I am a sexy dad, and I have sexy children. Sure, they are only 7 and 5, but boy are they sexy. Jackson is ripped and tan, with striking blue eyes. Tanner is brooding and mysterious, which gives him a sex appeal that’s more psychological than physical. Like that actor who isn’t good looking but people think is sexy. He was in that movie about the guy who wasn’t good looking but people thought was sexy.
Needless to say, I’m really disappointed that my children’s sexiness is being overlooked. Why won’t anyone exploit my sons? I wish I had daughters. They are so much easier to exploit. Consider all the single ladies (all the single ladies) on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras. And what about Abercrombie & Fitch? In 2002, the company got hammered for trying to bring sexyback to second grade with their line of thongs for girls as young as 7. (They displayed sayings like “Wink Wink” and “Eye Candy.”) Seven years later, their 2009 Back to School catalog sold T-shirts that said, “Show the twins.” Then in March 2011, oops they did it again: A&F began marketing push-up bras to the iCarly set.
If you visit A&F’s site today, the girls section has lingerie-esque tops and short short shorts. But the boy apparel is not hot: cargo shorts to the knee, and boxers with bulldog and moose prints. That is not too sexy for Milan, too sexy for Milan, New York and Japan.
A major study was published recently that measured the sexiness of children’s clothing. (The researchers defined “sexy” as emphasizing breasts or buttocks.) Of the 5,666 clothing items studied, roughly 30 percent had both sexualized and childlike features. An example would be a short skirt (sexualized) with pink bubbles or hearts (childlike). And it goes without saying that all 5,666 pieces of clothing were for girls.
So why don’t we exploit boys? Because the heroines in children’s stories are beautiful and alluring, while the heroes are corny, hapless and at times ridiculous. Aside from their parents, that’s who our kids spend the most time with and mimic the most. Here’s a quick sample:
Girls: Cinderella and her shimmering gown and elegant glass slippers. EVE and her sleek white shell and LED Cleopatra eyes. Princess Fiona. Belle. Princess Leia. Hannah Montana.
Boys: Robin Hood and his green tights and Johnny Rocket’s hat. Wall-E and his microwave physique. Shrek. Beast. Darth Vader. Billy Ray Cyrus.
Two genders, two funhouse mirrors.
As long as we sell beauty to girls, they’ll search it out at every stage. “The Cinderella-Belle phase feeds into the Miley Cyrus-Hannah Montana juggernaut,” says Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Girlie-Girl Culture. “Then Miley goes from wearing a promise ring to wearing a bustier and dancing in a cage.” Orenstein also suggests that Disney princesses instigated “a Hundred Years’ War of dieting, plucking, painting and perpetual dissatisfaction with the results.”
But this is the point where fathers bow out of the conversation. Dads did not design A&F’s push-up bra, nor did we print “Eye Candy” on those 4T thongs. Dads are not hot glue-gunning fake eyelashes on their daughters for beauty pageants held in Best Western conference rooms. If we were doing these things, we would be prosecuted for child endangerment, inappropriate contact with a minor and lewd and lascivious conduct. For some reason, we’re okay with girl-on-girl crime.
Ladies, this one’s on you. Men can’t fix this. File this alongside breastfeeding, postpartum depression and menstruation in the “things that only a woman can understand” folder. With the father absence crisis, erectile dysfunction and heart disease in the dad dossier, we’ve got our own problems to worry about.
It looks like some women are already working to fix this issue. Orenstein is working on it. TLC president Eileen O’Neal is not. Melissa Hardy is working on it. Hardy created Pigtail Pals, an online boutique that sells T-shirts with messages like “Pretty’s Got Nothing To Do With It.”
“Why is my generation, the most educated, most worldly generation of women ever, still raising our girls to wish upon a star in hopes that her prince may someday come?” Hardy writes on her website. “Why aren’t we teaching our girls to get into her rocket ship and find that star all on her own?”
While you ladies work this out, I’ll be busy getting my sexy kids the attention they so deserve. Girls have had a monopoly on sexiness since time immemorial. It’s only fair that us guys get the opportunity to be objectified.
Abercrombie & Fitch, my preschooler is ready for his close-up.