Hypersexualisation, Social Media, and the ‘Selfie’

It’s been rife in the media for years – the hypersexualisation of women, but with the evolution of the social phenomena known as the ‘selfie’, it’s not just half-dressed celebrities being splashed across our screen, but our own children. And the worst thing – they’re doing it to themselves.

The ‘Selfie’

A typical 'mirror selfie', where a provocative pose is taken in front of a mirror.

A typical ‘mirror selfie’, where the subject poses in front of a mirror and captures their reflection.
Photo by Helga Weber.

If you’re not aware of the meaning of ‘selfie’, I have to say that’s impressive. With recent media attention, the cultural phenomenon has gained widespread notoriety, becoming, like ‘sexting’ and ‘twerking’, a coined term.In 2013, the well-established concept of the ‘selfie’ finally broke its way into the Oxford Dictionaries Online (about time!), defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”However, for today’s tweens and teens, the ‘selfie’ goes deeper than this. Prominent trends for these self-portraits include pouting, or the ‘duck-face’; high angled head shots, featuring a wide-eyed upward gaze and maximum cleavage; and mirror shots, where full length shots are taken, with seductive poses and bare flesh being highly rated.WHY?

So why are our younger sisters, our daughters, the female youth of today, so keen to publish pouting, duck-faced, revealing, self-portraits?

Earlier this year, the Melbourne Age published an opinion piece by Olympia Nelson, detailing the 16-year-old’s thoughts on the explicit ‘selfie’, and her explanation of ‘why’, is strikingly insightful:

“On these ubiquitous portals (social networking sites), the popularity of girls is hotly contested over one big deal: how sexy can I appear and bring it off with everyone’s admiration? That’s the reason we see mirror shots, pouting self-portraits of teenagers (typically female) and sexually suggestively posed girls in a mini-dress ‘before a party last night’. They’re showing how much they like themselves and hoping that you’ll hit ‘like’ to reinforce the claim.”

To me, this unfortunately seems like a disturbing, yet natural evolution. Haven’t we been seeing the same concept for years? On magazine covers, music videos, advertising – the hypersexualisation of women – and it sells. The only difference now is that it’s not reserved for celebrities and magazine stands. Who needs to be on a magazine cover? When you can get 20, 50, 200 plus ‘likes’ on Facebook, and all you need is a smartphone, a mirror, a puckering pout, and some bare flesh.

Sex sells. We as adults know this, and it seems our kids have cottoned on to it too.


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