The Retail Sexualization of Teens

This post originally ran almost two years ago and I still feel as strongly about how retailers are running a “sexualization” campaign with our teens. If you need proof, just look at the fact that Facebook “eased” the restrictions for the 13-17 year old crowd. They say they did it to give them “more independence” yet, you and I know it’s to give advertisers their precious data. And, unfortunately, our teens are all too willing to give it to 

sexualization of teens


If you didn’t see this post by fellow blogger Vinobaby’s Voice, you need to read it (after you read this,  of course). It’s regarding the high school senior who is raising all sorts of chaos because her school’s yearbook staff rejected the girl’s senior photo submission. Once you see the pictures, I’m sure you’ll understand why they rejected them. Yes, It’s Too Sexy for ANY Yearbook

And while I disagree with her choice in photos, I get it. I get why she thought it was okay to turn the photos in.  The next time you go to the mall, open a magazine, watch a show – pay attention. Look at what’s staring back at you. You’ve probably tuned it out because we as parents are so used to seeing it that we’re desensitized to it.


I took M to the mall the day after Christmas (a mistake I’ll never make again) to return a few things

that she had received from Abercrombie. Like every other teenager in America, she LOVES that store. It’s hip, it’s trendy, it has sexuality busting thru the ceiling tiles ( I hope she hasn’t picked up on that last part but I’m no fool). Abercrombie to her group is what Bennetton was to us in the 80’s. Anyhow… she picks out the items that she can afford with her return and I send her off to the dressing room.

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As I stand there waiting for my sweet teenage daughter, I see this bottle of women’s perfume on display:

What?! Y’all I’m no prude but holy smack – what an image to stare you in the face! I felt like I needed a shower after seeing it.

Luckily, we were out of there before M saw it which is good because it would have been awkward for her… maybe as awkward as when she was stuck in the car with her dad and an Adam & Eve commercial came on. But if she had noticed it and mentioned it to me, I guarantee we would have had a conversation about it.

My point is – with all of this swirling around our kids, how could the girl in Colorado not think her senior photos were perfectly fine? Judging from the interviews she’s had with her mom at her side (who also thinks the photos are fine.. think she’d put them on the family Christmas card?) the difference between this mom and daughter duo and the majority of us is that there apparently were no such conversations.

Retail sexualization is all around. What do you do when faced with an “uncomfortable” ad like this? And sure.. go ahead and chime in on the photos 😉


November 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

I hate Abercrombie with a passion. But that story is for another time. Point is, I completely agree with you. Retailers have continued to promote this type of lifestyle/clothing to our children. It’s become so ingrained in our culture I just don’t see how we can stop it. Nothing short of locking our teens in their bedrooms will keep this from them. I’m terrified to even think about how things will be once Jasmine gets older. If it’s like this now, I cringe at the thought of what it will be like in 10 years…
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    November 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Don’t get me started on Victoria’s Secret. Another one of my rant/posts. We just have to keep repeating to them that they are MORE than that.. it’s okay to want to look great and be desirable – but let’s at least graduate high school first and not have it be the only thing we base our self-worth on.

November 1, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Oh, if you could see me you would know I am giving you a standing ovation!! I could not agree with every word you wrote more. We have started doing this with PRETEENS now, too. The Halloween costumes I saw on girls not even 13 yet, just make me shake my head. Why do we do this?! And I’ll tell you, I’m actually not a prude at all, but COME ON! Yikes. It’s just amazing and it’s become the new baseline for the way we have our daughters dress. What kind of message are we sending them allowing them to be bombarded with these clothes and images…an even on perfume bottles now. Good grief. –Lisa
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November 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

That store makes me insane. I imagine as soon as the big guy made those comments about only wanting skinny people to shop in his store that their market began to drop considerably, and it wasn’t too much longer before it disappeared from our local mall. Whoop! BUT. They have BRAS in the girls department at Target. Not preteen. I have a five year old. They have bras in the dept for FIVE year olds!
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    November 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Wait… your mall closed the A&F?? Wow!! That’s awesome! As for the bras, I bet they HAVE to have them.. girls are much bustier than we were. I swear it’s the hormones in the food and milk.

November 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

Ridiculous. I don’t get why everything has to be so sexual with kids. And even if that smelled great, it wouldn’t be in my house.
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October 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Totally agree. I am amazed at what parents let their kids out of the house in these days. Do they realize what kind of image they are projecting?
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    November 3, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I don’t think they get it or they have no spine to actually parent. But these are also the parents who dressed their daughters as little dolls from the beginning. Where else could they go?

January 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I thought it the HS year book pictures were very inappropriate. I can’t believe parents & kids these days.

January 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm

This is so true. It starts so young, too. I don’t think anyone (child or adult) should be oversexualized, but to market stuff to kids who don’t have the critical thinking or the control to avoid it. Shameful. They come with a natural sense of themselves as fabulous just the way they are and then it seems society is doing its best to squelch that as young as possible.

January 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

Oh dear. From a very young age, I have taught both of my children that their worth does not lie in, nor is it tied to, their physical appearance. Recently, my (8 year old) daughter sat in the garage while I tinkered with the car, and I heard a big *rip*. I turned to find her tearing pages out of my Hot Rod magazine that contained what she called, ‘Slutty girls’… And she was right. And I let her tear it to shreds. And I should in fact cancel that subscription to support her feelings on the matter. Point being, my daughter knows what is and isn’t appropriate because I taught her. If I asked her to wear that yearbook outfit and pose like that? She’d think I’d gone mad, then she’d probably give me a serious scolding. You know the old saying, “I can’t change the world, but I can make sure it never changes me.” Well I’d modify that a bit for this situation, “I can’t change the world, but I can make sure it doesn’t raise my kids for me.”

    January 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

    @ThreeFiveZero It’s a challenge to keep them from falling down that dark hole of thinking that outer beauty is the same thing as inner. We can’t hide them from it because it’s a fact of life. All we can do is what you’re doing – make sure they know there’s a big difference.

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