What is sexualization? A little girl should really not be sexy!

Oszd meg!

The word sexy does not in the least bit belong in one sentence with the words little girl. There are some people however, who do not find it problematic to mention cute sexy little girls.

Gabi Kun
March 16, 2021.

Burda magazine’s Facebook post, that has since been removed, caused a huge stir, because it provoked such an outcry among commenters, and practically blew up the social media site. Hintalovon Child Right’s Foundation brought it to the attention of Burda’s editorial office that the following text of the caption of the image of a little girl is not really appropriate, or even toes the line of good taste: “Basic round neckline with a sexy slit in the front, a 3/4 sleeve length with elastic gathering: surely, even Mom would be jealous of this!”
Sorry, but this is REALLY cringy
Burda failed to address this issue the adult way – as in: thanking for the notification and correcting the fault – but reacted with the tantrum of a stomping child; it labeled Hintalovon Foundation as “peripheral child rights organization” and asked its readers indignantly in their questionable, now deleted facebook post: “Do you REALLY think this is so cringy that we have to take all these serious allegations hurled at us?” From the hundreds of indignant responses and the comment war that formed following the post, it dawned on them that the answer is “YES, IT REALLY IS”. Burda then gave a muddled up reaction to the question from 444.hu that made us feel just the more uneasy, because it came out like the notorious actor’s statement, who loved to use the couch to audition young actresses:
From the more than 400 comments to the post, the direction of today’s Hungarian public opinion became clear: the term sexy in relation to little children is not accepted so they will no longer use it.
Ok, we understand, Burda still doesn’t find it problematic to call a barely four-five-year-old child (or her/his clothes) sexy, it’s just that all the oversensitive souls who have commented were offended, so they will refrain from using the word sexy due to public pressure.
Calling kids sexy comes from the family
Burda has been cutting the branch it was sitting on, when it published its mistake that had been brought to its attention in a private message by Hintalovon Foundation. In its message the foundation was not aiming to besmirch the magazine’s reputation, it only pointed out a bad choice of words to the editorial office. It was only thanks to their own hysterical reaction that the story caused such a storm on social media. But now that it has become an issue, we should start thinking about why the editorial office felt that public opinion would take their side in the sexy question. If we do a little reading on all the fuss on social media, we can get all the answers, since people have a lower stimulus threshold due to the pandemic and a hunger for any kind of impulse, so a lot of them joined the conversation and the quarrel over the net about the issue.
A little girl should really not be sexy! (Image: Unsplash)
The most surprising voices – quite a few, actually – were those saying that we went overboard, we were too sensitive, and why couldn’t a small child be “sexy in a cute way”. This last expression was written on a social media site by the mother of an infant – a kindergarten teacher at that – defending Burda’s honor. So as a mother and a teacher she found nothing wrong the statement that a four-year-old girl may be sexy. And unfortunately many more feel the same way. It’s enough to look around among our playground acquaintances and listen to how these parents speak to their little, kindergarten-age daughters in an average afternoon. We almost don’t even flinch when they shout out “Come on, you little cunt!” to their two-year-old, not even using the expression for scolding, but as words of affection. Of course, boundaries are always broader within a family, so other, individual norms may be established. While in my head the word “cunt” cannot possibly fall into one sentence with my own daughter, others find it natural. The problem is when it’s intended to be accepted publicly and valid for everyone, through an advertisement for example – it is apparent that this is the time when public outrage commences, and rightfully so.
What is sexualization?
As adults in the 21st century, we ought to be aware of what it means in a young girl’s life to be objectified and sexualized. In 2007 the American Psychological Association (APA) already found the sexualization of girls so alarming that a task force was formed to define, prevent and handle the phenomenon. According to this definition sexualization is when:
1. A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior;
2. A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy;
3. A person is sexually objectified – that is made into a thing for others’ sexual use;
4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
Sexualization is not only present when all four conditions are fulfilled, one is enough, and according to experts, it is the fourth condition (sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person) that occurs most commonly with children and is dangerous. This is exactly what Burda did, as do all those who agree with them and defend the habit of using the word sexy in connection with the clothes of a four-year-old child. In addition, the younger the children who become sexualized this way, the more harmful this practice is, because their body awareness is only developing, they don’t even know what sex is and what connotations the expression sexy used to describe them conveys.
It would be best if we finally just forgot all kinds of sexual remarks concerning kids, even if we, adults may find them funny. The Hungarian language is so rich, so when we intend to express that a little girl is lovely – as Burda explained, this is what they had meant by sexy – there are tons of other words. Next time even a thesaurus might help where all these words can be found besides sexy:
charming, enchanting, cuddly, angel, fairy, adorable, dear, nice, cute, cutie, sweetheart, cupcake, fair, lovable, delightful, sweet, amiable, sweetie, sugar, darling, cutie pie, precious, cutie face, lovely, twee, niminy-piminy, fabulous, doll face, spellbinding, wonderful, magical….
Or for advertising specialists we recommend a guide prepared by Hintalovon Foundation describing how advertising with children is possible with the least harm: How (not) to advertise with children. If we really want to, we can avoid using sexy and kindergarten-aged child in the same context. And we really want to. Really.

(translated by Dóra Horváth)