Slutty vs Sexualization

Slutty: During a conversation the other day the person I was speaking with used the word “slutty” to describe the style of fashion dolls sold to girls in big box toy stores. I understood what they were trying to say, and was glad they recognized this as a problem — we shouldn’t sell a co-opted version of adult sexuality to kids.
Here’s the issue – “slutty” is an equally harmful word for girls and women. So I gently and accurately explained the difference.

Slutty = a pejorative used to intimidate, shame, and control, girls and women for actual or perceived sexual activity. It denies females the same sexual agency our culture grants its males.

Sexualization = In childhood, imposing adult concepts of sexuality and sex on children before they are ready to understand those things on their own. Sexualization leaves the subject, usually a girl or woman, objectified in way that her sexual appeal is the most important thing about her, to the exclusion of all other characteristics.

When we understand the difference, we can begin to do the work that needs to be done.


  1. What is your opinion of ten year old (no, nine year old) girls looking up to Miley Cyrus?
    What is your thoughts on going to one of her concerts?

    • Margaret –
      I think Miley Cyrus’ new brand is far too sexually charged and inappropriate for young children. I could not imagine her concert being an appropriate place to take a child.

      • do you have any suggestions for talking to a ten year old girl (and her 6 year old sister) who seem “enthralled” by Miley Cyrus and her music?

        • Her current music or old music? If it is her old music, I think you can let them listen to it but talk to them about how much her image has changed, why she might have made those decisions to go from wholesome to sexualized in order to stay relevant, does the music industry encourage this from its female artists, and how does her new look make them feel? Do they think it is cool that much of her new “brand” is about publicizing her private body parts and constantly touching her vagina? Does that seem cool or crazy to them? Talk to them about why it is not cool, why a lot of people are disappointed in her, and what hopes and expectations you hold for the two of them that differs greatly from what they see of Miley.

          I’m not really sure how any of her music off of the new “Bangerz” album would be relative to a ten and six year old, but most of the songs are about broken hearts, sex, and drugs. I would ask them what interests them about it, and then suggest better substitutes from more positive female artists.

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