Report of the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls

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Executive Summary
Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and
psychologists have argued that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls.The
APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed
in response to these expressions of public concern.
APA has long been involved in issues related to the
impact of media content on children. In 1994,APA
adopted a policy resolution on Violence in Mass Media,
which updated and expanded an earlier resolution on
televised violence. In 2004, the APA Task Force on
Advertising and Children produced a report examining
broad issues related to advertising to children.That report
provided recommendations to restrict advertising that is
primarily directed at young children and to include
developmentally appropriate disclaimers in advertising,
as well as recommendations regarding research,
applied psychology, industry practices, media literacy,
advertising, and schools. In 2005,APA adopted the
policy resolution on Violence in Video Games and
Interactive Media, which documented the negative
impact of exposure to violent interactive media on
children and youth and called for the reduction of
violence in these media.These resolutions and reports
addressed how violent media and advertising affect
children and youth, but they did not address sexualization.
The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was
tasked with examining the psychological theory, research,
and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls via media and other cultural messages, including the
prevalence of these messages and their impact on girls and
the role and impact of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic
status.The task force was charged with producing a report,
including recommendations for research, practice, education
and training, policy, and public awareness.
This report examines and summarizes psychological
theory, research, and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls.The report (a) defines sexualization; (b)
examines the prevalence and provides examples of
sexualization in society and in cultural institutions, as
well as interpersonally and intrapsychically; (c) evaluates
the evidence suggesting that sexualization has negative
consequences for girls and for the rest of society; and
(d) describes positive alternatives that may help counteract the influence of sexualization.
There are several components to sexualization, and
these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization
occurs when
 a person’s value comes only from his or her
sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of
other characteristics;
 a person is held to a standard that equates physical
attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
 a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a
thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a
person with the capacity for independent action and
decision making; and/or
 sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
All four conditions need not be present; any one is
an indication of sexualization.The fourth condition (the
inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children.Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality,
it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.
Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate
exposure to information about sexuality.
Evidence for the Sexualization
of Girls
Virtually every media form studied provides ample
evidence of the sexualization of women, including
television,music videos,music lyrics, movies, magazines,
sports media, video games, the Internet, and advertising (e.g., Gow, 1996; Grauerholz & King, 1997; Krassas, Blauwkamp,&
Wesselink, 2001, 2003; Lin, 1997; Plous & Neptune, 1997;
Vincent, 1989;Ward, 1995). Some studies have examined
forms of...
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