But How Old Is She Really?

This is Thylane Loubry Blondeau and she’s been causing quite the controversy. She’s a French child model and she’s 10.

This is Haley Clauson, she was fifteen when this photo shoot took place. It’s now on Urban Outfitter t-shirts.

I can’t find this model’s name, but she’s 18. This is for Roger David’s clothing line New Love Club.

The Roger David ad was banned this week  because it “‘inappropriately depicted a young girl in a sexualised manner”. Um… yeah. It does. And so do those others. And so do most advertisements these days.

This Roger David debacle would suggest that the actual age of the model isn’t the issue, because she’s legal. It’s the intention of making her look younger that crosses a seemingly arbitrary line. So here’s my question, where is that line exactly? How is the fifteen-year-old with her legs splayed okay, but the eighteen-year-old with “Slave” tattooed on her shoulder not? What about the 10 year old making pouty-face?

I know I’m getting prudish in my old age because I huff and puff at Gossip Girl billboards. When a Victoria’s Secret writhe-a-thon comes on before 9pm a big part of me wants to hurl popcorn at the TV and shriek “What about the chiiiiildren?” I don’t mind sexy ads. In fact, I totally dig sexy ads. I just don’t like them in front of less-discerning audiences, like ones who don’t know what “Photoshop” means and can’t spell “misogyny.” I also don’t like them when the perceived sexiness is about girlhood instead of womanhood.

Roger David’s PR people said this in response to the ban: “The relevant audience for this advertisement is young men. Roger David strongly believes that young men would relate to this image, and would not see it as shocking or exploitative.” Hey Roger David PR guy, do you not see that it’s a problem when young men (or women) see images of woman intentionally aged-down in sexulized contexts? Yes, she’s actually 18, but when you start seeing an 18-year-old who looks 14 as “sexy” it warps your standards of what, and how old, real-world sexiness looks like.

I don’t necessarily have an answer. At the very least, sexualized images used for advertising should adhere to age laws we use to regulate who can dance in a strip club. What’s qualifies as a sexualized image? See Potter Stewart.

Related Post: Here’s the wrong answer (one of them anyway) about why teenage girls dress “like prostitutes.”

Related Post: Oy. Let’s hope these Tangent models are 18.

7 Comments

Filed under Advertising, Gender, Sex

7 responses to “But How Old Is She Really?

  1. To me seems pretty clear-cut: there is what is legal and then there is what is moral. If you try to convince the general public that underage-looking girls are the epitome of sexiness and/or that emaciated of-age girls are the epitome of sexiness, that is immoral, but if you depict actually underage girls in an explicitly sexual context, that is illegal, regardless of how old they look.

  2. If only people would stop and think: Try to dredge up similar ads that depict young men. Why the difference?
    Misogyny continues, but is disguised under sparkliness.
    Please keep speaking up; you are right on!

    • I totally agree! There ARE ads that glorify young men (think 17-year-old Taylor Lautner on the cover of Rolling Stone in a wet t-shirt), bu they are few and far between!

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