Women are encouraged to simultaneously embody seduction and innocence, this oxymoronic expectation is emotionally exhausting and sets the stage for a bad girl/good girl dichotomy.
For example, consider the unjustified guilt of Japanese AKB48 pop singer and dancer Minami Minegishi and her excessive act of contrition including shaving her head. The video is something to behold. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxF2v4XLAE8&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1
Even if the entire episode is a cruel publicity stunt, it is stunning to see such hypocrisy. What was Minegishi’s sin? She stayed overnight in the apartment of a member of a popular boy band, Alan Shirahama, and more importantly she was photographed leaving the apartment the next morning. Girls in the big Asian band Minegishi belongs to are required to remain chaste so that their persona of innocence and youthfulness is maintained for the audience that is mostly adult men. In performance, the girls, ages 15 to 20, alternately dress in school uniforms and provocative underwear and bathing suits. In effect, the producers sexualize them to build an audience.
So Minegishi, a superstar in Japan, is expected to look sexy to be successful, but she is shamed when it appears that she actually has sex.
As her video apology starkly shows Minegishi, who is 20, fully accepts this code of conduct and deeply regrets her breach. And, a few days after her apology she was performing again wearing a wig. Code or no code, the producers want her back on stage where at least temporarily her ability to attract an audience has not been diminished.
It plays out differently in the United States, so far (with the exception of Britney Spears) no shaved heads, but young girls who become stars are sexualized to a high degree and their missteps are scrutinized, often hypocritically.
And these stars reflect a culture that puts the focus on external appearance and dresses young girls in provocative ways meant to combine their youth with aggressively worldly accoutrements. As girls enter adolescents, many are well-schooled in the art of appearing simultaneously innocent and seductive. Yet, they have little awareness of what they are actually doing. Society sets them up for trouble because eventually they have to find a way to reconcile innocence with seductiveness. One way to reconciliation is to be the good girl in public and the bad girl in private, an outcome that usually compromises the prospect of having an integrated personality. The problems that spin out of this conflict are many and have generational consequences.
When the world at large, east or west, promotes the idea that obtaining male desire depends on perfecting the innocent/seductress paradox some women will work hard to fit the bill. In the process, the woman’s feelings and desires are often pushed to the side. And when at a later time and state of life they reappear, and they often do reappear, they may come with a self-destructive vengeance.
Too often, I think, society sexualizes girls long before they are emotionally or cognitively ready to understand how much of themselves this path will require them to give up. They are invited to display their sexuality, as long as they do it with sufficient girlish innocence. If they cross the line, they are punished with social judgment.
What can we do about this? Girls and women achieve more for themselves when they are able to see this phenomenon for what it is and not play into it. Instead of focusing on appearing a certain way to attract male desire, girls and women who focus on their own likes, dislikes and objectively assess from their own point of view the men in their lives are much more likely to find sexual and emotional freedom.