Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anti-Sex Versus Anti-Sexualization

As the SPARK Summit draws near, it is important for us to address a question that many HGHW supporters are asking: is our organization anti-sex? Given the fact that SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge, it is no surprise that such a query has been raised. After all, our blog posts often point to the cultural landscape that encourages, if not glorifies, evocative portrayals of girls and women. Does this mean that our mission is intrinsically against sex?

So, what makes anti-sexualization different than anti-sex? The former is defined as a movement against the prominent messages sent to the female populous, ones that impose very specific, very radical notions of sexuality. Unfortunately, girls are exposed to these expectations at a young age, thus prompting a premature entrance into sexual behavior, or at the very least, pressure to emulate their older "role models."

If this isn't enough of a reason to counteract early sexualization, we need only reference the countless studies that draw a clear correlation between media objectification and an array of issues unique to adolescent girls: low self-esteem, body dysmorphic disorder, and excessive dieting, to name a few. Rather than use this research to improve representations of women, media industries continue to exploit, objectify, and prioritize their cash-flow over the well-being of girls. The cultural landscape in which we live, regardless of gender, is one of harmful images and damaging messages. Since female objectification is prevalent on TV, in movies, and all around us, so too is a hyper-sexualized version of femininity.

Sex, on the other hand, can be a positive element of a person's life, one that should be celebrated and honored. To that end, Hardy Girls Healthy Women strongly supports the inclusion and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society. We even sell a documentary and community action kit called Ugly Ducklings, which focuses on the unique challenges affecting LGBT youth. Recent statistics tell us that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT teens experience bullying . Harassment and suicide are continually linked, as in the case of Tyler Clementi, whose private activities were broadcast online. We are sex positive insofar as we condemn the shaming, bullying, and blatant disregard for privacy as a result of sexual orientation. We promote the theory that sex can (and should) be a healthy dimension of life.

Whether straight, queer, or questioning, our Lending Library offers many resources that educate about sex and sexuality. Books like The Secret Lives of Girls and Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut expose the double-standard girls are subjected to, while Body Language teaches female autonomy in a teen-friendly manner. Kofi Annan said that "Information is liberating," and we wholeheartedly agree. Rather than demonize sex, we encourage girls to learn about their bodies, health, and safety.

Sex is an expansive subject and a different experience for each individual. The media, however, broadcasts a very narrow interpretation. When girls are pressured to assume this pre-packaged version of themselves, we must protest. We must resist. We must act. This is why we hold an annual Freaky 5K Fun Run & Walk and how the concept of SPARK Summit came to fruition.

We invite you to join the SPARK movement!

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