Christia S. Brown Ph.D.

Beyond Pink and Blue

Date Rape and Dieting: What It Means to be a Girl Today

Two teen issues afflicting teen girls point to the same problem

Posted Mar 19, 2013

(This post contains blunt language)

 Everyone is outraged this week about the Steubenville jocks found guilty for raping their female classmate. She was very, very, very drunk and the boys assumed they had free reign over her body, showing no remorse until the guilty verdict came. The country seemed to be split about their reactions – either mourning the lost potential of the boys and their sense of hopelessness, or outraged that the boys only received a minimal punishment and were portrayed so sympathetically by the media.  Conversations about the girl were far from complex. She was either blamed, for drinking way too much, or absolved of any responsibility. The entire public display was an either/or argument, lacking any nuance.

This story hit the internet universe about the same time a new study was published in the journal Sex Roles. The researchers looked at how young women’s desire to look attractive to men leads them to view themselves as dehumanized sexual objects. Research has consistently shown that boys and men dehumanize women into sexual objects. Take one look at a Hardee’s commercial. What was once considered soft-core porn is now a mainstream means of selling a burger. The more boob shots, the more burger sales.

And for boys and men, studies show the more they sexually objectify women, the more likely they are to justify rape.

After all, they argue, she is sometimes “asking for it” with her mini-skirt or make-up. For boys and men, the first step on the road to sticking their fingers inside the vagina of a girl without her consent is to simply view her as an object for their sexual pleasure. A society that allows women to be sexually objectified at every turn, whether it is to sell burgers, beer, or GoDaddy ads, should get used to girls being raped. It is part of the same mindset.

The new research article shows that girls are vulnerable to sexually objectifying themselves, and potentially putting themselves in dangerous situations, especially if they want to appear attractive to boys. The girl who wants to be thin and pretty also dehumanizes herself, less an agentic person and more an object for boys’ pleasure.

Dehumanizing and sexually objectifying themselves is the first step to allowing boys access to their bodies, even when they would rather not.

This becomes troubling considering that 50% of teen girls are on a diet, starting as young as 8 and 9.

When girls should be playing kickball or my Little Ponies, half are dieting. Half of all teen girls want to be thinner, and the number one reason is to be more attractive to boys. In other words, to look like the women in the commercials.

So what does all this mean? It means we live in a society where it is socially acceptable, and even profitable, to sexually objectify and dehumanize women. Boys, who voraciously consume these images, view women as sexual objects for their pleasure. Doing this makes rape seem like a fun way to spend a Friday night. Girls aren’t actual people with feelings and needs, they are boobs and vaginas. Girls are also voraciously consuming these images. They try to emulate the thin, attractive ideal, trying to diet their way into boys’ hearts. By doing so, they dehumanize and objectify themselves in the process. This leads making the kind of decisions that end up scarring them for life. Drinking too much, flirting too much, all in an attempt to fit in and be liked. Never realizing, and never ever deserving, the consequences of losing their humanity.

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