Global concerns, local negotiations and moral selves: Contemporary parenting and the “sexualisation of childhood” debate

Sara Bragg, David Buckingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Parents are contradictorily positioned within the "sexualisation of childhood" debate. They ("we") are assumed to be concerned about sexualisation, and are urged to challenge it through campaigning, "saying no," discussing "media messages" with children, and so on. Yet "irresponsible" consumption practices, particularly by mothers, are also held responsible for sexualisation. We argue that parental concern may be overstated: participants in our qualitative research into "sexualised goods" tended not to perceive their own children as sexualised, did not accept that products are inherently sexualised, and subscribed to ideas about child development and "good" parenting that entailed letting children make their own decisions about such items. Nonetheless, mothers are increasingly compelled to participate in the "sexualisation debate," and doing so appears to encourage perpetual self-scrutiny and surveillance of others to maintain boundaries between "acceptable," peer-group-appropriate and "inappropriate" practices and choices. In this sense sexualisation can be seen as a site for the formation of ethical, responsibilised parent subjectivities. We argue that it has costs for (working-class) women and girls in particular: it naturalises social inequalities by obscuring the constraints on individual choice, converges with older discourses that make women responsible for male sexual violence, and reinforces narrow and conventional moral agendas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012

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