Not since the feminist pornography debates of the 1980s has there been such an outburst of discussion, research and publications about sexualized images of women and girls. The debate is now carried out by governments and other social actors, but to hail current attacks on sexualization as a belated victory for feminism is naive and problematic. Together with Liesbet van Zoonen, I wrote an article in which we contend that current sexualization policies involve academic analyses and political solutions which are cast in the discourse of liberal feminism and neoliberalism.
Inevitable in the current work on sexualization is an identity of girls and young women as ‘victims’ in need of protection. Research among Dutch girls is utilized to refute that construction, emphasizing tactics of resistance, negotiation and accommodation which they have developed. We argue that current sexualization concerns are ahistorical in their oblivion to similar sexualization panics in previous decades and to the years of feminist cultural analysis and critique in this arena.
The article is now published in the European Journal of Cultural Studies and can be accessed by subscribers or via library access here. If you are interested and do not have access, send me an email to receive a copy.