Cultural Trends/Popular Culture

Miss USA Pageant Puts Porn on a Pedestal

Friday, June 11, 2010

As Miss USA contestants pout and preen in fishnet stockings, Caryl Rivers says young women are being exposed to an ever-intensifying media message that says sex sells and "you too can be porn star."

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While there's been a commendable trend for women to develop healthy positive attitudes toward their own sexuality--undoing centuries of deep cultural prohibitions in all parts of the globe--the pendulum swing to hyper-sexualization carries its own perils.

Research links hyper-sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem. And, boys as well as girls can internalize the idea that girls are supposed to behave like sex objects. Boys exposed to sexualized portrayals of girls may be more prone to commit acts of harassment.

What's needed--as soon as possible--is curricula in our schools that examine the rapid growth of these harmful images and strategies for both girls and boys to resist them.

Boston University journalism professor Caryl Rivers is the author of "Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women" (University Press of New England).

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For more information:

Photos of Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih:
http://www.missuniverse.com/missusa/members/profile/445096/ag:8/ap:1/

APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girl
http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx

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This is a great example of how the male gaze rules not only the media, but society as a whole. By hyper-sexualizing the Miss USA contestants, America is spreading the myth that it's perfectly acceptable for all girls and women to publish themselves as this "stripper chic" for everyone to view, erasing the progress women have made in showing society that we're smart, skilled, successful and equal to men, in every aspect.

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