Gawking At Women Is Not Healthy Father-Son Bonding Time

We talk a lot about the sexualization of young girls on this site. From spray tanning and padded bras for little ones on Toddlers & Tiaras to young models who are being photographed and styled as adult women. We discuss the problems this creates for young girls who are constantly subjected to the idea that their value is based on how attractive they are. And we hope to protect girls from the idea that their natural appearance needs to be altered to fit into a specific sexy mold. We talk a lot about girls and sexualization, but we tend to look past the early stress put on young boys to objectify females before they can even understand what attractiveness and sexuality are.

The truth is that plenty of parents find it cute when they’re little boys act like big men. Dads make jokes about how their infants sons “like the boobs.” Mothers brag about how all the little girls at the playground just flock to her little “heartbreaker.” Just like their Toddlers & Tiaras counter-parts, these parents are encouraging the sexualization of children. They just don’t understand, because the boys aren’t the ones being objectified. And that’s why it’s become so pervasive in our culture.

We get angry when clothing for young girls focuses on being pretty and dating as opposed to being independent or intelligent. And yet, mothers think nothing of dressing their little boys in phrases and innuendo that say their worth is based on appearance and ability to land a date. In about fifteen minutes of browsing at some major children’s retailers I found infant or toddler shirts that say, “I Get All The Chicks,” “Heartbreaker In Training,” “Big Brother’s Wingman,” and “Certified Hunk.” Because it’s just so adorable to think of little boys dating and referencing girls as “chicks.”

For me, the most frustrating of all the early sexualization practices for young boys has to be the idea that little boys need to ogle women with their dads as a bonding ritual. It’s the father-son trips to Hooters. It’s the hilarity of seeing a young child holding his dad’s Playboy magazine. Suddenly, objectifying females becomes a part of the manly experience. It’s as if the boys are only boys because they find conventionally attractive women appealing. We encourage this thought process at such a young age and then we’re confused why these young men grow up to view women as pieces of meat.

I have close friends who see no problem with taking young children to restaurants like Hooters. I know more than one mom who just shakes her head when her husband takes his young son to Tilted Kilt, another restaurant that’s appeal centers around the skimpiness of the waitress’s uniforms. (They’re probably going to love me for writing this piece.) And they’ve said that they don’t mind the practice because their kids don’t understand yet what sexualization is. These little boys don’t know why a woman in a bra and mini-skirt is attractive.

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    • Maggie

      A few years ago, I was with my brothers and my Dad, and they decided we were going to have lunch at Hooters. I was extremely uncomfortable, because not only did I have to sit and watch my Dad and older brother talk about the waitresses, but they kept trying to get my little brother, who was only 14 at the time, to participate! When he seemed embarrassed, my Dad called him a “Nancy boy.” In the car on the way home when my Dad told me to “lighten up” after I confronted him about being a perv, I said “Okay fine, I’m going to get a job at Hooters so old men can give me big tips too.” That sure shut him up! (Obviously by this story, you can tell my Father and I aren’t close and do not share the same values).

    • Another Steph

      I think the American outrage/titilation regarding Hooters is so hilarious. The waitresses at my local cafe wear skimpier outfits than that during summer.

      PS – Hooters doesn’t profit off the ‘exploitation’ of women. They’re not child brides or sex slaves – they’re young women who choose to work there.

      • Mrs. Lynn

        I don’t have a problem with Hooters in itself, either. You can see women running on the sidewalk who are wearing less or at the gym. The problem is the fathers who make it a big deal to objectify and therefore dehumanize women in general but they’re going to do that whether Hooters exists or not. I’m just glad I married a man who agrees that we will teach our son that women are not “things” and he will know to respect women.

      • http://jaimegandarilla.tumblr.com/ Jaime Gandarilla

        You really dont’s see something wrong and exploitative with the fact that women are to be consumed and men aren’t?

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    • Molly

      Makes me glad that I married a man who respects women and thinks with his brain instead of his d*ck.

    • http://jaimegandarilla.tumblr.com/ Jaime Gandarilla

      THANK YOU