How the Oversexualization of Young Girls Has Killed the Idea of Childhood

T Lopez, Opinion editor

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I can still remember being excited to turn 13 years old. 

I was going to be a teenager. I was finally going to be “grown-up.” Being “grown-up” at this time for me meant wearing skinny jeans, an obnoxious graphic tee from Ross, and upgrading my vocabulary to include curse words. I thought my Maybelline Baby Lips lip balm and brightly colored nails made me look so cool. 

The models of teenagehood during my time were Disney Channel characters. The YouTube era of beauty tutorials, back-to-school videos, and hacks for young audiences was thriving. Looking back, I cringe at the thought of tween ( and newly teen me’s thoughts on being “grown-up,” and the unfortunate string of Snapchat selfies, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I’ll be 18 in the summer. My childhood is about to end in a few short months to enter early adulthood. As many lows as I’ve faced, I’m glad to say I got to enjoy my childhood. I got to enjoy being a kid and a teenager. Even though I’ve been considered “mature for my age,” I never grew up too quickly. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the general experience anymore. 

I’ve noticed that more and more girls who are younger than me look and act like they’re older than me. It’s odd seeing the awkward phases of teenagehood disappear in exchange for immediate “womanhood.” I’ve seen girls that look no older than 13 wearing outfits that my parents wouldn’t allow me out with. There are also young girls posting thirst traps or “sexy” pictures on social media accounts they shouldn’t even be allowed to have. 

What happened to just being a kid? What happened to that awkward Disney Channel tween era? Why are girls rushing to be grown up at an even quicker pace?

Before I continue, I want to emphasize that this article is in no way meant to judge, blame, or shame anybody. It’s an observation I’ve made that I wanted to share and start a conversation about because I feel like it’s important. 

The desire to be grown-up is nothing new. Kids transitioning to teenagers have always experimented, rebelled, and tried to act more “mature.” The issue now is that young girls especially have taken this idea to a more extreme level. Nowadays, social media and darker-themed coming-of-age shows have added a new standard for teenagers. These are the more obvious factors, but there’s a bigger issue surrounding the acceleration of growing up that needs to be addressed as well. 

A girl’s body, or any body for that matter, isn’t inherently sexual. Clothes aren’t inherently sexual either. At least they shouldn’t be. At the end of the day, we all have bodies that serve multiple purposes and our clothes are just a form of expression. However, our bodies and clothes have been made to be seen as something purely sexual. 

 What makes it worse is the idea that a perfect “feminine woman” has very similar traits to a child, such as being hairless, innocent, and submissive. This has led to many people assigned female at birth (AFAB) having at least one experience they can recall where they were sexualized, even if they were just kids. I can still remember the first time I felt that stare despite wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, my hair tucked into a beanie, and being an elementary schooler. It’s an unfortunate universal experience amongst AFAB people of all ages. 

As we enter a time where we’re pushing back against harassment, stigma, and stereotypes, of course, women are going to reclaim their femininity and sexualities. It’s great that women are becoming more confident and shattering previously established expectations, but that doesn’t mean you have to be “sexually liberated” at 14. 

Social media gives girls easy access to inspiration for different forms of self-expression. Some of these inspirations and influencers are women who have more sexy pictures in their feed. They’re owning their confidence in the way they want and makes them feel good. The thing is they’re grown women and some of the girls taking inspiration are still minors. Some of the girls I’ve seen taking up sexiness as an aesthetic are only 13, and they truly believe that anyone trying to tell them to enjoy being a kid rather than posting sexy TikTok content is just hating because “you’re jealous you’re not as hot as I am.” 

It’s honestly kind of sad seeing so many girls believe that they have to be “hot” and have had at least one sexual encounter at such a young age. It’s obviously not a new thing for teenagers to experiment with, but it’s reached a whole new level nowadays. Younger girls are trying to “reclaim their sexuality” just like women on social media or teenage characters on TV are without considering the fact that there are so many more years and decades to do all of that. 

It’s also uncomfortable seeing young girls making thirst traps or posing in suggestive poses expecting a supportive response from people. In a perfect world, a lot of the clothes and actions young people do nowadays would be perfectly fine, but it’s not a perfect world. 

Unfortunately, we’re still so far away from being a perfect world. A lot of these girls can get in dangerous situations because grown men will take advantage of their mentalities. 

Adults look at teenagers nowadays and look beyond terrified. Some will try their best to explain to young girls that they should enjoy being a kid because there’s so much time to grow up, and then there’s the unfortunate bunch who decide shaming is the best teacher. The thing is the mentality of “you have to mature quickly” is something completely preventable. Proper sex education and conversations about sex can help a lot of teenagers be safer and learn that their entire time as a teenager shouldn’t be centered around sex or gaining that type of approval. 

It’s okay to be a kid. It’s okay to spend your childhood and time as a teenager being a kid. That’s what this period in our lives is for. We’re learning how to be our own people. We’re supposed to be reckless and stupid, but the last thing anyone wants is to spend their adult life looking back with regret that you spent so much time trying to be grown-up that you never got to be a kid.