• Wed, Sep 19 2012

STFU Parents: How To Sexualize Your Kids On Social Media

A couple of days ago, everyone was up in arms because of Elizabeth Hurley‘s sexy swimwear line for young girls. And before that, people started taking notice at all of the Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired clothing for babies. The writing has been on the wall for years now that sex sells, and that babies and toddlers are not exempt from the marketing ploys cast unto the retail world. But the reason for that isn’t because babies and toddlers are drawn to onesies that say “9 Months Ago My Mommy Read 50 Shades Of Grey”; it’s because well, parents like sexualizing their kids. Sex has become a punchline that carries over into parenting in an almost-seamlessly creepy way, and a lot of parents are happy to play along. So what if it’s weird to “joke” that your baby boy has a large penis? Or that your unborn daughter is a “little hussy”? Parents sexualize their children to get attention, and if that attention is negative, so be it!

I’m also guessing most parents would probably say that their joking is utterly harmless. But based on what we see in stores, and on our televisions, and read in magazines, it’s not. This sexualization of babies and kids is pervasive, and while I don’t personally go about my day shaking my head at every 8-year-old who walks by wearing something age inappropriate, I do feel like we should draw the line somewhere. And for me, a good place to start is on social media.

I’ve been keeping a “sexualization of kids” folder in my Questionable Parenting folder for some time, and the results are downright scary. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to think about my friend’s baby’s genitals, or see her daughter made up like Trashy Barbie at the ripe old age of five. I don’t even want to read clever puns relating to sex (which can occasionally be funny) if the “sexy” person in question is under the age of 18. I understand why parents might do this at home, in private, but online and out in the public it feels very…careless, like a cheap way to get a laugh. I believe that children learn from example, and the example some parents seem to be setting is, “Flaunt that body! Work it! Ha ha ha, you little hussy!” or, “My boy is so sexy! Check out his swagger!” Before we start blaming another company for manufacturing certain articles of clothing, shouldn’t we take a closer look at the parents who are buying into this mentality? Let’s take a look at some examples.

1. Sonogram Captions

STFU Parents

Usually nurses are the culprits behind those genital arrows (as they’re formally called, I’m sure), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with pointing out what makes a developing fetus a boy or a girl. But it would behoove parents to stop adding wording other than, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, because everything else just sounds wrong. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this particular example, but “opened those legs” doesn’t sit right with me. Then again, it could be because it sounds like a precursor for the next example.

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  • An Unsexy Lexie

    For a Lexi (substitute preferred spelling here), 5th grade (AKA the year the concept of rhyme is taught as well as the year the concept of “sexy” really takes hold) is hard enough. Do we really need to inflict this on toddlers in the safe confines of family?

  • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

    This is all officially the worst. Ha!

    • STFUParents

      I’m going to take that as a compliment, Eve. ;) Glad you wrote about the bikini line so I could link out to it!

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I’m a raging fan of yours so yes, please do take it as a compliment!

  • Ordinaryperson

    How old are those kids in the last picture? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Personally, I don’t even think the posing is the problem with that picture, they’re just being silly with their friends. The problem with the picture is an ADULT posting it online for the public to see. My friends and I used to take silly pictures posing, hands on hips, etc., but it was with disposable cameras. We got the pictures, had a laugh, then hid them in our closet for a laugh down the road. No harm done. This picture isn’t going away, and creepy creeps can see it now too.

    • STFUParents

      Yeah, I see your point. To me the posing is indicative of what they see in magazines and on TV (and aspire to look like), but yes there is the issue of the parent posting it online. Probably not be the smartest move.

    • goofyjj

      i think those kids’ parents should be more concerned about childhood obesity and diabetes than whether they’re filling out the breast area of the swimsuits….

    • Ordinaryperson

      Body snarking children? Real mature.

    • goofyjj

      1. Not body snarking – just stating a reality.
      2. They’re old enough to pose and fake boobs, they’re old enough to take control of their health.
      3. Kids have to LEARN healthy habits.

    • Ordinaryperson

      They’re children. Hiding behind fake concern doesn’t make you less of a jerk.

    • Liz

      Huh? Are we looking at the same picture? Not a single one of those kids is morbidly obese. It’s called baby fat. I was about their size before I hit puberty and it all just fell off. You are an ass.

    • laka

      Prepubescent girls with round bellies? They’re obviously FAT and UNHEALTHY and need to learn to CONTROL THEMSELVES. I mean, when I was eight, my pediatrician was quite vigilant about ensuring I kept my six pack. You know, for my health.

    • Forrealz

      I guess you don’t understand that having a bulging stomach is a sign of inflammation of the intestines. So when your child is eating McDonald’s every day with a pot belly, but seems skinny…morons like you are sitting here saying everything is just A-OKAY! I doubt you had a six pack at 8 years old, I bet you’ve been fat your whole life.

    • Leigha7

      Okay, I don’t want to be too harsh here, but I have a bit of a sore spot when it comes to people saying we need to get adolescent girls to focus MORE on not being overweight.

      I was an incredibly skinny child–borderline underweight, even. I was healthy, just very short and very skinny. Then puberty hit. I was (and am) still short and on the smaller side, but I was not the very skinny little girl I used to be. I was nowhere even remotely near being overweight (still below average), but the fact that suddenly my stomach was no longer perfectly flat was unnerving. I’d spent my childhood hearing things like “skinny minnie” and whatnot, and being so tiny had become part of how I saw myself, so it was really hard to adjust to normal body changes that took that away. And that’s not even counting the impact of the media and the fact that you only ever see perfectly flat stomachs on models and actresses, or hearing kids at school make fun of people. No, it was hard enough just adjusting to seeing the change myself.

      Teen and pre-teen girls are under INTENSE pressure to be thin. Do not make it worse. All of those girls (probably/hopefully) have doctors. If they need to lose weight, it is their doctor’s job to say so.

    • canaduck

      I read about a study that said that a disturbingly large percentage of 6-year-old girls really want to be “sexy.” Just about made me want to puke my guts out. I feel so, so sorry for the younger generations of females, who are dealing with even earlier and more rampant sexualization than I did.

  • ODBeckster

    1. B, no one should be on Facebook making duckface, unless they are an actual duck or dressed as one for Halloween.
    2. Lauren, you can shake your head all you want, but YOU are the one encouraging this behavior by asking the girls to line up and pose and then taking the picture and sharing it on Facebook.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Now I want a picture of actual ducks in bikinis going trick or treating and making the duckface.

    • goofyjj

      ducks make people-face. they just don’t post it. because – well that opposible thumb thing

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      waitaminnit…. is there a special Facebook just for ducks too?!

    • TD

      No, but there is an antiduckface.com.

  • LinZoo

    I was pissed when the only ultrasound pic I got was the one of my baby with her genitals showing. Apparently the doctor thought that was an important pic but I was like, “WTF, I can’t post this on FaceBook!”

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I feel like I need a hot shower, now.

  • MommyK

    Oh, I wish I had known about STFU Parents a couple of years ago! A girl I went to high school with posted the following as her FB status: “My son wants to sleep in my bed each night, he has the Oedipal complex! Just wants to be in bed with his mama…”
    My jaw dropped, and in my disgust, I told my coworkers, who completely agreed that was an awful thing to post about your 4-year-old! She was promptly unfriended, so I unfortunately don’t have a screenshot. But what a creepy thing to say!

    • http://twitter.com/reanimated Kelly S

      though i do wonder if she actually knew what it meant…>_< just based on the apparent level of uninformed-ness of the usual STFU brigade.

    • Forrealz

      I am sure they teach Shakespeare in high school. Also are you so surprised? Inter-familial incest is the number one cause of abuse. Stranger danger? Shit, more like mom is molesting her son and wonder why men grow up and resent all women?

  • Karen

    That fifth one literally had my jaw dropping. I mean, really, that’s what they dress girls in for dance recitals? Seriously? Look, she looks like a whore. She’s a toddler whore. That is disgusting.

  • jl88

    Every single person in number 3 makes me feel unclean. The proper response to someone saying their infant son giggles when she wipes his penis isn’t that you are waiting for your infant son to do the same. And I hate them all for making it necessary for me to type that sentence.

  • K.

    I had the experience of becoming a mom and finding out that children are indeed, sexual. Like, from Day 1. (And no, before people get all uppity, there’s a difference between children possessing a natural sexuality and consciously being sexual or understanding sexuality in the same way adults do).

    I think that’s why these parents have gone off the deep end–they’re trying to make something awkward “cute” so that they can preserve the whole “children are innocent cherubs” scam.

    Sometimes I feel like I should respond in kind, like “Wow, she sure is flexible! Sign me up!” just to make a point, although I’m pretty sure the point would be lost and it’d be a shitstorm instead. But that’d be fun too.

    • Spiderpigmom

      While babies and toddlers are indeed sexual, that’s not what most of these posts are about. These posts are about adult sexuality, not infant sexuality.While a toddler is a sexual being, wearing a padded bra or a hooker outfit are not part of it. A baby putting his foot in his mouth or “motorboating” his mother is not sexual, at least not in the way the posters mean it. They’re not deflecting their kids’ sexuality, they are projecting theirs.

    • ktree

      I think it’s maybe an issue with parents who are too immature or who are uncomfortable with human sexuality, period. It’s as though they are trying to prove otherwise to the world.
      It had always seriously ucked me out when someone brags about their infant’s large genitals or talks about their five-year-old “filling out” a bikini. The only place those things would be of any importance is in creeperland. Gack.

  • AllysonLT

    If someone could please cauterize whichever part of my brain intends to hold onto image #5 for all eternity, I’d appreciate it.

  • OnionButt

    To preface: The little girl in “a Mother’s Pride” (#5) may be the sweetest kid on the planet for all we know. But it is pretty sad when my initial reaction to that picture was, “Man, that kids looks like an asshole.” Why are parents so cool with portraying their kids as assholes? We’ve all read the posts over at STFUParents where parents are PROUD of their children being disrespectful toward others. This picture just is giving a visual image of such pride.

  • Tish

    #2 Flexibility

    I am 34 and can still do that, yet am still single for some reason ;)

  • JewelEyedGamerGirl

    I think “I’m Lexi and I know it” would have been a less creepy caption. :P

    • Forrealz

      You’re still implying that she is sexy, which she isn’t, the only thing a child could amount to is a masturbatory tool. Which is why sexualizing your children is filling a void in the parents.

  • Lx

    Awhile ago there was some kid fest in he park near my house and I was shocked to see the MC put on “I’m sexy and I know it” by LMAO and encourage the kids (aged toddler-teen) to “shake their sexy bodies”, pointing out and praising kids who were really “into it”.
    What was even more gross was seeing young mothers “dancing sexy” with their small children or “dancing” them if they were too young. It was disgusting.
    I’m no prude (far from it), but this scene really “squicked” me out.

    • Leigha7

      I wonder if that song would’ve been received the same way if it wasn’t being played on commercials and whatnot. I mean, I just assume all the little kids have heard it because of the M&M commercial, regardless of whether they would have otherwise. Also, in retrospect, maybe using a song like that for a candy commercial wasn’t the best choice, as amusing as it may be to adults.

    • Forrealz

      That is the point you moron. Ever wonder why penis’ were on the cover art for the Little Mermaid? I am a billionaire molester who hand picks children from casting calls. Moron…

  • http://twitter.com/reanimated Kelly S

    i don’t think calling a small child “sexy” is any better in private. >_< wtf.

  • Leigha7

    I don’t get the flexibility thing. I mean, I GET it, of course, but…flexibility decreases over time. I would pretty much guarantee that just about every baby that didn’t have some sort of physical handicap or deformity can do that. The majority do not grow up to be adults who can do that. So even aside from the general creepiness, it doesn’t even make sense.

  • http://twitter.com/HorridBabyNames Horrid Baby Names

    Scary. #5 is what? Four? Five? Maybe six years old? She’s already a master of the duckface.

  • Lizzy

    I didn’t so much mind the motorboating status update until I read the comments. Are these people pervs? They worry about old people in the public park being pedophiles but these are the same people who are excited when their sons touch their own penises?
    I have 3 sons. I am never excited to see them yanking on their junk. What the hell is wrong with these people?
    Sorry if these articles are old. I’m going through these quick.

  • Forrealz

    I found this because I literally just left Market Street after being bombarded with children in yoga shorts, underwear, gymnastics shorts, and swimsuits. I just don’t understand, especially when it is just the father with their daughter, they are 10, and their ass is sitting there for everyone to stare at, I mean why? I don’t understand…perhaps this reflects on my own sexual oppression? I am not sure, but I do know that I am constantly questioning the clothing I see kids in.