Is growing up in an ‘overly sexualised environment’ impacting the mental health of young girls?
Digital technology enables young children to view explicit pornography at just a tap of a button.
While boys once had to sneak battered magazines in their rucksack to share raunchy images in the playground, now they can download – not just nude images, but highly explicit pornography in bulk, from anywhere.
The easy access and sheer quantity of hardcore sexual imagery sends the message that it’s normal for girls to be sexy and sexually available. It inevitably shapes boys’ expectations of what sex should be, placing pressure on girls to perform to these ideas.
Psychologist Dr Steve Biddulph has recently written a book highlighting the impact of overt sexualisation on young people. He says: “Boys admitted to London’s Tavistock Clinic for sexual abuse of sisters or girls at school are being found to have been addicted to online porn for years. Some of these boys are only 12 or 13.”
As well as feeling the pressure from the opposite sex, Dr Biddulph also believes teenage girls are easily influenced by messages they see in the media. When they see that all the rich, famous, ‘attractive’ women are skinny, big-busted, long-haired, or whatever they happen to be at the time, it is only natural that they would want to emulate such a look.
The inability to meet the ‘ideal’ body image inevitably leads to insecurity, anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem. These emotions in turn impact behaviours like drinking, smoking and risky sex.
Dr Biddulph believes that the government should tackle sexual imagery in the media to prevent future mental health problems such as anorexia, self-harm, depression and alcohol addiction. Prevention is, as always, easier and less costly to administer than treatment.
According to research, the number of teenage girls with anxiety or depression has as much as doubled over the last decade, while the number of girls who self harm has increased by a massive 68% in just the last 12 months.
Self harm is often a coping method used by people who need an outlet for their emotions. If you use self harm to control, understand, or release your feelings, then it’s worth thinking about how a counsellor could help you find other, less destructive outlets. Often, talking about how we feel and bringing our secrets out into the open can make everything seem a little clearer and easier to cope with.
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