pants to pants!

With the "Sex Education Show" forthing at the mouth on the sexualization of children (by which we almost always mean girls), I wanted to talk a bit about underwear.

The show rants at length about Matalan's padded bras with cartoon monkey heads printed on it, Primark's panties with "Angel" written across the bottom in little gemstones, and a tank top saying "Don't Even Think About It!" Of course there's been hysteria for a while about dressing kids like sexual beings, with makeup, sexy Halloween costumes, and "high heels" for babies. Boys get inappropriate Halloween costumes too, like this WWE  Undertaker muscle-baring outfit. And for every Daily Mail article fussing about "protecting our kids" you have others protesting that, like it or not, children have sexualities- and they'll explore them with or without any knowledge about safer sex.

Having looked at what the crusade against skanky underwear is fighting against, I'm frankly confused. I personally think that the issue is the opposite of what's being talked about. I would find an adult wearing a bra with cartoon monkeys on it to be adding more to the fetishization of young girls than a child wearing the same thing. As Laurie Penny points out, "The pornographic and advertising industries routinely infantilise adult women in an erotic context", adding "corporate visions of pubescent sexuality are marketed to children and adults alike as ritualised acts of erotic drag". I think that's far more of an issue, myself- maybe I'm crazy, but panties with "angel" written on the butt with rhinestones seem more like a girl/teen thing than an adult expression of sexiness. 

Not only that, but I want to bring up the whole "purity panties" thing as well. Have you seen these? They're boyshort style underwear with things like "zip it!" or "not tonight" written across the waistband. There's teeshirts too, but only in female sizes. The underwear is, of course, female styles and small/medium sizes. The photos, even, somewhat tease the viewer while shaking their finger at them. What exactly are these trying to communicate? 

This just adds to that old adage that "the sex" is something that men want and take from women and women have "the sex" to give or deny as they like. Oh, you can get ones specially printed on boxers for boys, but this isn't really about them, is it? Worrying about children's sexuality is reserved for girls. 

Sexualizing teenage boys is often seen as ok (Justin Bieber, for example, or Jaden Smith), while sexualizing teenage girls makes you a massive pervert. Teenage girls are fragile, in need of protection and easily manipulated victims of the predatory gaze- teenage boys, especially teenage boys of colour, are hypersexual and very capable of being the seducer/objectifier, even if they're only twelve. Obvious, right? Or are you also seeing a double standard here? Gwen Sharp sums it up really well:

I think it’s safe to say that if Miley Cyrus, or another female teen star, posed in photos that showed evidence of being kissed or grabbed by male fans, people would be up in arms about the sexualization of girls. But as we often see, there’s a double-standard, based on the idea that boys are naturally sexual at earlier ages and that boys are sexually invincible. While we might see a teen girl surrounded by men as being in danger, we don’t think of girls as being sexually threatening to boys, or of male teen celebrities’ sexuality being as open to exploitation by publicists, photographers, or other members of the media. 

-The Double Standard in Sexualizing Teen Celebrities, Sociological Images

I think that whether young girls are wearing purity panties or thongs, they're still engaging in this dichotomy that traps women in virgin/whore roles. In a society where we infantalize and constantly present women as objects for the male consumer how can we possibly expect children to not respond to that message? Of course young girls want to wear leopard print panties and padded bras- we teach them that, as women, the best they can aspire to is being pretty on the arm of a rich man. I'm amazed that there's not more young boys looking for padded boxer briefs and working on their six-pack.

There's another much longer article coming on this subject- hang tight.

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