I accidentally stumbled upon a clip in my newsfeed—it was nauseating. It only took seconds for my stomach to churn at the blatant sexualization of young girls in the new Netflix film, Cuties. To make matters worse, Cuties is being defended by many, even heralded as a piece of activism.
I’ll tell you what it really is: child exploitation. We’re fools if we call it anything else.
The director’s alleged intent is to spotlight and condemn the pervasiveness of hyper-sexualization among modern children. Netflix defends the film stating: “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children . . . It is an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face . . . and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”
But here’s the problem: the film itself sexualizes children.
This is not the same as child actors feigning death, because no violence has actually happened to them. But when a camera pans to little girls’ butts as they twerk and dance provocatively in front of adults, it is actually happening. When a little girl humps the floor while another little girl watches, it is actually happening. When pants are pulled down and underwear is exposed and butts are slapped, it is actually happening.
This isn’t fake blood—this is sexual exploitation. The children’s willingness to shoot these scenes is irrelevant. Whether the film crew sought to help them feel comfortable is irrelevant. Any “good” intention behind the film is irrelevant.
It’s irrelevant because these girls are too young to consent to the sexual acts they are filming.
It is indefensible. It is grotesque. It is abusive. And the fact that so many defend it—the fact that it has won awards—is alarming.
It is entirely possible to address problems in our world without perpetuating them.
I’m no proponent of living in a bubble. I have wept through documentaries about child sex-trafficking, and none of them depicted children in a sexual way. The content powerfully uncovered harrowing realities without exploiting children in the process. It was so stirring, that when we showed it at a small church fundraiser, the audience donated $20,000 toward anti-trafficking efforts.
That’s real activism.
We should confront hyper-sexualization among children, but we must do so without sexualizing them in the process.
Please, I beg you—cancel Netflix. But don’t stop there. Confront those who are watching, defending, and commending this reprehensible film. Be on the lookout for other examples of children being sexualized in media, because this wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.
All children are worth protecting. And those who exploit them must be called to account.