This month, we saw internet personality Bhad Bhabie make mainstream news when she broke OnlyFans subscription records, shortly following her 18th birthday. Though her story is a recent example, celebrity countdown clocks are nothing new.
Women in the Spotlight
Women in the spotlight are routinely pressured to pander to an industry where one thing sells more than anything – sex. They “belong” to their audience and their lives are rarely their own. Time and time again, we hear stories of women being abused throughout Hollywood. The pressure for women to achieve or maintain the work they do often leads them to do things that leave them feeling uncomfortable and degraded.
Female celebrities “belong” to their audience and their lives are rarely their own.
With this constant and seemingly never-ending pressure, it comes as no shock how easily and often younger women are sexualized while in the spotlight. If it wasn’t bad enough for us to commodify sexuality to adults, many have played “waiting games” – counting down the days until they can legally sexualize children too.
Now, it’s beyond creepy to count down the days until it’s “appropriate” to sexualize a minor, but, for some reason, it has been somewhat socially acceptable for years. In 2004, before the Olsen twins were set to turn 18, several websites had active countdowns by the minute telling viewers when the Mary Kate and Ashley would become "legal.” A few years later, tabloids across the West were furiously awaiting the birthday of Harry Potter actress Emma Watson to be legal for sexualization too.
It’s beyond creepy to count down the days until it’s “appropriate” to sexualize a minor.
Unlike some stars who market themselves sexually even as young girls, Watson had played a character in a family film. But in UK tabloids especially (where the age of consent is 16), she had been the victim of a predatory practice with no care for how wholesomely she may have marketed herself.
Linsey Dawn McKenzie
With this topic in mind, one of the first personalities I thought of was a girl called Linsey Dawn McKenzie. English glamour model, and later a pornographic personality, McKenzie made her topless modeling debut in the UK Sunday Sport on her 16th birthday in 1994. She had been sexualized from an outrageously young age due to her naturally large breasts.
Modeling swimsuits from a young age, as she approached her 16th birthday, tabloids published photos of her from June to July of that year, counting down the days until they could legally show her topless to their predominantly male readers.
Following her 18th birthday, when she was finally legal in the U.S., she made her North American debut in “breast fetishism” magazine Score who made her their cover girl in a special edition for their 50th anniversary.
Sexualized from a young age with encouragement from her elder superiors, it’s no wonder she ended up in adult magazines and hardcore pornography – that’s what she was molded into during adolescence.
Countdown Clocks Are Beyond Inappropriate – They’re Dangerous
Actress Natalie Portman spoke out a few years ago about the “sexual terrorism” she faced as a teenager. Speaking about starring in her first film, The Professional, at the age of 12, Portman expressed how media treatment affected her negatively, even later in life. She further explained how a “countdown” was started on her local radio show, awaiting the day of her 18th birthday when she would finally be “legal” for adults to sleep with.
She spoke about how film reviewers felt comfortable enough to discuss her “budding breasts,” leading her to the realization from a young age that she would be subject to sexualization, regardless of her roles or her maturity.
We should be protecting young people, not awaiting the moment we can sexualize them.
With those in media industries being so comfortable sexualizing young girls, the behavior will naturally be viewed as “acceptable” by members of the public. These women don’t even have the option to choose how people view them. Without any say, many of them are simply stuck on calendars for men old enough to be their fathers waiting to sexualize them legally.
What moral message are we sending young girls if they’re sexualized regardless of what they do? Many could stick to the most wholesome roles and jobs possible (and dress modestly like Mayim Bialik), but they’d still be subject to perversion the moment they become an adult (or even in advance). With this vile behavior being long accepted by adults, it’s no wonder we have a rise in young girls like Bhad Bhabie so eager to make easy money on OnlyFans the moment they turn 18.
We should be protecting young people, not awaiting the moment we can sexualize them. It seems so ridiculous to have to say it, as such repulsive behavior should never have been condoned in the first place. “18th Birthday Countdown Clocks” should never have become a thing, and it’s abominable that they’re still around today.
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