If you think she’s less human because of what she wears, you’ve got the problem not her.

31 Aug

Sexualisation of girls


There’s an article in The Conversation this morning titledSexualised girls are seen as less intelligent and less worthy of help than their peers.

The piece is the result of a study conducted with the goal of ascertaining if adults are as condemning of “sexualised” girls as they are of “sexualised” women. “Sexualised” in this instance refers to the clothing girls and women are wearing.

The conclusion is yes, study participants perceived girls in sexualised clothing as less moral, less intelligent, and less worthy of care and concern than are their less sartorially “sexualised” peers. This mirrors societal attitudes to “sexualised” women, attitudes that can determine, for example, empathy or lack of it for women and girls who are rape victims. This empathy can be considerably reduced if the victim is perceived as immoral, unintelligent, and even deserving of rape if she was wearing “sexualised” clothing at the time.

“Sexualised” women and girls are perceived as less human than the non-sexualised, as objects lacking in intelligence and up for use and abuse, and as more likely to be responsible for sexual assaults perpetrated upon them.

While I have no doubt that the study is accurately reporting its findings on society’s perceptions of women and girls,  it seems to me the problem is not the clothes we wear, rather the problem is society’s attitudes towards us.  These attitudes and perceptions remain unchallenged by the authors of the study, indeed the study appears to be assuming such attitudes are inevitable and  acceptable, and that women and girls must conform to them by policing what we wear.

The entire notion of “sexualisation” is born from a repressive and unhealthy attitude to sex, and to women who enjoy our sexuality, and who dress in ways considered to emphasise our sexuality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with us enjoying our sexuality and dressing how we like. What is wrong is a societal assumption that we are immoral, less human, and deserving of rape if we do.

Obviously there must be something inherently dodgy about sex, if women are deserving of punishment for overtly expressing enjoyment of our sexuality.

There is no question that given societal attitudes, it’s hideously perverted to dress young girls in the same way. It should come as no surprise to anyone that if young girls are dressed in a “sexualised” manner, there are adults who will perceive them as potentially objects for sexual gratification, and not much use for anything else.

However. What opponents of “sexualisation” consistently avoid or overlook, is that dressing girls and women in garments considered modest will do absolutely nothing to change a dominating perception of overt female sexuality as immoral, dangerous and an indicator of sub-humanity and low intelligence. This perception will persist, no matter what women and girls wear, and this is what urgently needs to be challenged and changed, not some bits of cloth in which we clad or omit to clad ourselves.

Look to those doing the “sexualising” if you want attitudes to women and girls to change. You can wrap us in burqas and they’ll find a way to “sexualise” us. People who perceive women and girls as sexual objects are the problem, and will remain the problem.

Why the hell should we be called upon to repress ourselves because of their brutish ignorance?

And why don’t the authors of studies such as this one in The Conversation turn their attention to the cause, rather than the symptom?

11 Responses to “If you think she’s less human because of what she wears, you’ve got the problem not her.”

  1. Anonymous August 31, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    well said

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous August 31, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    Brilliant in it’s simplicity & depth Jennifer. The sort of article that needs to be printed in The Herald-Sun & The Age, (& The Conversation), (& everywhere), to educate/enlighten the masses. I think you are the most under-rated & excellent social commentators in this country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maria August 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

      Hi Jennifer,..the last comment is from me,..1st comment is a different Anon…will post as Maria from now on to avoid confusion… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 1, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      Thank you for your appreciation, Maria.
      It’s a difficult subject to write about. And think about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anonymous September 1, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

        Yes, i do appreciate the difficulty Jennifer.
        By using the word “simplicity”, pls don’t think that i mean easy.
        I think you have a unique & valuable ability & gift to explain the complex, confronting, confusing, in language that is accessible to many.
        Probably not to all, but to many more than most who claim to be experts & knowledgeable in the issues you write about.
        A rigorous honesty, courage & generous compassion for your fellow humans, coupled with a fierce tho not arrogant intellect shine strongly thro your writing. Not to mention the brilliant wit.
        A beautiful & rich combination….ps..think i understand one of the reasons A loved you sooo much. Beautiful


  3. Nick August 31, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    “The conclusion is yes, study participants perceived girls in sexualised clothing as less moral, less intelligent, and less worthy of care and concern than are their less sartorially “sexualised” peers”

    Perhaps some of the study participants did, but how many of them, and to what degree? Bugger all, I’d conclude.

    The report can be freely downloaded here for anyone interested:


    Study 1 doesn’t actually show the results it’s supposed to. Nowhere do the authors actually separate out the responses to adult women vs. pre-teen girls for us, except as an average of all results (bikini wearing and “plain clothes”).

    Instead, all we can derive (Figure 1) is that a pre-teen girl in plain clothes has roughly the same moral and intellectual standing as an adult woman in lingerie! Go figure.

    On scales of 1 to 7, Agency-related question responses varied by less than 0.2, and Morality-related question responses varied by less than 0.1

    Study 2’s reliability alphas were mostly questionable, verging on poor. Especially the Morality-related questions, which were in fact poor. And on scales of 1 to 7, all question responses varied by less than 0.5…

    Do we really think most adults would find a photo of a young girl in bathers to be immoral, or a reason to think she’s stupid?

    As Jennifer says, the people who think that kind of thing the most, think pretty much the same about all women.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. hudsongodfrey September 1, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    The problem with all these studies and critiques of sexualisation seems to me to consist principally of the assumption that pre-pubescent girls (or boys for that matter), aren’t sexual. That you somehow reach the age of consent and magically have sexual maturity conferred upon you without there being any process of growth, of trial and error, or experimentation?

    Thinking of human beings as objects that are means to an end of sexual gratification may be a problem, but surely reducing anyone to their sans sexual husk is just as objectifying. Its making women and girls objects under the control of someone else’s social pressure, religion, ideology or view of propriety just as much as the opposite might be the case of imposing a licentious template.

    If only we could reduce the problems to their harms, bad sex, bad relationships, unwanted pregnancies etc…. Juxtaposed against good sex, great relationships and wanted children there seems to me every reason to teach that the sexual glass is half full?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 2, 2015 at 5:42 am #

      Unfortunately a particular expression of sexuality seems to have us enthralled, and when transposed onto kiddies results in making them appear ripe for exploitation. I agree that children are sexual beings, and the problem is adults with power and children with none, therefore unable to consent.
      For mine, the narrow expressions and examples of objectifying sexuality are the sticking point, and the reaction of various groups only serves to make the options even more limited.

      Liked by 2 people

      • hudsongodfrey September 2, 2015 at 10:01 am #

        I think we still have trouble articulating balanced positive sentiments about sexuality as opposed to swinging wildly between expressions of fear on the one hand and titillation on the other. We question the lack of empathy among leering men who see underage girls as the sum of their body parts, but we don’t question our own lack of empathy for children or teens needing a bit of space to learn about how they inhabit their own sexuality.

        Each pair of possibilities are dichotomised, and each falsely. The idea of sexualisation jumps from protectiveness of immature human beings who aren’t ready to be sexually available straight past any agency they might have in taking a natural interest in sexuality to pointing fingers at other adults for “sexualising” innocent children. Both the puritanical idea of innocence and denial of agency are somewhat problematic in varying degrees, but the blame game’s the thing that contains the really awful presumption that sex is bad.

        Its almost as if our discomfort with having to set our own boundaries is being unfairly imposed upon children to their detriment.

        If it seems creepy to be telling children sex is good then our inability to add the appropriate age qualifiers or contextualise “good sex” shouldn’t have to imply that sex is bad, yet we know there’s an active finger pointing class of people who do little else.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Michaela Tschudi September 2, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    Back in 2008, there was a Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children. The Govt response is available here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Completed%20inquiries/2008-10/sexualisationofchildren/index


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