Sexualized Saturdays: The Over-Sexualized Teenage Girl

So back during college, I found myself replaying Final Fantasy XIII while my roommate’s friends were over. And to my everlasting annoyance, these twenty-some-year-old men felt the need to fake orgasm and talk nonstop about all the nasty things they wanted to do to Vanille, whom everyone thought was fifteen, based solely on the fact that she has “perky boobs”. And according to them, her voice sounds as if she’s in the middle of an orgasm too, apparently. They treated Vanille as if she was no longer a character, but as a sex object whose sole purpose was to please them.

I didn’t have a lot of fun playing that day.

But this experience does bring to mind something that should be addressed. While Vanille is actually at least nineteen, I believe, and video games and plenty of other mediums tend to objectify grown women to titillate male audiences, many things in geekdom tend to do the same with underage girls as well. And even more surprisingly, not many people seem to have problems with this.

We could possibly argue that the sexualized teenage girl is for the underage teenage boy fantasy, but I don’t think that’s the case. Many of these games are designed for adults as well as teenagers, and the same could be said of anime and manga and comics in general. There are more adults in geekdom than there are teenagers. But even if that weren’t the case, adults are still the ones designing the stories.

The fact of the matter is that sex is an advertising gimmick found in everything. We use it to sell beer, makeup, clothes. You name it, and there’s probably an ad somewhere that has managed an innuendo of some kind. So it comes as no surprise that it also ends up in children’s media, or even in adult media that features children. And we, as a society, teach people from an early age to see this over-sexualized image as normal. And when young girls grow up with this, it can help perpetuate internalized misogyny.

But what makes this all the worse is that young girls are not trained to be sexualized and empowered this way for themselves. They are sexualized and empowered this way for other people, namely heterosexual men. And that empowerment is false. I’m sure there are sexy, empowered women out there, but for the most part, the media portrays women as empowered through being sexualized.

But though I can at least understand why adult shows, comics, etc. directed at men will feature sexualized women, even if I don’t like or agree with it, I have a much harder time understanding why adult media directed at men feature sexualized teenage girls. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to understand it. Whenever I find myself following a story involving teenagers, there’s almost always that one girl who’s objectified for no real reason. Let’s look at Rikku from Final Fantasy X, whom Tsunderin and I just recently talked about. She is fifteen years old, and when she first joins the group, we get a montage of her taking off her clothes.

And yet, for the sequel, her outfit manages to get even more sexualized. I assume it’s because they considered her to be more adult by then, but she’s still only seventeen.

There are so many times in comics, anime, shows, so forth, when shots are specifically designed to look up a teenager’s skirt, or zoom in on her rear, or even have her introduction shot start on her breasts. And I know some people say that maybe this isn’t a problem, as men are and can be objectified as well, but I just want to point out that I have never seen a male character, teenager or otherwise, be introduced through a crotch shot, or something equally objectifying. And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m grateful that I’ve never seen that.

I get the feeling that there is some idea that the more sexualized something is the more adult it becomes, and therefore we can simply say that it’s okay because it’s supposed to be like that for the audience. However, that does not change the fact that some of these characters are not adults. Let’s take a look at a rather famous story: Sailor Moon. Usagi Tsukino is a fourteen-year-old girl, and despite her superhero costume being incapable of hiding her identity at all, whenever she or the other Sailor Scouts don their battle armor, no one can recognize them anymore. My one professor theorized that this is because she grows older and more physically mature when she transforms into Sailor Moon. Essentially, she goes from being a teenage girl to being an adult. This idea treats Usagi as being incapable of maturity or responsibility unless she’s in an adult body, in which she is of course wearing a mini-skirt that could easily be mistaken as a belt. Usagi doesn’t change mentally, only physically. If we believe my professor’s theory, this sends a very damaging message, that women can only be empowered if they have a certain body type. Furthermore, despite her body becoming more adult, Usagi is still fourteen.

And most sexualized teenage girls don’t have the excuse of physically becoming older through a magical transformation.

When we sexualize young girls and teach them to act more adult in their body image, we are doing more harm than good. We are teaching girls that this is the way they should always act, that their worth is based on their looks and pleasing men. And we are also teaching men from an early age that it’s not only okay to objectify women and young girls, but that they like being objectified.

A prime example of this would be my roommate’s friends who had been watching me play Final Fantasy XIII. They wouldn’t stop the things they said about Vanille, even though they thought she was minor, and even when I asked them to stop. They saw nothing wrong with it. And after that got boring, they also saw nothing wrong with turning their comments onto me.

I think Anita Sarkeesian explains this better than I could.

9 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: The Over-Sexualized Teenage Girl

  1. You are completely right about everything you say, but the fact is that if you look high enough within most of the companies that create and fund these stories, there’s going to be someone who’s there to make money. It is also a fact that a majority of geeks are male. It is also a fact that sex is a very easy way to sell things to males. Thus we get the things you talk about in this article. I guess the only way that we could see these sexualized characters go away is if there was such a huge exodus of female fans (customers) that it overrode the profits gained from the portion of the male audience that buys based on sex.

    Also, I think that the term “mini-skirt that could easily be mistaken as a belt” is very clever. I’m going to remember that one; did you think of it?

    • Hello, and thank you for your comment.

      Unfortunately, I don’t believe I came up with the mini skirt comment. I’m pretty sure I heard someone else say something very similar many years ago, but I don’t remember where.

      It has actually been my experience in geek-culture that girls do make up a good portion of the fans, almost half. But it has also been my experience that we are an ignored demographic. This may be because of many things, such as: women are more like to order comics and games online than they are to go out to the store for them, because sometimes they feel as though it’s a hostile environment. Another reason they may be ignored is because for a very long time, geek-culture was almost all men, or it was at least seen as being almost all men. And many of the male producers of products still see the culture that way, despite the rampantly growing female demographic. Even when you’re talking about something like online gaming, woman are actually very likely to disguise themselves as male to avoid hostility. So these things can give the impression that women are not a part of geekdom at large. Here’s a link talking about that:

      But you are correct. At its core, a lot of this is money. And sex sells.

      • You bring up many good points. Particularly that it doesn’t matter how many women partake in geek culture or play online games if they don’t make themselves heard. It also doesn’t matter unless the people producing games, tv shows, comics, etc choose to listen to what the female audience has to say.

      • You’re absolutely correct about the geek demographics. There’s a lot of data and experience, personal and otherwise, to support the idea that females geeks make up very close to half of the geek population. If males dominate, it’s by a thin margin. The only problem is one of visibility, and once we work to create a more supportive and welcoming environment women, hopefully they’ll feel more empowered in speaking out against all of the rampant sexism in the geek world.

      • This sort of fallacy is a big part of the problem. It’s so commonly believed though and, I think, for two major reasons: one is through the fallacy of skewed experience, or believing that your experience of one side of a situation is enough to explain the situation accurately from all sides, and the other is through the fallacy of the Internet.

        So many male gamers are convinced that female gamers didn’t used to exist simply because we all hung out with a bunch of other boys growing up. This is like assuming that all dogs like frisbees because you’ve never seen one that doesn’t.

        This false stereotype is further perpetuated through the Internet which provides us with so many false experiences of reality. We think that geek culture is mainstream and popular now. That’s only true if you live online. We think that all of a sudden female gamers have poured out of the woodwork. It only seems that way because its easier to be vocal online with a bunch of strangers than it is within your own community.

        The Internet has created an open forum of broader acceptance, it hasn’t popularized gaming so much that girls think its cool now. Girls have always liked gaming, they just didn’t have the same access to the culture because until the advent of the Internet. many of them felt alone and isolated in their passions because male geeks/gamers did and still do act like a bunch of elitist, sexist, racist doucheloafs sometimes.

        It’s our own fault if we think geek girls didn’t used to exist, because we were too insecure to allow them to feel comfortable existing within close proximity to us.

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