The Sexualisation of Boys

This article in the Sydney Morning Herald discusses the sexualisation of boys. Some great comments included from Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids, Maggie Hamiltion, author of 'What's happening to our boys' and Lisa Cox, advocate and author of 'Does my Bum look big in this ad?'

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Look what they've done to my son, ma

October 23, 2010

They're barely out of nappies but already little boys are being sexualised, writes Samantha Selinger-Morris.

You would be hard-pressed to find a mother who would put her teenage son in a T-shirt that read: ''I'm a tits man''. Or one who would post a photo of her 16-year-old's denim-clad bottom, emblazoned with the caption ''Booty shot!'' on her blog.

So why are parents of boys as young as two doing exactly this?

It's the result, say media experts, of a disturbing new trend: the sexualisation of young boys.

''People think, 'Oh, it's kinda cute', it's about breastfeeding,'' says Julie Gale, founder of the non-profit lobby group KidsFree2BKids, of the ''Tits man'' T-shirts, sold this year at Cotton On Kids. ''And that's how [the brand] justifies it. But, really. I mean, really.''

The T-shirts, which were recalled by the Australian chain eight months ago after public outrage, are part of a growing mountain of products presenting young boys, even babies, as world-weary Gordon Gekko types.

A campaign this month for Witchery Kids, aimed at two- to nine-year-olds, features brooding boys wearing aviator shades and matching scowls, snubbing the girls sitting next to them. A recent Huggies ad features a toddler in a denim-print nappy and button-down oxford shirt strutting down the street like a mini-gigolo, with women near-fainting at the sight of him stepping into a limousine. And "man-style" parties for toddlers - complete with fedoras, ''stud muffin'' sandwiches and games such as ''pin the moustache on the man'' - are the latest thing amid trend-conscious parents.

For experts long used to battling the adultification of girls - via toddler hot pants and tarted-up Bratz dolls - the recent targeting of boys has come as a shock.

''As a society, we get the vulnerability of girls far quicker than [that of] boys,'' says Maggie Hamilton, author of What's Happening to Our Girls?. ''Years before we thought little boys were vulnerable to sexual abuse, we started to protect girls. And now we're seeing the fallout from men who were abused horribly. So this is absolutely what we have to come to terms with: our boys in this unbelievably sexualised environment.''

Hamilton was prompted to write What's Happening to Our Boys?, published in June, after ''literally thousands of parents … [had] been saying, 'Look, this [girls' research] is great but boys are vulnerable and nobody's really writing about it. And we're struggling with it'.''

Preschool teachers, she says, were telling her about their male toddlers' ''increasing anxieties'' about wearing the ''right'' clothing. And parents were being lulled into granting their boys privileges inappropriate for their age. Full article at the Sydney Morning Herald

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