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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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Is it Okay to Sexualize Children for Animal Rights?

Is it Okay to Sexualize Children for Animal Rights?

| On 05, Aug 2013

Everyone knows PETA for their highly sexual, often pornographic adverts against Nonhuman Animal cruelty. Many other advocacy organizations are aware of PETA’s publicity and have started to replicate the nude campaigns. Many would argue that the attention PETA gets is not exactly positive, and PETA itself abides by the motto: “Any attention is good attention.” Sex sells, and sexist advertising permeates our culture. Of all the subjects sexually objectified in the media, 96% are women. The bodies of women are used to sell everything from hamburgers to automobiles. PETA quite rationally decided to replicate the popular advertising techniques that seem to work for other multi-million dollar businesses. If sex can sell commodities, surely it can sell compassion. Of course, it’s not just any women used to sell products. Women must be of a certain stature and a certain race. Very few companies stray from the super skinny and tanned white woman trope. She must also convey sexual availability:  She has to be sexy. She has to be young. In the age of hypersexualized femininity, where womanhood is commodified into an advertising tool, many have observed that obsession with youth has taken a horrific turn. Increasingly, childhood is sexualized. Not “childhood” in general, but girlhood specifically. Companies sell padded bras for toddlers, fashion spreads depict heavily made-up girls wearing fishnets and high heels, and the pornography industry rakes in the majority of its profit from the “barely legal” genre and films that create the male fantasy of the sexually available babysitter, cheerleader, schoolgirl, girl next door, daughter, sister, etc. It’s not enough that sex sells — it’s young sex that sells. I’m sad to report that PETA is on board with this trend as well. Most of PETA’s models are thin, white, young, and sexualized. Some are not even legal. In July 2013, 17-year-old Dionne Bromfield was featured in a campaign wearing a skirt and high heels with her hand on hip and parted lips. Dionne Bromfield for PETA Also in July 2013, PETA launched a new advert that depicts 16-year-old musician Samia Najimy. The girl is shown wearing a tight tank top and tight jeans. Lips parted, legs spread, her hand lingers in her tousled brown hair. The text reads: “Vegans Go All the Way.” Samia Najimy for PETA Even creepier is that PETA is quick to point out the young age of these girls. Announcing the Samia campaign, the PETA blog named her their “youngest pin-up.” In the post, PETA writes that they normally wait until people turn 18 before asking them to star in provocative ads, but not anymore. When they do wait, they don’t wait very long. The then 19-year-old Christian Serratos appeared in a nude advert against fur. Touching her breast, she arches her back against a tree, naked and alone in a forest. This is teen pornography in the name of Nonhuman Animal rights. Is it really doing any good for Nonhuman Animals? Just as important, is it doing harm for women and girls? Christian Serratos for PETA For comparison, Justin Beiber’s ad shows how male and female teens are depicted in very different ways by PETA (and most advertising for that matter). Justin Bieber for PETA Update:  Samia reveals in a Yahoo! Shine interview that PETA had originally planned for the 16 year old child to be posed on a bed in sheets.

By Corey Lee Wrenn You can follow her on Twitter and on her blog, The Academic Abolitionist Vegan and her website, Vegan Feminist Network.

  • sethp23

    I’m a devoted vegan and I strongly disagree with how PETA objectifies women and girls.

  • http://www.rockingjamboree.com/ Russ Rogers

    What is wrong with the Dionne Bromfield photo? Does the writer think that 17 is too young to be wearing a skirt or high heels? I understand that the phrase “Vegans go all the way” is mildly sexually suggestive in the Samia Najimy photo. But the phrase is immediately qualified. And your description of her picture, “The girl is shown wearing a tight tank top and tight jeans. Lips parted, legs spread, her hand lingers in her tousled brown hair,” is far more sexualized than the caption of the advertisement! The writer seems sexually fixated on a rather normal looking teen girl. THAT is how teen girls dress! And the writer shouldn’t be trying to “slut-shame” them for it! Because any possible sexual “come-on” in that ad is totally subverted by a big GUITAR in the picture! That picture does not say, “I want to be your girl-friend;” it says, “I want to be your Pop-Star!”

    I feel like I’m being forced to act as an apologist for PETA. But if you’re going to be so repressed as to try to pin a Scarlet Letter on someone for wearing a skirt and high heels, or try to “slut-shame” a very normal looking young woman for wearing a tank top and jeans, you need a little push-back!

    The “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” style ads have been around for decades. They are calculated to be provocative. They are always good for some free publicity (like you are providing). Nineteen is young, but beyond the age of majority in the USA. She’s an adult. Should PETA feature more nude male celebrities? Certainly. Maybe Channing Tatum would do an ad.

    But your “outrage” at PETA’s campaign is a calculated expectation from PETA. They have been playing off similar outrage for years to garner more publicity. In effect, you’ve been trolled by an advertising campaign, and you swallowed the hook.

  • http://www.rockingjamboree.com/ Russ Rogers

    Dealing with people who are being intentionally provocative is tricky. On the one hand, you certainly have a legitimate right to voice your opinion. On the other hand, you don’t want to reward Trolls with the attention they so desperately crave.

    Admittedly, David Cross is not a teen. And the focus of this article seems to be on how PETA sexualizes teen girls. Still, I thought this provides a bit of balance. And most of the naked celebrity PETA ads don’t feature teens (although more feature women than men).

    http://www.peta.org/features/david-cross-naked-fur-ad.aspx