The Lolita Effect: Sexualizing young girls for profit

The Lolita Effect: Sexualizing young girls for profit

Fashion label Marc Jacobs is currently in hot water following an ad featuring child-star Dakota Fanning in a sexually provocative pose. Unfortunately, this is not the first time in which young girls have been sexually objectified in the media.

the lolita effect

The Lolita effect: Sexualizing young girls for profit


Dakota Fanning, the 17-year-old actress who came to the world’s attention through her break out role in 2001’s I am Sam and is recently on our radar again for her role as vampire Jane in New Moon. But now, she is in hot water following her seemingly provocative ad for Marc Jacobs.

It seems that Dakota’s Oh, Lola! perfume ad has been banned in the UK for “sexualizing children.” In the ad campaign, the child-star is photographed holding an oversize bottle suggestively between her thighs.

Even though she’s not dressed provocatively or doing anything sexual, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) believes the ad is portraying a minor as a sex object, stating:

“We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative. We understood the model was 17 years old but we considered she looked under the age of 16. We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality. Because of that, along with her appearance, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.”

Dakota may be one year shy of 18, but the teenager is being exploited for her youth — explicitly chosen because she looks even younger than her 17 years. With big wide eyes and a baby doll face, she is being portrayed to look even younger — pairing her childlike appearance with blatant sexuality.

Fashion mogul Marc Jacobs admitted openly that he chose Dakota for the perfume campaign because she epitomised the “contemporary Lolita, seductive yet sweet.”

The Lolita effect”

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Author Vladimir Nabokov wrote the novel “Lolita” in 1955 about a lonely, middle-aged man named Humbert Humbert who became obsessed and sexually involved with a 12-year-old girl named Dolores Haze for whom his private nickname is Lolita. The novel went on to become one of the best-known and most controversial books of the 20th of century.

Although Nabokov’s focus is mainly on Humbert’s infatuation with Lolita, the name has become synonymous with seductive or sexually precocious or sexually responsive young girls. What most fail to consider was that the titular character in the novel “Lolita” was not really precocious or sexually responsive; she was the victim of the ugly, egomaniac paedophile Humbert whose obsession with her burgeoning sexuality led him to extreme measures.

In the original novel, Humbert kidnapped and then gave the 12-year-old Lolita pills so that he could molest her. He also forced her to stay with him when her mum died and she had nowhere else to go.The character Lolita had to barter sex in order to survive, but whether she enjoyed it is up to the reader’s interpretation.

Nowadays the term Lolita has come to mean a little girl who is inappropriately sexual, wanton, and who unknowingly flaunts her sexuality and seduces older men. The Lolita Effect is the way culture, and more importantly corporate media, sexualizes young girls to sell their products to the public.

It is a tale as old as time that sex sales and the taboo idea of having sex with an under-aged girl might be even more tantalizing then the…other sex.

Not the first time

Unfortunately, this is not the first time in which young girls have been sexually objectified in the media.

In 2009, clothes store American Apparel was also under fire from the ASA for an ad that was considered “offensive and irresponsible” as the girl that was featured appeared to be under 16. The model, who was 23-years-old at the time of the controversy, was featured as much younger than that and was posing in various states of undress.

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One of the many “Lolita” book covers


“We considered that the photographs suggested that she was stripping off for an amateur-style photo shoot,” the ASA said in its ruling banning the ad.

“Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.”

Long lasting effects

The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that the proliferation of sexual images of young girls in the media is harming their self-image and development.

“The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development” they said in a report.

The report suggests that the sexualization of girls impedes the healthy development of a girl or young woman in several different areas. For example by undermining her confidence and making her feel dissatisfied with her body, this can result in negative self-image and lead to feelings of shame and anxiety. Also, a body of evidence now links sexualization with several of the most common mental health problems in young women and girls: eating disorders, low self -esteem and depression.

Young girls are coming across in overtly-sexualized images more and more these days and with the advent of the Internet, who knows when it will ever end? It is up to parents to instill values — looks is not everything, there are other things that are more important than that.

Look out for sexual images that might negatively influence your daughters and protect them from it for it could have a lasting impact that is harmful in the long run.

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Written by

Miss Vanda

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