Sixty girls aged 6 to 9 were shown two dolls by psychologists at Knox College, Galesburg. One doll was dressed in clothes that could be described as sensible, although Live Science says they were “trendy but covered-up”. The other doll was a total vixen in a revealing outfit Live Science might describe as 'funky'.
Unsurprisingly the 'sexy' doll was chosen most often. 68% of the girls questioned wanted to look like the sexy doll and 72% said the sexy doll was more popular. Lead researcher on the project Christy Starr was surprised girls chose the sexy doll as their ideal self: “It's very possible that the girls want to look like the sexy doll because they believe sexiness leads to popularity, which comes with many social advantages.”
As well as a natural inclination towards popularity the background of the girls involved as taken into account. The sixty girls that took part came from 2 public schools and a small section of them were from a local dance studio. Out of the 3 the majority of the dance students chose the more sensibly attired doll. Starr observed: “It's possible that for young girls, dance involvement increased body esteem and created awareness that their bodies can be used for purposes besides looking sexy for others, and thus decreased self-sexualization.”
Of course mainly it is mothers who are cited as the biggest influence on the choice of sexy dolls. Mothers who admitted to being concerned about their own looks tended to have daughters who plumped for the sexy doll. Girls who had mothers that watched TV with their children and used media for teaching opportunities chose the sensible doll. Religious mothers who restricted their daughter's media intake had the predictable 'forbidden fruit' reaction, creating a fondness for the sexy doll.
Interestingly when asked about the sexualisation of young girls in Question Time Germaine Greer suggested we encourage our young girls to flirt with their dad and, by extension, other men. Behaviour and desire to please was not addressed as such in this study, which stuck more to aesthetics and impressions.
Does this study really demonstrate a 6 year old girl's desire to be sexy or just exciting. I would be interested to know what results would have come from showing the girls 3 dolls, a sexy one, a sensible one and a princess one. Because I am almost certain for these girls it is a question of what outfit they like best rather than which dress makes them more of a commodity.
The concern should, in my opinion, lay more with grown women dressing in school uniforms. Popularising a fetish for the innocent nubile. Perhaps it's us that needs to grow up not our children that need their innocence preserved.