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Girls, bodies and sexual objectification in an era of ‘sexualisation’

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Presentation on theme: "Girls, bodies and sexual objectification in an era of ‘sexualisation’"— Presentation transcript:

1 Girls, bodies and sexual objectification in an era of ‘sexualisation’
Emma Renold and Gabrielle Ivinson, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.


3 The mainstreaming of the sexualisation of girls
For better or for worse, the discourse of adolescent desire is no longer missing. It has been splashed all over MTV, thoroughly commodified by the market, and repetitively performed in popular culture. (Fine and McClelland 2006:300)



6 Who needs protecting?

7 Historical continuity …

8 Why the panic now?

9 Special issue (2012): Making sense of the sexualisation debates: schooling and beyond, Gender and Education, 24 (3) Contextualising the Sexualisation of Girls debate: innocence, experience and young female sexuality (Mary Jane Kehily) Sexuality, Youth and the Perils of Innocence: How History Can Help Us Get Past the Panic (Danielle Egan and Gail Hawkes) Definitions, discourses and dilemmas: policy and academic engagement with the sexualisation of popular culture (Maddy Coy and Maria Garner) Sexualisation’s Four Faces: Sexualisation and Gender Stereotyping in the Bailey Review (Meg Barker and Robbie Duschinsky) What I heard about sexualisation or conversations with my inner Barbie (Sara Bragg) New girl heroes: The rise of popular feminist commentators in an era of sexualisation (Claire Charles) The Missing Link: The Sexualisation of Culture and Men (Maria Garner) Slut-shaming, Girl power and ‘Sexualisation’: Thinking through the Politics of the International SlutWalks with Teen Girls (Jessica Ringrose and Emma Renold)

10 Young people and place: growing up in the south wales valleys 2009-2012
Sample: 60 young people aged 12-14 Locale: Semi-rural ex-mining community Ethnographic methods: individual interviews, observation, focus groups, walking tours, film-making This research is funded by ESRC and HEFCW and is one of a suite of projects based at the Welsh Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods

11 Negotiating the sexualised body
Jessie: I used to play football. I used to be a tomboy, years ago. INT: Why did you stop? J: I dunno, i just didn’t like, I just changed. Im a girly-girl now ... nobody plays boys stuff Ffion: My friend used to have one (a horse) but she had to sell it because her sister lost interest riding. Basically if you meet a boy then ... she actually had a boyfriend and everything so she wasn’t taking no notice of the thing Lisa: I got a bike, but I don’t use it. Caitlin: I used to do streetdance but i don’t do it no more. Sian: I used to do gymnastics for Wales, competitions and everything ... but i’ve stopped now. It’s got a bit boring and everything. Shelly: When it comes to motorcross they (the girls) are like really boy-ish ... and cos you know I got two friends from motorcross, they are two boys, they’re like “aah Shelly goes out with” and im like “no I don’t” and they just like saying stuff like “yeah you do” so I’m like “Ok, yeah whatever”.

12 From active to passive bodies: girls as spectators
Lisa: I got a bike, but I don’t use it Ally: We watch the boys do it ... they’re good cos, this guy oh he’s awesome you know like when you do a front flip and land on your feet like, he can do it on the bike he’s awesome. It’s awesome. Sarah: My brother does motorcross. So we just go around, go watch the race and then hang around INT: Do you do it? Sarah: Well I was gonna start it, I had my own bike but then I dunno, it’s just I dunno, I’m too quiet and ... it’s like you gotta get dirty and break bones and everything Jodie: We walk around sometimes. Play football. INT: Do you play football or are you watching? Jodie: Watching ... we watch the boys play football

13 Being watched, watching yourself
Rowan: We’ve got three reservoirs, and I was coming up (on bike), and I didn’t know it was, they were boys they were, but I went bright red, and I went faster, coz I don’t like, like if there was somebody there I’d wait for like, an hour if I had to until they’d gone so I could go down again ... and I just don’t wanna go down there if they’re there. Alison: I ride up the mountain ... it’s funny sometimes when the horses take off and just like ‘har’ ... INT: And when you’re riding on your horse ... how do you feel? Alison: I feel like a bit safe because if anybody does try, like attack us or something, you know just ride off and like I’ve got a group of us, so nobody like try and attack us Catrin: You just can’t go out not worrying, you’ve got to worry all the time, you’ve go to look where you’re going ... you have to watch yourself like Dana: You avoid going past pubs ... I don’t feel safe around pubs ... like round men and stuff like that.

14 Alice: I wouldn’t really feel safe going around the town on my own because of drunk and because town is quite a popular place, there’s loads of people drunk and they could kidnap you. but if Im with them i either feel safe because i know i can run away and they can help me if somebody grabs me or something as well. Kayleigh: It’s, I like going shopping, coz, I dunno, I feel, if I’m with the girls and everything, I feel safe, and that … but when I’m on my own I don’t, I don’t really go (out?) and that really. (…) INT: So what do you think will happen if you’re on your own then? Kaleigh: I don’t know, I just feel like I’d get taken or something, coz if I went [Emma: Hmm] shopping to Cardiff and it’s so crowded in the shops and that, I just feel like, all closed up by everyone and that. INT: OK. Kaleigh: So, that’s why I have to go with other people. INT: Yeah, yeah, and is that just Cardiff, or is that like, Cwm Dyffryn as well? Kayleigh: Cwm Dyffryn, everywhere. INT: Have you always felt like that about being on your own? Kayleigh: Yeah, I hate it.

15 Vulnerable bodes: physical and sexual violence
Kayleigh: There was this boy Joel, and he fancied me, and coz I wouldn’t go out with him ... he pushed me on the track he did, coz I wouldn’t go out with him ... and then he chucked a glass bottle at me ... coz he really fancies me, but I like, I don’t want to go out with him like. Sian: I was with this friend Jenny, and we just road our bikes all the way into Cwm Dyffryn and then we road them back, and we stopped in the car park just for a little break and a drink and these boys came onto me, and I said ‘what do you want’? what can i do like? and they just beat me up ... I got a scar on my shoulder, I got a scar on my elbow, I was lucky I didn’t have a scar on my face because I went like that and the elbow protected my face ... so i was lucky really. Lizzy: We go up the mountains, not often, cos i don’t really like it up there ... just in case there’s like people up there and things ... and i’ve been chased from the mountain before ... me and my sister and two other people were up there and someone, they saw with a knife, so we just ran down just in case they did chase us.

16 Sexual objectification across home, street and cyberspace
Kayleigh: I just don’t bother with the boys anymore now. I don’t like bothering with some boys anyway, coz you always get into trouble K: Yeah, coz erm, I remember before when erm, this girl, what was it? She hacked on my erm, Bebo page and was changing things on my profile, and then she said to one of my friends, Leon then, she said, ‘ah, come on lets go in the lane, bring condoms, hag me up, and we’ll do it’ and everything. INT: Hag me up? K: Yeah, like, I dunno, just, do things in the lane and everything, she just went ‘ah, bring condoms and that’, and saying that it was me to Leon/ INT: So she’s pretending to be you saying “I’ll be in the lane with condoms”? K: Yeah, come and then do things with me and that. K: Coz I always used to have it, I used to have girls coming after me, like wanting to fight me then, like … loads of people, because they’ve been all going on my MSN and my Bebo and that, saying stuff pretending to be me, and that’s why I’ve had people after me.

17 Some conclusions … Girls have always had to negotiate the ever-present possibility that they will be sexually objectified Being a girl and becoming a woman is harder in new times with new technologies and a ubiquitous porno-aesthetic embedded in mainstream culture Contemporary paradox: girls as sexual subjects AND sexual objects Some girls investing in sexual capital over educational capital (can be riskier NOT to take up ‘sexy’ or be ‘in relationship’ in some communities) Girls’ sexualities must always be seen in place and in time “The landscape of adolescent sexuality is not an equal opportunity zone for all girls; geography, among other social markers of difference, positions these girls differentially, particularly with regards to sexuality” (Tolman 2002: 172)

18 Children’s views from the “Children, Sexuality, Sexualisation: a matter of equalities, right and voice” conference (30/3/2012) - “i liked how all the adults really listened to us young people because i know that usually grown-ups can ignore what we have to say and being here was a really nice experience and i learnt a lot” - “I enjoyed speaking frankly about topics and i’ve learnt that there are people to speak to” - “I wish that more schools and pupils can learn the stuff that we have learnt today ... everyone should have the right to talk their opinion” - “I enjoyed the workshops because it gave me a chance to be open and to share my opinions without judgement” “it was good to speak freely about our views” - “we have to do this again with more pupils because everyone has learnt so much” We need a compulsory whole-school sexuality education that speaks to the realities of children and young people’s everyday lives and the communities they live in.

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