07 May 2013

Sex sells… but who’s buying?

With all due apologies to Megadeth.

To answer the rhetorical question, though: why, of course, the little people who play Candy Land and the little people whose parents buy them Disney paraphernalia, who are too young to be able to think critically about what such corporations as Disney and Milton Bradley tell them about their bodies. This is one issue on which I agree wholeheartedly and unreservedly with mainline feminism - or, as Mark Shea (who is incredibly good about linking these stories; many thanks t’ ye, Mark) notes, ‘show me a culture that despises virginity, and I will show you a culture that despises childhood’.

I have an infant daughter, who is half-Chinese and has Chinese relatives and roots, and thus is already doomed to identify at least in part with a culture whose feminine ideal body image is already, if you will excuse the grossly litotic usage, on the petite side. From her dad, her genetics will practically ensure that she inherits a Bohemian body build, which is neither small nor fashionable. In addition, she will undoubtedly be exposed to globalising sexual culture which informs both boys and girls, through lifestyle pseudo-leftist ignoramuses like Li Yinhe (to give but one local example) working hand-in-hand with marketers of everything from lipstick to clothes to deodorant, that there is something intrinsically wrong with them if they can’t ‘get laid’ early or often enough. Thus, the commodification of sex is incredibly worrisome to me for a number of very personal reasons; the more so when it is targeted expressly and directly at very young girls!

As Peggy Orenstein writes:
There's ample evidence that the ever-narrowing standard of beauty creates vulnerability in our girls to low self-esteem, negative body image, eating disorders, poor sexual choices. Not to mention the negative impact fat-shaming has on overweight kids. I think a lot about something that Gary Cross, a historian of childhood, once told me: that toys traditionally have communicated to children our expectations of their adult roles. What are we telling girls we expect of them with this?


  1. I often wonder why this sort of common sense can't be accepted by 'the world'. And the other side is why we 'the people' put up with this treatment of our children?

  2. Hi Chris! Both very good questions; I often wonder the same thing. There's definitely a nonsensical element to this sort of cultural output. Desires - including consumer ones - are very rarely the results of a rational decision process; rather, reason is more often used ad hoc to justify desire (I speak of myself as much as anyone else).

    I think the hope is that, after the fact, desires can be sorted into healthy and unhealthy ones, by reason.