The crux of the problem for this girl, let's call her Susie, is that she's stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, there is the crushing pressure to be sexually desirable. She is aware of this pressure even before she caves to it, and at a much younger age than adults would like to believe. Why do you think we cake make-up on toddlers, sell push-up bras to 9-year-olds, or suggest that tweens get bikini waxes? We are preparing them for what we know is coming. They are smarter than we think and they know these tricks and tips are not for their benefit, but for the benefit of people who look at them."We tell young women that they can achieve anything they want, but the extra pressures are everywhere to be seen":
On the other side, Susie knows that she loses the desirability game if she caves to the desires she has inspired. Though "sexual capital" isn't a phrase she will run across until her gender studies classes 10 years later, Susie intuitively understands that she loses hers if people think she's too accessible... The wiggle room between the rock and the hard place-that sweet spot between being wanted and being respected-is all but non-existent.
She continued: “I always feel like if I don’t look a certain way, if boys don’t think I’m ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ then I've failed and it doesn't even matter if I am a doctor or writer, I'll still feel like nothing...successful women are only considered a success if they are successful AND hot, and I worry constantly that I won't be. What if my boobs don't grow? What if I don't have the perfect body? What if my hips don't widen and give me a little waist? If none of that happens I feel like [sic] there's no point in doing anything because I'll just be the 'fat ugly girl' regardless of whether I do become a doctor or not.”"Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls":
T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds. Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware. We have girls who are now putting on a pretense of adult sexuality that they couldn’t possibly feel, and the danger of putting on a show is that you lose touch with your own sexuality. You’re wearing a mask, and when you take off the mask, there’s not a face there. Another thing that’s happening is the acceleration of the onset of puberty. Girls are losing what psychologists used to call middle childhood: eight to 12 years of age, which is the age of Pippi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy, the time for girls to have adventures and develop a sense of who they are as people without worrying about whether they’re hot."For Teenage Girls, Facebook Means Always Being Camera-Ready":
...In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure. Today, so many teenage girls I’ve spoken to across Canada and the U.S. regard sex as a commodity that girls provide to boys. Increasingly, unfortunately, that is the case... I find it troubling that so many girls are using their sexuality in an instrumental way, in order to accomplish some other end such as raising their social status, but not as an expression of their own [feelings and desires].
Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell. It’s one thing for Angelina Jolie to be doing this—she’s an adult—but it’s really toxic for a 14-year-old. It gets in the way of the real job of adolescence, which is figuring out who you are, what you want, what is your heart’s desire.
Trying on 10 outfits and staring critically at the mirror before leaving the house is practically a teenage rite of passage. But these days, girls know precisely how their peers are judging them, thanks to the “Like” button on Facebook. “When I choose my profile picture, I want people to ‘Like,’ it,” said Grace. In fact, she and her friends are keenly aware of how to goose the numbers. “You get more ‘Likes’ if it’s a model shot and not a goofy picture with your friends,” she explained. The formula is simple: The more “Likes” you get, the more popular you appear. “Girls don’t just want to get ‘Likes’ from their close friends,” said 14-year-old Lily. “They want to get them from boys, or older kids or kids from other schools who are popular.” One way to be popular is to be sexy.
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