On Grooming, Gender Nonconformity, and Cuties

hypersexualization of gender nonconforming kids

Ladies, I hate to say it, but we have to talk about Cuties. The Netflix original movie has caused controversy since before it even aired, and at this point the audacity of certain hot takes around it may be even worse than the film itself. In all this talk, no one seems to be bringing up the sexualization of gender nonconforming, as well as lesbian and gay children, that precedes Cuties. This sexualization is not only accepted, but celebrated on a grand scale.

So today, we will be the ones to point out the connection between projects like Cuties and the grooming of gender nonconforming kids (many of whom will grow up to be gay or lesbian). Now that Netflix is facing criminal charges for lewd content, it’s time to take another look at society’s reaction to the film.

So What’s The Deal?

People on the left, feminists even, have said, well maybe Cuties is not so bad. Maybe the marketing was poorly done. It’s intended to be a commentary, not an endorsement, of the sexualization of young girls. No one heeded the warning, and like some sort of ancient Greek tragedy, it ended up being so much worse than anyone imagined. Buckle up, sis. We have a lot to get through.

Just so we’re all on the same page, Cuties is a coming of age comedy-drama. It was written and directed by French-Senegalese woman Maïmouna Doucouré. In fact, the film was her directorial debut. The film itself centers around an 11-year-old French-Senegalese girl who was raised in a traditional Muslim household. She’s caught between her traditional values and internet culture. And you know it can’t be good when young girls and internet culture are involved. The film intended to criticize the hyper-sexualization of young girls.

There’s been much discourse, both online and off about whether the film succeeded in its goal. But there’s  been a resounding silence about how hypersexualization like that shown in the film has groomed gender nonconforming children.

What’s the Problem?

I think you already know what the problem is, but let’s break this down anyway. This movie sexualizes children. Full stop. Some might say that only conservatives would dare accuse this movie of such a heinous crime. And to them I say, do you have a single brain cell? This is a feminist issue that affects real girls. This has nothing to do with your political affiliation. Everyone should be appalled and upset. And to those who argue, “well, if you see sexualized children in this movie, then you’re the problem.” We see it because it’s there. We’ll spare you the images, but here’s just a short list of scenes in the movie that are absolutely revolting.

  • 11-year-old girls watching a video featuring naked women engaged in sexual acts.
  • Said 11-year-olds mimicking these acts.
  • Nudity of a minor during a highly suggestive dance.
  • Closeups of breasts, behinds, and crotches of scantily clad 11-year-old girls during sexualized dances.
  • One of the girls takes a photo of her vulva and posts it online.
  • Countless scenes of young girls doing sexualized dance routines.
  • The girls access a cam site.

That’s just a short list of disturbing imagery this movie features and that’s exactly why it fails to critique pedophile culture in our society. All it does is feed it. It’s like saying, “cannibalism is bad!” But you’re giving Hannibal Lecter a trash bag with a human leg sticking out of it.

The Damage is Done

Never mind besmirching the good name of small, easy to peel citrus fruits! The actresses in this film are real children acting out these situations, and they most likely do not fully understand the gravity of the situation. And we know how often the film industry defends, and even praises pedophiles. We don’t need to be scientists to figure out they’ll flock to this movie. These monsters and their despicable acts are often shielded from criticism under the guise of, “well, it’s art so it’s okay.” It most certainly is not. Not when these girls were essentially sacrificed for this film. And the filmmakers know that. That’s why they called in a child psychologist to work with the girls during filming and afterward.

No piece of art is worth that. But they aren’t the only victims here. Any girl or woman who sees this will be harmed. Why? The American Psychological Association released a report in 2007 explaining that the sexualization girls is linked to mental health problems in both women and girls. This includes disordered eating, low self-esteem, depression, and discomfort within her own body. It also has negative affects on sexual development. Even I started to suffer severe depressive moods just researching and writing this article, and I couldn’t even bring myself to watch a single second of this movie. Imagine the damage done to the women and girls who actually watched this.

Porn Culture and Purity Culture are Two Sides of the Same Coin

The reality is, porn culture and purity culture are two sides of the same coin. Whether an obsession with purity and innocence, in this dichotomy, women’s sexuality is being defined by men. And youth is sexualized in both. Both sides of that repulsive coin oppress women and girls, to the benefit of men, who maintain a place of full personhood while women are reduced to objects. Is it any wonder a vast majority of pedophiles are men and a majority of their victims are girls?

Have you ever wondered why adult women are expected to be impossibly thin and hairless, almost like a child might be? Ever thought about why “anti-aging creams” and similar products are a billion dollar industry? Or what about the fact it’s common to call adult women girls? Isn’t it interesting, and by interesting I mean revolting, how the top categories on Pornhub are “teen” and “barely legal?” It’s the pedophile culture, ladies. Does it disgust you? It should! And this movie may have critiqued the fact that young girls are sexualizing themselves, but it fails to mention the fact that our entire society is set up so women will self-sexualize to please the male gaze. 

Child Sexualization Is Affecting the LGBT Community

There has been a rise in sexualization of children in the LGBT community. There have been videos of male children in drag circulating the internet in highly sexualized environments, doing exactly what the girls in Cuties are doing. Take for example Desmond is Amazing, who was 11 when a video surfaced online of him doing a sexually suggestive drag routine in a club. Adult men threw dollar bills at him while he was on stage.

Desmond also appeared in a video with Michael Alig, a man who spent 17 years in prison for dismembering a club kid in the ’90s. Or that he appeared in another video where he pretended to snort ketamine.

There’s also the case of “child drag queen” Queen Lactatia. If the name alone wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, what about the fact that a photo was posted to his Instagram stories of him with a naked adult drag queen. He was nine years old at the time.

Desmond is amazing

There’s been little outrage amongst gay and liberal news outlets. In fact, some of them encourage it under the argument that it’s “freeing” or it’s the child’s choice, so we should encourage them to take it as far as an adult would. How can it be freeing when this type of sexualization enforces hyper-femininity? Children should absolutely be allowed to dress up and be gender nonconforming. But this? This is exploitation and putting children in harm’s way.

Gender Nonconformity Is More and More Restricted for Children

It’s hard enough to grow up a tomboy in a society that expects girls to play with pink girl-themed legos (because why would a girl want to build or create with the full spectrum of blocks out there?). “Free to be you and me” attitudes about raising children have been left in the Second Wave and replaced with hypersexualized Bratz dolls for girls

Bratz bi doll

Many of us still find ourselves shaving and unconsciously trying to please the male gaze. How can we not? Look at the environment we grew up in. Should you dare to exist in your natural state as an adult human woman, suddenly you’re bombarded with the idea that you might not be a woman, that you have to “identify” as something else, that you might actually be a man. All you did was grow up gay.

Remember when the aforementioned APA study said sexualized images cause discomfort within a woman or girl’s own body? Young lesbians and gender nonconforming girls try to escape this by trying to “identify” out of it. More and more young girls are taking hormones and getting surgeries that have long lasting negative effects. And their parents allow it. Why? Perhaps they simply want to be seen as “woke” parents. Maybe they’ve just made assumptions about what their child’s sexuality will be once she reaches sexual maturity, and they wish to avoid that.

Either way, the root of it is pedophilic in nature, because the adults in the room are making assumptions about the child’s sexed body and their eventual sexual proclivities. The added fetishization of homosexuality in our society makes things even more perilous. Under the guise of freedom to move across gender, they actually tighten our chains, making gender more binary, marking it as innate instead of socialized.  

It’s all connected to compulsory heterosexuality, the assumption that straightness is the default for girls, and that deviation from this is abnormal and even dangerous. Girls are groomed into self-sexualizing, to gain independence or power, as the girls in Cuties accurately portray. There is no room for deviation. That sense of independence and power (however superficial or temporary it is in actuality) is withheld from girls who don’t play the game of ultra femininity, so of course they turn to the women they see in porn, of course they turn the cameras back on themselves.

Part of a Bigger Problem

It’s important to make the connection between the hypersexualization of girl children and the ways in which gender nonconformity is punished for all children, whether they’re boys, girls, or whether they’ll grow up to be gay adults. While we’re taking a critical look at Netflix and the film Cuties, we can’t forget all the ways that we encourage children to sort themselves into perfect little gender boxes, to self-sexualize on a daily basis.