[2016] Inquiry Into the Sexualisation of Children and Young People

A healthy sexuality is an essential component of a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. Young people should have the freedom to experience their individual sexual development at their own pace and in a way that is clearly led by independent and informed thinking.

However, the sexualisation of young people within the media, as well as their exposure to sexualised images aimed at adult audiences, has been an ongoing issue of public debate in Australia, the US, and the UK throughout the past decade. The Australia Institute’s 2006 Corporate Paedophilia report, for example, roundly condemned what the authors considered to be the growing phenomenon of sexualisation, and explored several examples of what they deemed to be the inappropriately sexual depiction of children in mainstream Australian media.[1] The following year, an American Psychological Association task force responded to expressions of public concern regarding the sexualisation of girls.[2] In the UK, a commissioned review of the sexualisation of young people focused on the possible effects of sexualised media on violence against women and girls.[3] Alternative perspectives, however, have opposed seemingly blanket condemnation of sexualisation and have called for more rigorous, evidence-based academic research into the issue.[4]

Sexualisation is contested, and the debate has uncovered a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and avenues of research on a number of possible impacts of sexualisation on young people, As the peak organisation for young people and youth services in NSW, Youth Action is pleased to submit to this inquiry, and congratulate the NSW Government for its focus on the health and wellbeing of young people, including their sexual health. In submitting to the inquiry, Youth Action has responded to the following terms of reference:

  1. The exposure of children and young people in NSW to sexualised images and content in public places, electronic, print and social media and marketing;
  2. The impact on children and young people of growing up in a sexualised culture;
  3. Adequacy of current measures at state and federal level to regulate sexualised imagery in electronic, print and social media and marketing, and effectiveness of self-regulation measures;
  4. Measures to assist parents in fulfilling their responsibility to protect and educate children;
  5. Measures to educate children and young people and assist them in navigating the contemporary cultural environment;
  6. Possible measures that the Children’s Advocate can take to assist children and young people to navigate the cultural environment successfully

[1] E Rush & A La Nauze, ‘Corporate paedophilia: sexualisation of children in Australia’, The Australia Institute, Discussion Paper No. 90,  2006.

[2] American Psychological Association (APA), ‘Report of the APA task force on the sexualisation of girls’, 2007, accessed via http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf

[3] L Papadopoulos, ‘Sexualisation of young people review’, Home Office, UK, 2010, Accessed via: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/sexualisation-of-young-people.pdf

[4] C Lumby & K Albury, ‘Too much? Too young? The sexualisation of children debate in Australia’, Media International Australia, No. 135, May 2010, pp. 141-152; A McKee, ‘Sexualisation of children: what the research shows’, submission to the National Classification Scheme Review, 2011, Accessed via: https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/pdfs/ci_721_a_mckee.pdf; C Smith & F Attwood, ‘Lamenting sexualisation: research, rhetoric, and the story of young people’s ‘sexualisation’ in the UK Home Office review’, Sex Education, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2011, pp. 327-337.