Media & Communication Department

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eisen Julie Eisen
A Culture of Pretty Babies: How Media Depictions of Girls and Women Encourage Pedophilia

In recent years, media have increasingly blurred the line dividing the female child and the female adult. With the embrace of tweens (children between the ages of 8 and 12) as viable consumers, the market has churned out a flurry of entertainment, fashion, and cosmetic products aimed at the prepubescent that have an undeniably mature and sexual nature. Meanwhile, the fashion industry's love affair with youth has become ever more apparent, with high couture advertisements frequently featuring leggy, shapeless models presented as child-like. In this way, media sexualizes young girls and juvenilizes women, leading the public to wonder: where does the child end and the woman begin? At the same time, media coverage of pedophilia as a sickening evil has become increasingly widespread. In distorting the distinction between girls and women, media have encouraged pedophiliac tendencies, while simultaneously demonizing this mental disorder in humiliating tactics like those used in NBC's 2006 series To Catch a Predator. Portrayals of age ambiguity are examined in popular culture case studies including the controversial Bratz dolls, the recent Marc Jacobs fashion ads featuring 12-year-old Dakota Fanning, the Hollywood representation of underage celebrities, and the high fashion spreads featuring legally adult models. The effects of these depictions of girls and women in how they relate to pedophilia is examined.