aimed at children; marketing of products with sexual connotations to children (for example the Bratz Baby dolls that wear thongs); lack of parental oversight and discipline; access to adult culture via the internet; and lack of comprehensive school sex education programs (APA, 2007; Lamb, 2006). For girls and young women in particular, studies have found sexualization to have harmful effects on their "self-image and healthy development".
Sexualization and objectification undermine a person's confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women-eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls' ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
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