"In a culture that celebrates Paris Hilton, thong underwear and songs like 'My Humps' — where the female singer expounds the sexual magnetism of her breasts and buttocks — there's scant recognition or respect for female modesty or achievement that isn't coupled with sex appeal," writes Carol Platt Liebau, managing editor of the Harvard Law Review and author of a new book, Prude: How The Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls. Liebau argues that "the overwhelming lesson teenagers are now learning from the world around them is that being 'sexy' is the ultimate accolade, trumping intelligence, character and all other accomplishments at every stage of a woman's life." And, while this fact alone is disturbing, Liebau also notes that "girls are being led to believe they're in control when it comes to sexual relationships but they're actually living in a profoundly anti-feminist landscape where girls compete for attention on the basis of how much they are sexually willing to do for the boys."
(Related: as many as 1 in 5 female adolescents have been abused physically or sexually by a dating partner, reports Reuters.)
Of course in many ways, young women have never had it better. Liebau states:
Given the breathtaking opportunities before them and the magnificent advantages they enjoy, it seems Western society has treated young girls with enormous generosity. And in many ways, it has. But not all the changes have been to the good. Today girls are forced to navigate a minefield more challenging, difficult and pressure-filled than ever before when it comes to sex. Somehow, as society has been revelling the ubiquity of sex, the very real psychological, emotional and physical impact on young girls of giving too much, too soon, has been discounted.
From the pole-swinging antics of the Kardashian kids to Slutoween and the tramps in training clothes on the market, doesn't it feel like the sexualization of girls has reached crisis level? And even if the fashion trends are leaning away from low-rise jeans and toward ladylike dresses, what will become of a world in which all the little girls would rather be sex symbols than scientists?