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.