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Because looks can be deceiving : media alarm and the sexualisation of childhood - do we know what we mean?
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Kirrilly ThompsonKirrilly Thompson
This article considers ongoing moral outrage over the assumed sexualisation of young girls by the media. It questions this taken-for-granted association between the media and the sexualisation of children. It suggests that this visceral anxiety reflects a particularly adult-centric view of children’s behaviour and considers how this may serve to discipline girls’ sexuality in particular. Whilst child welfare and wellbeing are paramount, this article suggests the need for a more nuanced and ethnographically informed debate around the relationship between childhood, the media, and sexualisation. It calls for ethnographic research with children, to understand their perspectives of what adults view as sexualised behaviour. A number of questions are raised throughout the article to stimulate further research within anthropology and the social sciences more broadly. The article considers the extent to which attention could more usefully be shifted from the control of extrinsic factors such as the media to teaching critical thinking skills in primary and secondary schooling. It thus argues for a critical anthropological engagement with a debate currently dominated by adult-centric understandings and framed against a demonisation of sexuality and the media.