There is no doubt about it – Thylane Loubry Blondeau is a beautiful girl. But are the hypersexualized pictures of this 10-year-old really necessary for selling a product? Starting at the young age of 4, Blondeau has worked for world renown Fashion photographers, posed for ad campaigns for the children’s lines of major brands, and has more recently been part of the modeling team for high-end Fashion magazine, Vogue. However, it’s not Blondeau’s crazy resume that is the cause of her name being spread across headlines worldwide, but rather her role in the recent editorial for Vogue Paris. What seems to have disturbed critics the most about this editorial shoot is the sexualized nature of the photo; the sexualized pose and blank expression implying sexual readiness is a very common pose in the fashion industry – but not for a child. While I don’t necessarily think this particular shoot is overly revealing or dehumanizing to the model, I do think it is adding to the problem of sexualized children in the media.
Blondeau is not the first child to be sexualized in a magazine photo shoot. In 2008, Fashion photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed a nearly-naked 15-year-old Miley Cyrus for Vanity Fair and Marc Jacobs got slammed earlier this year for his provocative photo shoot of 13- and 17-year-old Fanning sisters.
Society is so desensitized to sexualized imagery that it’s almost nothing to see a teenager or young adult posing in a sexual manor, but one would like to think children would be exempt from the hypersexualized media. For an even more disturbing example how society is condoning, even promoting, the sexualization of children, one need look no further than cable TV. In 2009, the network TLC introduced Toddlers and Tiaras to the world; meant to be an inside look at the world of child beauty pageants, the show quickly became a disgusting reality check of what our media is doing to children. The Vancouver Sun had this to say about the show:
“Toddlers and preschoolers strut like strippers and smile like pros. They are made-up, hair-sprayed, spray-tanned, shaved and waxed. It's a pedophile's paradise.”
The important thing to note is that there are devastating consequences to bombarding children with such sexualized imagery. According to the APA, Study after study report that these images change the way young girls view femininity and sexuality, leading them to tolerate and endorse sexual stereotypes about the objectification of women. Some would like to believe children and parents aren’t buying into the hype, but look at the emerging lines of children’s lingerie (most famously Noah Cyrus’ new line), toddlers’ highheels, and padded children’s bikinis.
Companies want to make sure their products sell and editors want to make sure their magazines are purchased, so they are continuously pushing the envelope to gain a profit. The popular belief that sex sells, however, comes at a dangerously high price. Disordered eating, distorted self-image, and early exposure to sexual activity are serious consequences of inundating society with sexualized images of children. Like it or not, it’s out there, and while there may be no quick fix or easy ban to make it all go away, we are able to teach our young children to think critically about what they see, our parents to think carefully about the way they allow their children to be presented in public, and ourselves to think twice about supporting a magazine or other media product that endorses the sexualization of children.