Dr Michelle Smith will use a speech at the Wheeler Centre today to argue young girls are being bombarded with mixed messages about sexuality.
“We continue to insist on girls remaining sexually innocent, through criticism of girls who wear revealing clothing and the shaming of teen mothers and sexually active girls,” she will tell the Lunchbox Soapbox event.
“But we also surround girls with messages that suggest being a sexual adult female means being on constant sexual display.”
Dr Smith — from the University’s School of Culture and Communication — will argue gender based attacks on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, are an example of the problem.
“Online criticism of our nation’s first female leader often contains jokes about her sexual prowess and attractiveness.”
“According to this logic, there is not a sphere of life where being sexy is not the ultimate achievement of a woman.”
The speech will put the issue in a historical context, by providing examples of young women dressing fashionably and provocatively (to the alarm of adults) for more than 150 years.
But Dr Smith will argue the culture surrounding girls’ sexual development could not be more different.
“Girls in the Victorian era received a consistent message that virtue was of supreme importance.”
“The stories and articles they read, as well as the advertisements they saw, reinforced this idea and used morally restrained women as exemplars.”
“In contrast, today’s girls are being held to account to ideals of sexual innocence while immersed in examples of adult women who are admired because they are sexy.”