The Normalization of Sexualization

Normalization is the process of bringing something to a state where it is considered typical, usual, or expected. Normalization typically does not happen overnight; it is a lengthy process, where small changes add up and, over time, modify what is considered normal.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a shift in societal norms regarding sexualization, sexual harassment, and sexual assault – that is, all three have become normalized. It is normal to hear “That’s what she said!” after countless non-sexual statements – and to laugh it off. It is normal to see adults sexualizing young teenage celebrities. It is normal to see the objectification of women on college campuses dismissed as “fun” or “boys being boys.” It is normal to see sitcoms and movies poke fun at sexual assault as a comedic break.

This normalization of sexual messaging is everywhere, from our schools to our workplaces to the television shows and commercials we stream into our homes. Studies have shown that this saturation of sexual messaging encourages objectification of women, decreases emotional and mental wellbeing, and both condones and creates an appetite for sexual harassment and abuse (Minnesota Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention Program).

It is time for us to change what’s normal.