From the APA Convention, Post 1: Media and Sexuality

Yesterday I was in San Francisco attending the annual American Psychological Association conference.

I really enjoyed a symposium entitled New Research on the Effects of Viewing Objectified and Sexualized Body Images. Two talks stood out.

First, Dr. Sarah Murnen presented a paper entitled Do Fashion Magazines Promote Body Dissatisfaction in Girls and Women? In a meta-analysis (a way of grouping studies together to see the big trends in a literature) the answer appears to be yes (effect size = .209 for the psychologists reading). That is, women and girls who regularly expose themselves to the images of fashion models in these magazines internalize unrealistic, and potentially damaging, body ideals.

Later in the symposium, Sharon Lamb, author of the book Packaging Girlhood, spoke of how in the media childhood, particularly girlhood, is becoming sexualized. Girl models in the media are made to look like sexy adults and adult models are often dressed like little girls. The total effect is a sexualizing of childhood and innocence. Much of this can be read by downloading the report from the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. One disturbing trend they found: Apparently thong underwear is being made for young girls. (I think the APA report is very worthy of discussion in our churches.)

Dr. Lamb also made a point that intrigued me. She noted how the color pink, previously a color associated with girlhood innocence, has slowly been sexualized in our culture.

Pink shades into "Hot" Pink which shades into Red and culminates in Black (as in lace).

For some reason, those color transitions struck me as being a moral commentary with a lesson. In Chrisitan iconography the transition is from White (Pure) to Black (Sin). But the transtion from Pink to Hot Pink seemed more subtle and insidious to me. It made me realize how subtle moral shifts are in our culture and in our own hearts. Maybe the moral transitions we most need to be aware of are not the discontinuous White-to-Black changes but the almost "innocent" transition from Pink-to-Hot Pink.

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