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SynopsisIn recent years, an explicitly sexualised style of femininity has become associated with the idea that women choose to self-sexualise to signify their empowerment. But alongside these celebratory interpretations, self-sexualisation among young women has been subject to more patronising readings; in particular, the view that women are duped into engaging in thinly disguised sexual self-exploitation, to which they are made vulnerable by low self-esteem. This paper presents a discursive analysis of focus groups with seventeen Australian undergraduate women, in which they discussed young women's engagements with sexualised culture. Participants saw sexualised self-presentations as providing benefits to women, most notably enjoyment and heightened confidence. However, they viewed some self-sexualisation as being motivated by low self-esteem, engaging women in a downward spiral of objectification and decreasing self esteem. These competing constructions of self-sexualisation as both promoting and threatening confidence and self-esteem highlight how young women's engagement in sexualised culture is simultaneously open to empowering and disempowering readings.
Journal: Women's Studies International Forum - Volume 47, Part A, November–December 2014, Pages 23–35