Sexualization or child sexualization is a modern (c. 1900, but predominantly after 1980) term used to describe the loss of "sexual innocence" or rendering "impure" of something or someone, especially a child. "Sexualization" can be used as a weasel word, obscuring the contested claim that children are asexual, and thus has seen increasing use within a "culture war" context by radical conservatives and "radical", gender-critical feminists. Use of "sexualization" is generally considered to be a dog-whistle for erotophobia and socially regressive values, nevertheless it has occasionally been used by governments and establishment psychologists. The UK's Home Office, for example, commissioned a 2010 review on "sexualization", authored by pop-psychologist and media talking-head, Linda Papadopoulos, which came to the conclusions in the below excerpt. Papadopoulos' review was criticized for making unwarranted logical leaps, and perpetuating the "purity culture" of reformist campaigners from over a century ago:
The evidence set out in this document suggests that there is broad agreement among researchers and experts in health and welfare that sexualising children prematurely places them at risk of a variety of harms, ranging from body image disturbances to being victims of abuse and sexual violence. Sexualisation devalues women and girls sending out a disturbing message that they are always sexually available. It creates false expectations for girls trying to live up to unrealistic ‘ideals’, and for boys in terms of how they think a girl should be treated. It increases self-objectification and limits the aspirations and choices that girls feel are open to them.
Feminists R. Danielle Egan and Gail Hawkes have deconstructed the concept of child sexualization in several papers and a book. They point out that the "sexualization" of girls has been most problematized, while boys have recieved little attention. The "construction of girls in the discourse of sexualisation mirrors earlier patriarchal discourses on the pathological nature of women's sexuality, its susceptibility to corruption and its resistance to autonomous control."
The really dangerous term is sexualized/sexualization. Implicit in its use is the idea that children are asexual until some bad man sexualizes them. Since the idea is implicit, people can make the claim without needing to back it up. If someone stated in so many words that "children are asexual", they could be challenged, and a useful discussion might follow. Using a term like "sexualization" is the way the hysterics make sure that that discussion never happens.
- Papadopoulos, Linda. “Sexualisation of young people review.” (2010).
- Egan, R. Danielle, and Hawkes, Gail (2008). "Girls, sexuality and the strange carnalities of advertisements: Deconstructing the discourse of corporate paedophilia," Australian Feminist Studies, 23(57), 307–322.
- Hawkes, Gail, and Egan, R. Danielle (2008). "Landscapes of Erotophobia: The Sexual(ized) Child in the Postmodern Anglophone West," Sexuality & Culture, 12(4), 193-203.
- Egan, R. Danielle, and Hawkes, Gail (2008). "Endangered Girls and Incendiary Objects: Unpacking the Discourse on Sexualization," Sexuality & Culture, 12(4), 291-311
- Egan, R. D., & Hawkes, G. L. (2012). Sexuality, youth and the perils of endangered innocence: how history can help us get past the panic. Gender and Education, 24(3), 269–284.
- Egan, D. - Becoming Sexual: A Critical Appraisal of the Sexualization of Girls
- BC Post - Fetishist