Telus, a major telephone company, announced recently that it was going to sell [tag-tec]pornography[/tag-tec] to its cell phone subscribers. If it had proceeded, it would be the first in North America. There was a huge backlash and they canceled their plan. Other big telephone companies quickly distanced themselves from any move to sell [tag-ice]porn[/tag-ice] to their cell phone customers.
Regardless of their rationale for backpedaling, Telus did the right thing.
A task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) released a major report called "The Sexualization of Girls" on February 19. They reported wide evidence that the proliferation in media and advertising of sexualized images of young women and girls is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development. It’s damaging to the physical health of our children. It’s damaging to their mental health.
A woman is sexually objectified, that is, made into a thing for another’s sexual use, when her value is portrayed as coming only from her sexual appeal or behavior. Pornography carries this to the extreme.
The sexualization of girls and women, already widespread, is increasing in the "new media." The new media include the internet and all the new hand-held display devices, including cell phones.
The evidence clearly shows that the sexualization and objectification of girls has wide-ranging negative effects. Quoting from a summary by psychologist Dr. Ken Pope:
- Cognitive and emotional consequences: the sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
- Mental and physical health: research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women — eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
- Sexual development: research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
"As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with one showing girls in positive settings — ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls," states Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the APA task force. "The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents — boys and girls — that lead to healthy sexual development."
Selling porn to cell phone users, many of whom are children, would extend the damage done to girls and young women by further sexualizing and objectifying them.
In a society that struggles to create sexual equality and fights sexism in the workplace, we should not encourage, condone or in any way support commercial activities that explicitly counter these societal goals by damaging our children.
Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He focuses on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic – A Woman’s Survival Guide.