Girls as Boy Toys Takes A Toxic Turn: Body Image Shaping Youth

truckerflap.jpgShaping Youth wrote about the provocative viral promo targeting teen gamers to ‘place the tattoo anywhere on the woman’s body’…We hit the op-ed pages when a teen radio station turned ‘hot 99.5’ into a plastic surgery pitch for breast implants. (you can imagine what they did with the numbers for the ‘breast year ever’ promo, as this teen journalist shares its demeaning impact)

And we nearly blew a gasket with the controversy over the Ms. New Booty contest encouraging girls to upload their backsides as part of a Virgin records promo…

Now, we have…“user generated” hineys. Yeah. You heard it right.

Bored office workers can now doodle around with their keyboards to “play with the girls, have fun” by choosing girls’ backsides and plopping them into a digital billboard to create their own thong-clad femme fest for titillation and amusement.

Sloggi, the underwear brand notorious for sexist slop is quoted in Fresh Creation, saying “make them pose like you want them to and there you have it: your very own billboard.”

Know what? If guys go for this, nothing would suit me more than if someone ‘nails THEIR butts’ for sexual harassment in the workplace. (pardon my French)

Adrants enthusiastically drools that this is the same advertiser that crossed the lines of acceptability of the ad authority in the UK, had Muslims in London tearing down the billboards near Mosques, and flunked the French litmus test on decency when they plastered a poster next to a high school of “three young women writhing in minuscule, multicoloured G-strings as if poledancing in a strip club.”

All of these bare-bottomed missies drew complaints of women as sex objects, (gee, ya think?) and they were strategically planted in locales that would trigger outrage.

That’s a guerilla press coverage tactic ensuring namelessness in this blog.

My point is this…while these marketers think they’re being ‘hot’ and edgy and clever, this massive surge of objectification is landing itself squarely on the backsides of our youth.

We have an increasingly unconscious society willing to look the other way, without owning the causal links to children’s physical and emotional damage now seared into their psyches…

The message being sent to kids universally is “appearance equals worth.”

We’re marketing sex not sexuality, with media that can’t be turned off…so children have to either tune out (desensitize) or turn inward (body shame, unhealthy self-consciousness) to keep it from dominating and even defining the youth cultural landscape.

“Expose yourself!” is the ‘hottie’ battle cry targeting youth, with the implication that if you don’t want to, well, you must be ugly…and if you’re offended by it, gee, you must be a prude.

Some irresponsible marketers have the audacity to try to pass this off as third wave feminism, using the old “If you’ve got it flaunt it,” maxim.

Unmitigated hogwash, kids. They’re workin’ ya.

Steinem once said, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

And sadly, kids are.

Kids are seeking to alter their bodies before they’re even finished forming. Controversial statistics abound, with some saying rhinoplasty is requested most often and others quoting breast augmentation as tripling in the last five years…but this article from the American Society of Plastic Surgery validates more and more teens are seeking plastic surgery.

“Preventive” aging tactics are emerging in kids barely out of their teens, and disheartened kids with body dissatisfaction are skewing even younger, taking toll among tweens right down to the schoolyards where we’re filming “Body Blitz, Media Shaping Youth.”

But gee, gosh, media and marketing didn’t cause it, eh?

Objectification of BOTH genders is hardly a freedom, strength and opportunity statement. It’s mind-numbingly narrowcasting in its role limitations.

Next thing you know, marketing and media will wash its hands altogether and blame it on the technology itself: social networking “exhibitionism,” the YouTube web celeb LonelyGirl15 factor, the web as distribution channel or…Wait, wait! I know…let’s blame parents! When in doubt, that’s always a safe bet…

C’mon folks. We’re not raising kids in bubbles. We do our best to navigate polluted waters, but when it’s an ocean of sewage, kids are bound to get splashed.

Though some parents may be absurd enough to front money for plastic surgery, short of a car accident or health impediment, most are not arranging slice-n-dice modifications of their offspring.

Did I mention this body image issue offers equal opportunity toxicity?

Young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum. They’re gaining on girls for eating disorders and tanked self-esteem too.

Girls have had to deal with sexist boy toy positioning for eons, but now it comes via a cacophony of digital noise…PDA playboy screensavers, urban wallpaper of buxom scantily clad lingerie cuties, Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition on mobile, and everywhere…come hither, lip-licking ladies in all kinds of odd places.

Everywhere you turn there’s some form of femme phallic erotica hawking deodorant or food products, not just long-necked beer and hot tub poses. It sure gets old viewed 24/7 on 3-D multimedia kiosks…especially if you’re a pre-adolescent.

My last outing with my daughter in downtown Denver was to a jetset bowling alley that had one of those leering sex symbols distracting us from the technoscreen scoresheet in a very clubby, hip teen scene setting…Talk about completely unavoidable ambient advertising.

Every time we’d look up to score a frame there was a lame double entendre about scoring and some 42D brunette spilling out of her top…My tween daughter kept looking up and turning away…Finally in humiliation she fumed, “why do they have to keep DOING that?”

Why indeed. Let’s ask those media and marketing folks.

Industry doesn’t seem to acknowledge that BOTH genders are impacted by pornification of childhood. BOTH genders are getting hammered with unrealistic body image expectations. BOTH genders are behaviorally reacting to what becomes normative and acceptable. And BOTH genders are suffering because they’re making a buck off the most cliché formula out there…Sex sells. They could care less if it skews a child’s worldview, as long as they’re selling product.

Don’t kids deserve a childhood without violating their innocence repeatedly?

Can’t youth come of age without running the gauntlet of crass carnal fixations in ambient advertising?

Don’t teens deserve romance and twitters and young love instead of lascivious sexist drivel?

Elizabeth Lawrence said, “There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

Let the garden bloom.



  1. hi nice site.

  2. Once again I love your wording I still have to vote. But you bet I will! Please tell me if There is anything I can do in my neck of the woods to lend a hand. What was the outcome with the MS New Bottom?

  3. I try not to think about it…;-) I know the promo stirred up plenty of controversy and he sold a half a million ringtones for the song, so I try hard not to give him any press. sigh.

    As for your neck of the woods, small town or large, media homogenizes both the issues and the conversation, so just feed me your caseworker tidbits that I might find relevant for our research here, ‘k? (in other words, eyes and ears; voices of youth) Thanks for the ping!

  4. Thanks For this information, I have take a long time to find it!! 🙂

  5. Please, can you PM me and tell me few more things about this, I am a really fan of your blog…

  6. Not sure what more I can tell…but highly recommend and their extensive research to fill you in on any/all about same. Also Media Ed Foundation has some great Boys2Men films and docu discussion about counter-mktg. these cues.

  7. Another way how to earn little extra money is by creating your own products & use Facebook marketing.

  8. Objectification of both genders is infrequently a freedom, electricity and opportunity statement. It’s mind-numbingly narrowcasting in its position boundaries.

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