At a talk at the 92YTribeca, author Peggy Orenstein said that “play sexiness” is happening to girls at younger and younger ages. Especially in this new lucrative tween market, it’s clear that little girls as young as eight are “playing hot” in an innocent consumption of products like makeup and certain Halloween costumes. But Peggy noted that there are two ways to react to the sexualization of our daughters: pro-sex and anti-sex. She identifies as the former.
Peggy echoed the same sentiments in her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, saying that she would like her daughter to have a a healthy sex life that would commence when she felt ready, not when a marketer looked her in the face and told her to. Sexual purity isn’t the objective for this mom, but a sexuality with genuine desire is.
Through play sexiness, Peggy said, “girls learn that sexiness is a performance and not authentically felt.”
I absolutely agree, as there’s something distinctly artificial in push up bras and thongs being marketed to children. None of those products represent anything authentic about sex except the “performance” aspect of it. And most often, that’s what marketed to little girls.
It’s really easy to be mistaken as an advocate for purity balls when defending the sexuality of girls. I really commend Peggy on taking a moment out of the discussion to distance herself from an anti-sex approach when understanding this issue — an approach that shames all of women’s sexuality from cradle to grave. By declaring herself a pro-sex mom, Peggy aligns herself with the growing number of vocal mothers who want fulfilling lives, complete with a healthy attitude towards sex, for their daughters.