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A bit of history…

It was my grandson's eighth birthday and as I watched him play with his friends I noticed a girl, a bit older, who was not joining in the games the others were playing. When I looked a little closer I realized why she was standing on the side- lines. She was wearing a very tight mini skirt and was constrained by her clothing. She was also wearing a short tank top and platform shoes, her hair was coloured and she was wearing makeup. A “Lolita”, I thought to myself, but such a young one…..

Weeks past and with the onset of spring, I noticed more and more girls similarly dressed, parading around in sexy clothes at an age when seduction should not be part of their lives. It was then that my desire to understand this phenomenon was born.

Today, almost three years later, that desire has led me to develop a research project at the YWCA on the early sexualization of girls. One of my priorities has been to create spaces for exchange and reflection with those who are also concerned about this growing trend.It is a complex issue, one that needs to be examined from various angles and approached according to its many facets.

In May 2005, we organized a day of reflection on the subject at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal), whose proceedings are available on our website www.ydesfemmesmtl.org. With very little publicity this event attracted a large number of participants, evidence that our concern for girls was shared by many other people involved in their lives, whether at school, in youth centres or CLSCs. From the recommendations that emerged from that day of reflection, we set to work to develop some tools. Here we present the first one; a guide for parents of preteen girls.

Early Sexualization: a new reality

The early sexualization of girls is a phenomenon occuring as a part of society's pres- ent and pervasive cllimate of hypersexualization. Little girls in sexy clothing, the overtly sexualized act of seduction, “fuckfriends”, sexual internet chat, the use of webcams for sexual exhibition and the consumption of cyberporn represent real situations in the lives of young people. The extent and effects of this environment on their development are not fully known and this is a motivating factor for us to continue working on our project on early sexualization. Further research into the lives of young people, which is currently being carried out, will help us develop training and awareness tools, in collaboration with the Service d'aide aux collecti- vités of UQAM and professors Francine Duquet and Anne Quéniart.

The growth of this atmoshpere of hypersexualization among young people has been fostered by some important changes in society; such as the glorification of consumerism, the media's growing erotisization of teenagers and children, the normalization of pornography's standards of beauty through popular music and the Net, and the increasing social pressure which encourages girls to have boyfriends as early as possible.

What is really troubling is that this hypersexualization is appearing among younger and younger children, promoted by the media, the Internet and the many indus- tries that profit from this trend. Preteens are specifically targeted by marketplace interests because they are considered the most important demographic after the baby boomers. This generation is being encouraged to grow up faster. It is more connected and informed and has more money, more influence and more personal



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