WOMEN
08/09/2013 10:59 am ET

Behind The Cultural Imperative For Women To Be Sexy And Cute

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Here and there the media becomes interested in the sexualization of little girls and, when they do, I often get a call from a reporter or two. I’ve yet to see any of them pick up on what I think is the really interesting story. They want to talk about child models, little girls in beauty pageants, and the transitional tween years for Disney star prodigies, but I always want to add into the mix the infantilization of adult women.

The sexualization of girls and the infantilization of adult women are two sides of the same coin. They both tell us that we should find youth, inexperience, and naivete sexy in women, but not in men. This reinforces a power and status difference between men and women, where vulnerability, weakness, and dependency and their opposites are gendered traits: desirable in one sex but not the other.

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