Objecting to the sexualisation of girls is not the same as objecting to sexuality: a response to false claims
The shame is not with young women’s sexuality but with a culture that teaches them that is their only value
Everywhere girls turn they absorb messages which tell them their value and worth is in their sexual allure and their ability to attract sexual attention.
Messages from media and popular culture tell them that it is baring their flesh and being publicly sexual which bring attention and value.
Young women are being socialised and conditioned to see themselves as sexual service stations for men and boys. Many feel they have to ‘perform’. Sexuality isn’t so much about intimacy or connection but sexual performance. Did he enjoy it? Did he get off? Did she provide PSE, the Porn Star Experience?
Some people with vested interests claim that those of us who are critical of the sexualisation of girls, and who cite a growing body of global literature detailing a raft of negative physical and mental health outcomes, are somehow against the expression of female sexuality. This is a deliberate tactic to try to silence reasoned argument. My colleagues and I experience it most days.
Opponents of our work collapse sexualisation and sexuality as one and the same, when they are not.
We believe girls have the right to healthy sexual development and to knowledge which equips and empowers them to make healthy decisions about sexuality their bodies and relationships.
But imposing a limited and limited version of sexuality, often inspired by pornified themes and messages and reducing girls to what they can offer sexually, is not good for them.
I speak to thousands of girls in schools a year. Many feel pressured to act in highly sexual ways. Many feel they have to give boys what they ask for. Many are engaging in sexual practices they don’t actually like or enjoy, but think they are meant to. Many are experiencing sexual harassment on a daily base. Many are experiencing coerced and unwanted sex which they rarely report.
Boys receive a message from the culture that girls are up for grabs. They are conditioned to thinking they have a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls. That women and girls exist for their gratification and pleasure. They are reduced to plastic sex dolls with open mouths.
Even primary school aged girls are absorbing and acting out the messages they take in about their bodies and sexuality, which is deeply concerning to their parents, teachers and child development authorities more broadly.
Objecting to the sexualisation of girls is not the same as objecting to sexuality. No one I work with in this area is involved in ‘shaming’ girls for being sexual. I’ve seen it claimed that we do, but there are never any sources to prove it, never any direct quotes. It is a deliberate strategy to try to shut us up.
The shame is not young women’s sexuality, but with a culture that teaches them that is their only value. That nothing else really matters.
Our critique has always been cultural. Dissecting the cultural messages girls get. In my talks I show 200 images from clothing, toys, games, magazines, music video clips, advertising etc which reduce girls to the sum of their sexual parts. The response is significant. Girls start to join the dots and recognise their objectification. Many are rising up in resistance. Collective Shout for example, has many young women in its ranks and is attracting many more who are rejecting the dictates and stereotypes imposed on them by culture. They are encouraging other young women to do the same. They will be the ones who turn this thing around.
Melinda Tankard Reist a writer, speaker and co-founder of Collective ShoutRead more
Yesterday I took two of my children into town for ice cream. This is what they were exposed to on a busy Perth street.
Ad Standards has previously dismissed complaints over this same venue’s ‘Miss Nude’ billboards, on the basis that “based on the location of the building, the audience likely to be frequenting the area are generally customers of the venues and that... this is the relevant audience.”
But the “location of the building” is a busy street in Perth- one with restaurants, ice cream stores, a bookstore, library and Time Zone, and the audience is everyone. Why do sex industry interests trump kids rights? If public spaces include adult venues, do they become off limits to children Ad Standards? Are children not welcome in public spaces?
The harms from everyday exposure to sexually objectifying imagery like this are well-established. With twenty years of empirical research, 135 studies found across 109 publications, there is no shortage of research into the negative effects of sexual objectification. Consistent evidence found that:
"regular, everyday exposure to [sexually objectifying portrayals of women] are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women's competence, morality, and humanity."
What is the message being communicated to my daughter about women and girls? What do images like this teach her about how her body should look, where her value lies and who she should aspire to be? What do these images teach my son about what women are for? How does this near constant backdrop of sexist and sexualised images of women’s bodies prepare them for adult life and relationships? This view of women as endlessly sexually available is so normalised and accepted it is routinely broadcast on billboards and shopfront windows and nobody even blinks. How does this perceived acceptance of women as sex objects impact young people’s understanding of women and their place in the world?
Ad Standards consistently allows the sex industry to target children.
This photo of a billboard advertising a strip club was taken from a Brisbane boys school. Ad Standards dismissed complaints, and ruled the strip club ad treated sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience- school children.
Ad Standards gave the green light to Honey B’s strip club billboard outside a school:
Ad Standards allowed sex industry exhibition Sexpo to advertise on school buses, including one emblazoned with the slogan "The most fun you can have with your clothes on" and others complete with URLs to hardcore live-streaming pornography.
A life size poster of this image was located on a busy Adelaide street. Ad Standards ruled this outdoor advertising was not in breach of industry codes and standards because "the image is relevant to the advertised product". The product was women, for men's sexual use.
Our current system of ad industry 'regulation' is broken. The harms of sexualising children are well-established, but the commercial interests of advertisers are time and again prioritised above children's rights and wellbeing. The ad industry was put on notice 8 years ago that they had one last chance to turn things around. The industry has proven that it cannot be trusted to regulate itself. It's time for a change.
‘Porn is presenting rough sex and anal sex as something normal, and teenage boys are learning from their screens that it often involves violence and humiliation’ – Nikki Gemmell
How encouraging to read the concerns a number of us have been attempting to raise for close on a decade now, in our national broadsheet The Australian.Read more
Collective Shout quoted in 10 Daily article
10 daily forwarded several photographs of Australian Instagram models aged between nine and 15 to Collective Shout. It's a grassroots campaigns movement against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls.
“I searched for a couple of images and found them on porn sites. It’s likely the majority of them are on porn sites and others are in a chat room with inappropriate sexual comments about a primary school aged girl,” campaigns manager Caitlin Roper said.
10 daily has viewed and can confirm that these images were shared on a porn site and other chat rooms.
But who should be held accountable for where these pictures are ending up?
Michael Murchie was the man behind the camera for at least one of the child photos Roper found a porn site. He told 10 daily all clothing in his shoots belong to the models.
When questioned about the age-appropriateness of the photos of teen and pre-teen girls such as the images above, Murchie said:
“I never take revealing photos of minors. I merely take the photos requested of me by the clients, their parents."
But Roper doesn't buy it.
“Is that an excuse? If a parent wants to exploit their kids then its OK from a photographer to make money from it?”
Girls and women's advocate Roper said modelling decision being made by parents could be damaging to their children in years to come.
“Do they not understand the implications for their child or do they not care? Is it about fame ahead of their child’s rights and safety?”
Read the full article at 10 Daily
"Pornography is now the main sex educator for young people"Read more
Honey Birdette is a serial sexploitation offender. The sex shop, located in shopping centres around the country, has attracted hundreds of complaints for its sexist advertising. Ad Standards has investigated complaints sixty-six advertisements, upholding thirty-seven, but Honey Birdette continues to sexually objectify women.
In 2017, father and Collective Shout supporter Kenneth Thor launched a petition calling on Westfield shopping centres to stop Honey Birdette’s porn-themed advertising, but to date Westfield has failed to take any action. Enough is enough- Westfield must act on Honey Birdette sexual exploitation of women.
In this blog, we’ve compiled responses to some of the more common defences of Honey Birdette sexism.
1. "You see more flesh at the beach"
In response to Kenneth Thor's petition to Westfield, Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan claimed, “You see more flesh at Bondi at 10 am.” Monaghan has clearly missed the point.
The presence of female flesh alone does not constitute sexual objectification. The inclusion of attractive women in an ad campaign does not constitute sexual objectification.
Sexual objectification occurs when a person, often a woman, is treated as a body, or series of body parts for others’ use and consumption, when her physical attributes and sexual capabilities are regarded as representative of her whole self or seen as determining her worth.
Commenting on Honey Birdette advertising, Australian researcher Dr. Meagan Tyler said:
"These are not just images of women's breasts, they are sexually objectified and commodified images of women's breasts in public space. These representations of women, that reduce us to consumable body parts, reduce our recognition of women's full humanity and make it more difficult for women to participate in public life."
As Dr Linda Papadopolous stated in Sexualisation of Young People Review:
“Although sexual objectification is but one form of gender oppression, it is one that factors into- and perhaps enables- a host of other oppressions women face, ranging from employment discrimination and sexual violence to the trivialisation of women’s work and accomplishments.”
Honey Birdette routinely promotes the sexual objectification of women in their floor to ceiling porn-themed advertising, featuring hyper-sexualised depictions of women’s bodies or even just parts of their bodies. The women in Honey Birdette advertising are portrayed as though they are for men’s pleasure, defined only by their sexual appeal and availability. The message is that women exist for men’s enjoyment and entertainment.
Objection to the sexual objectification of women is not an objection to women, nor is it an objection to women’s bodies. It is an opposition to sexism, to corporates who profit from the sexual exploitation of women and have the audacity to claim they are empowering women in the process.
2. "It's just women expressing their sexuality"
If Honey Birdette advertising is an expression of female sexuality, “for women, by women”, then why is it indistinguishable from the content in men’s softcore porn magazines?
Honey Birdette promotes a very narrow view of female sexuality, one in which youthful, slender, and typically white-skinned women are depicted as passive objects of male desire. Female sexuality as represented by Honey Birdette entails women being sexually appealing to men, exposing their bodies and mimicking porn-inspired poses and acts. How does this differ from the sexually objectifying depictions of women for a male audience? Essentially, it doesn’t.
In her TED talk about growing up in a ‘porn culture’, Professor Gail Dines encouraged the audience to critically analyse porn-inspired depictions of women in media and advertising. Pointing to a hyper-sexualised image of a female model, she said:
“Look at her clothes, look at her face, look at her posture, and look at her gaze...who is she speaking to? Because the notion is that every image has a reader in mind. Before you answer, do you think she’s speaking to her mother, saying, ‘Let’s go for a cup of coffee after the photo shoot?’ So who is she talking to? Who is she speaking to? Men. And what is she saying? ‘F*ck me’.”
Who is the ‘reader’ or the intended audience in Honey Birdette ads? And what is being communicated to them?
Note the differing treatment of men and women in Honey Birdette ad campaigns. Lingerie clad women are posed alongside fully clothed men. What does this unequal treatment represent? Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth said, “Cross-culturally, unequal nakedness almost always expresses power relations.”
It is in Honey Birdette’s interest to reframe their commodification of female bodies and sexuality as ‘female sexuality’ or ‘empowerment’. “For women, by women” may be a great marketing hook, but the promotion of sexist stereotypes and sexually objectifying imagery of women does not become an ‘expression of female sexuality’ simply because a company with vested financial interests says so.
3. "You're just easily offended"
This is not an issue of offence or personal taste. Our opposition to Honey Birdette’s constant sexually exploitative depictions of women is not on the basis of offence, but documented evidence of harm.
Representations of women that reduce women to mere sexual objects, as sexually available and existing for men’s use are problematic not because some people might be offended but because they cause harm, primarily to women and children.
Researcher Rebecca Whisnant distinguishes between offence and harm. Offence is “something that happens in one’s head”, whereas harm is “an objective condition, not a way of feeling; to be harmed is to have one’s interests set back, to be made worse off, to have one’s circumstances made worse than they were...Whether a person is harmed does not depend on how she feels.”
The harms of sexually objectifying portrayals of women are well established. A review of twenty years of research, from 109 publications containing 135 studies found:
“consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.”
Honey Birdette’s attempts to paint those who object to their routine sexual exploitation of women as easily offended, prudish or even religious fundamentalists is a deliberate tactic to silence those who might threaten their profits, and to avoid engaging in meaningful discussions about the harms to women and children from the very sexual objectification they promote.
4. "It has no impact on kids"
Some people believe that children are unaffected by floor to ceiling soft-porn advertising in public spaces, such as Honey Birdette shopfront advertising. This view is not supported by the international research into the sexualisation of children and its corresponding harms.
Sexualisation of children refers to the imposition of adult models of sexual behaviour and sexuality on to children and adolescents at developmentally inappropriate stages and in opposition to the healthy development of sexuality. It encompasses sexual objectification and representation of children in adult sexual ways and in ways that imply the child’s value is dependent on conforming to a particular appearance, sexual display or behaviours. Children may also experience secondary sexualisation through exposure to sexualised advertising material and products aimed at adult consumers- like Honey Birdette shopping centre advertising.
Pic credit MTR/Caters Media
The harms of sexualisation are extensive. In its 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls the American Psychological Association concluded there was “ample evidence to show that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains including: cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs”.
Harms from exposure to sexualised content
There is a “growing body of evidence” of the harms to children from exposure to adult sexual content. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted that premature exposure to adult sexual images and values has a negative impact on the psychological development of children, in terms of self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships.
The objectification of women in media and advertising puts pressure on girls and women to conform to stereotypical sexualised beauty ideals. According to RANZCP, exposure to sexualising messages contributes to girls defining their self-worth in terms of sexual attractiveness, and the “excessive focus on appearance and narrow definition of attractiveness” contributes to the development of abnormal eating patterns and lack of positive body image.
Links between sexist advertising and violence against women
The NSW Government acknowledged the links between media and advertising reinforcing sexist and stereotypical gender roles and men’s violence against women in their 2016 report on sexualisation:
“The exposure to media representation of genders...can provide templates for what it means to be a boy/man (equated with sexual conquest and entitlement to access women’s bodies) and girl/woman (sexually available).”
“The NSW Government further maintains, in line with the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, that such stereotyping contributes to attitudes that support or justify violence against women and girls.”
Honey Birdette targets kids
So far, complaints have been made against 66 Honey Birdette advertisements, with rulings against the retailer on 37 occasions. Children around the country are exposed to Honey Birdette advertising every day. Honey Birdette is well aware of parents' concerns for their children, as outlined in frequent complaints, but it is clear the wellbeing of children is not a priority for them.
In addition to their standard sexually objectifying advertising material, Honey Birdette have gone out of their way to attract the attention of children in their advertising in public spaces. Several Christmas ad campaigns have included imagery of beloved children’s figure Santa alongside lingerie clad women, in various BDSM themed scenarios. One advertisement even addressed children directly, with the slogan ‘Sorry Kids! We gave Santa the night off.’ Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan dismissed complaints about the “fun” Santa campaign, commenting, “You can’t please everyone.”
The retailer continued to put profits before the rights of children, refusing to take down the ad even after Ad Standards had found it was in breach. “Nobody tells Honey B’s when to take down her signage”, the brand posted on their Facebook page.
The harms of sexualisation of children are well established and significant. We know that sexualisation presents a threat to the health and wellbeing of children, yet Honey Birdette arrogantly and repeatedly breaches the AANA code of ethics, showing a complete disregard for the most vulnerable members of our society.Read more
A Queensland man found with 14 hours of video and over 500 images of child exploitation material has received an 18 month suspended sentence. Christopher Edward Hunt had become desensitised to violent porn and had been collecting images and videos of children being tortured and engaging in sex acts with animals.
The 31 year old lived with his parents and after police raided his house he admitted to possessing child exploitation material and sexually abusing the family's Staffordshire terrier.Read more
SONY has blocked the Western release of an 'adult role-playing game' that saw the player undress schoolgirls and fondle their breasts while on a quest for the holy grail.
The Video Standards Council (VSC) objected to its "setting within a 'school' environment”, saying it "clearly promotes the sexualisation of children via the sexual interaction between the game player and the female characters."
Collective Shout has campaigned for the end of the sexualisation of girls in pop culture, the media and mainstream marketing over the past decade. For instance, in 2016,6 Amazon was marketing a ‘Sexy Nurse Toddler T-Shirt', where the shirt had drawn in a fake cleavage, available in sizes for 2-6-year-old girls. Just recently, Collective Shout helped to remove child sex dolls from Amazon’s website. For a long time, Amazon has contributed to a culture of sexual abuse by allowing the sale of novels that normalises paedophilia. The sale of such dolls and similar material has earned Amazon a spot on the NCOSE's Dirty Dozen List for the past two years.Read more
In NSW government schools alone, the number of alleged student-on-student attacks rose from 90 incidents in 2015 to 142 last year.
As reports of student-on-student sexual assault rise, we are once again confronted with the very real impacts of sexploitation on our children.
A recent article in The Australian, titled “Early sexualisation of kids blamed for the rise in student attacks” revealed ‘in NSW government schools alone, the number of alleged student-on-student attacks rose from 90 incidents in 2015 to 142 last year’, but what is causing such a dramatic increase? Specialist in parenting, children and adolescents, Michael Carr-Gregg, blames the increase on two things,
“One, the sexualisation of kids, and that’s through the media, and two, through their seeing pornography. I don’t think there’s any question about it.’’
A new 2017 study has revealed that more Australian teens are viewing porn and they are exposed at younger ages than ever before.Read more