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What's the difference between sexuality and sexualization?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

In an interview with Vice, Rashida Jones discusses her documentary, "Hot Girls Wanted", and her idea of the "hyper-sexualization of pop culture." Hot Girls Wanted showcases the raw and sometimes ugly realities of the adult film industry.

In advocating for transparency online, it's worth noting the sexualization of young adults, especially young girls, on online platforms. Many influencers and celebrities have been known to re-touch and edit sexualized images of themselves. Not only setting unachievable beauty standards but some argue it limits girls' choices.

About Face, an organization advocating for, "Media literacy for teen girls", states that studies show that self-objectification is associated with negative mental-health outcomes in adolescent girls. Increasingly so, schools are implementing programs for adolescent boys and girls to promote healthy social-media use.

In 2007, the APA published a study defining sexualization as, "occurring when a person's value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified." As noted in the interview, Rashida simplified it to when "you're the object."

So what is sexuality compared to sexualization?

Sexuality is defined as, "your sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviors towards other people." Although American culture has become more sex-positive, the distinction between the two in pop culture can be murky.

Being bombarded with constant imagery whether through entertainment or social media, Rashida stresses the different of distinguishing the two. She notes the "hyper-sexualization", of female pop stars.

In a recent article published by Vogue, Billie Eilish explains her decision to dress "more modestly" compared to other female pop stars. “Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you,” she noted. In regards to being seen wearing baggier clothing, she explains how it helped avoid her from being sexualized as a child.

As we promote a more authentic and body-positive presence on social media, it is important to consider the changing realities of pop culture.

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