HelenaSo with the omelet down, next up on my list of “Stuff that probably most teenagers can do better than me” is the sexy pose and/or pic.

I’ve been perusing my little cousins’ Facebook pages — which is not a fun exercise if you’re familiar with grammar on any level — and the screen is filled with scroll upon scroll of “sexy pics.” I’m talking pursed lips, hair flipped, chest out and hip cocked. Is there some kind of class now? Or have all the hormones in the water rejiggered these girls’ faces and fixed them permanently to “sexy time”?

I was a closeted siren back in high school. By day, I was awkward, lanky and oblivious. But by night, in the privacy of my own bedroom, I spent an inordinate amount of time giving myself the eye in the mirror. I practiced looking smoldering, doing what the senior girls did during Spanish when Senora Para had her back turned.

That way, when we took the inevitable “now all the sexy bitches” group shot at either Homecoming, the Winter Formal or Prom, I’d be ready. Back then it seemed like scowling was the way to go, or barring that — a smirky half-smile. But I don’t ever think I got it down to a science because for every one of these:

image

There will always be one of these:

image In the age of rampant digital evidence, there isn’t one week that goes by where a photo of me doing something called living life doesn’t pop up somewhere. Thing is, I’m rarely doing really interesting stuff. Stuff that would require me to look intense, smoldering and sexified. Most days it’s me and my dog, Miles, painting the living room red. What then is my motivation when my camera-happy boyfriend sneaks a picture while I’m cooking dinner besides, “There, are you happy now?”

Last weekend I caught the excellent documentary “Sexy Baby,” about cyber sexualization, on Showtime. It follows three women — a 32-year-old former porn star, a 12-year-old addicted to Facebook and a 22-year-old getting labiaplasty. The most compelling character, of course, is 12-year-old Winnifred whose three-year journey goes from feminist priestess-in-training to rocking her training bra in public cause it’s her “style.”

In one scene, Winnifred and her bestie shout, “PHOTO SHOOT!” and then proceed to run around her apartment snapping pictures of themselves posing sexily on ordinary things around the house. Then they post said pics on Facebook and Instagram to see what happens.

“I know I look like I’m down to fuck,” says Winnifred, who admits that she actually isn’t.

I don’t remember this being a thing when I was a kid. In the 90s, the thing to do was take pictures with your best friends at a one-hour photo then distribute said pictures to the very same friends lest they forget what you looked like an hour ago. The “don’t fuck with me” scowl was in. We looked more like baby gangsters than sexy babies.

What then can I tell my little cousins about not only the futility, but the dangers of the sexy pic? Winnifred explains it starkly in the film. Being sexy online can be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that, of course, is wholly unfair and provides a loophole the size of Texas for someone else’s behavior.

I’m starting to think the best way to show the girls in my orbit “what sexy is” is to be the exact opposite of whatever they think it is. So for every insane finger-in-mouth-blank-stare pic they post, I’m going to post one of my fart face. I know they lurk around my online life as they piece together what a grown woman looks like from the jigsaw puzzle of magazines, “Basketball Wives” and whatever the hell.

Maybe if they see it’s nothing different, nothing special from regular old life, then they’ll stop trying to live it so fast.

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena on XOJane! 

  • JDB

    Really interesting article. And very timely. I often see the daughters of friends on social media looking way too “sexy”, and these are girls ranging in age from 12 to HS senior. I can’t help to wonder where is the adult supervision? Their pages aren’t private – if I can see it, I know the parents can. I’m so bewildered. I have a 12yo stepdaughter and not kids of my own yet, but I can’t imagine that when I do, I will find this acceptable. Good for you for writing this. I think I’ll share it. Someone needs to tell this girls there is no prize in being the fastest to grow up. I just have a hard time understanding why it should come from a magazine article and not a parent :-/

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    From time to time, my friends say to me “Thank God we didn’t have Facebook when we were teenagers!” and then I usually say “Even if we did, we knew back then what was acceptable and not acceptable to post onto Facebook”. And I was right, because back when I was teenager (from 1997-2002), things were a little bit different than they are now. My friends and I still played with Barbie (secretly), enjoyed reading books, going to the movies, shopping with our allowance (and think that we were ballin’ too. LOL) and plan out our careers. Sure, we did deal with raging hormones, but we dealt with them in a healthy way, because our parents always informed us about sex (our dads did along with our moms) and we were confident. Back when I was a teen, there two things that you didn’t want your peers to consider you to be: a gardening tool and a pregnant girl.
    Now, it seems so drastically different.

  • RenJennM

    Damn. And here I thought I was going to school the novices on posing cute in pictures. Well, this article definitely wasn’t what I expected.

    Anyway, I agree that kids nowadays are way too fast. Looking at their sex-siren pics is evidence of that. Some girls, even if they’re just smiling with their heads tilted to the side, unfortunately, STILL look come hither because they are more developed and made up than I am, and I’m 23! When I become a parent, I may just opt to have my kids not be involved in any social networks until they’re 18, and up until then, I’m going to show them the dangers of it. Everything from cyber-bullying to lurking pedophiles to media influences are all over social networking. And parents are doing a poor job of properly educating their kids about its use and misuse because they’re too busy either learning how to work the damn computer or are getting their swerve on themselves.

    *sigh* I really didin’t want to get deep on ya’ll. I really wanted to comment about picture posing. lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/brit.craig Brit N. Craig

    Every single time I see a young girl post a sexy pic, I just want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her until her little brain is scrambled, and scream “YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!!!” It makes no sense to me. Why would you want to portray yourself in that way? To get some looks from horn dog little boys or to make other girls jealous??? I think schools need to start having dignity and modesty lessons.

  • mikey kun

    nice read. I’m not dealing with this with teenage sister yet, but I fear it’s coming

  • BriA

    idk what this is about? lol do you want to talk to your nieces or learn how to pose in a picture? if you want to talk to your nieces then tell them straight up girls who pose like this – guys think they’re easy/having sex/sluts esp if they’re in middle/hs sorry it’s the truth even though I don’t like using the term slut…basically they’re gonna want to get in their pants and if your niece feels like this is the only way she can get guys at her school to notice her then talk to her about her self-esteem/image……

    posing is pretty simple just breathe before you smile so you’re face will be relaxed/good posture/and slightly tilt your head to whatever side i guess

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    oh wow!! that documentary looks interesting as hell! i’m gonna check it out.

    i am i shock when i am in public and i see all these teenage girls wearing a bandeau bra and some see through tights WITH THEIR PARENTS!

    i’ve seen these middle school and high school girls go to the bathroom and hike up their shorts or pull their shirts up to expose their belly and then walk around grown men trying to get attention. i’ve seen then looking like straight out prostitutes while out and about with their parents and the parents just look so stupid!

    where is the guidance? these little girls are growing up to go in the wrong direction!

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    it’s weird that the 12 year old in the documentary even has a Facebook page when you need to be 16 to have one. in the trailer the parents CLEARLY know about it and it’s apparently NO PROBLEM. smh

    parents are so young and dumb nowadays.you have 8 year olds with iphones taking pictures on instagram and facebook. that shouldn’t be happening.there is no more guidance with these kids at all

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    IMO, a lot of these children are being guided by the wrong elements or their parents are too afraid to be a parent.

  • Anthony

    I’m glad I checked this out. My oldest is addicted to a cartoon/social website called Movie Star Planet. It seems harmless, but it bothers me that she feels she has to be on it 24/7, and I have to make her leave it alone. My wife wants a new Samsung, and wants to give my daughter her old iPhone 5, but I simply do not trust my 11 year with that much unlimited internet access. She is very innocent, but web is full of young girls and women doing everything from tacky “sexy pictures” to porn, and I am sure that more than a few of them got into to things without realizing the full consequences of what they have posted.

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