Tweenies turned off by ‘gross’ sexy images

NZ Herald Mar 20, 2010

When teen star Miley Cyrus posed topless for Vanity Fair magazine, outrage resounded from commentators who believed such sexualised images were forcing young girls to grow up too soon. But the early findings of a study done by lecturers at Canterbury and Victoria Universities has revealed a conflicting view. Rather than wanting to be like Miley Cyrus, “tweenage” girls (those aged 11 to 13) found the magazine cover “yuk”, “gross” and “uncool”. The study analysed the opinions of 71 girls using video diaries and focus groups.

One of the study’s principal investigators, Dr Tiina Vares of Canterbury University’s gender studies department, said the study was the first of its kind to take into account the views of the girls. “Something that has generally been left out of the ‘too sexy, too soon’ debate is the voice of the girls themselves and how they make sense of and engage with popular culture. That’s where our study comes in,” Dr Vares told the University of Auckland News. The study shows that contrary to the popular view that girls are passively soaking up sexualised messages in the media in a way that distorts their views on sexuality, “tween” girls are making informed decisions about sexualised popular culture.