When It Comes to Our Daughters’ Panties, Forgive Us for Not Trusting Victoria’s Secret

By NICK CHILES

After word seeped out that Victoria’s Secret was targeting its PINK underwear line to young teenagers and even tweens, pushing panties with suggestive phrases like “call me” and “wild,” the ire of offended parents rained down on the company in a hailstorm of weary outrage.

It feels like we find ourselves in the same place at least once a year, as yet another corporate giant tries to sneak one past us, treating our young girls as sex kittens in training.

This time it appears Victoria’s Secret responded quickly, pulling the suggestive panties out of stores and removing them from the website on Monday. The company tried to clean things up by saying the PINK line had always been intended for college-aged women—even if the girls frolicking in some of the PINK ads are much more high schoolish than college coed.

What really put the target on the company’s back was a statement made by Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer at a conference, as reported by Business Insider.

Burgdoerfer admitted that his company wants to sell to high school girls as well as college girls.

“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?” Burgdoerfer said at the conference. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

But nearly as troubling as the stumble by the lingerie manufacturer was the reaction I found all over the Internet, as writers in way too many places were attacking parents for being overly sensitive.

A piece by Amanda Marcotte on Slate was typical, where she took offense at a mom linking the early sexualization of our young girls with incidents like the rape and exploitation of the drunk 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. With a taunting headline that said “Victoria’s Secret Sells to High School Girls. So What?” Marcotte takes on the tone of the hip insider schooling all these hick, prudish parents.

“Steubenville happened because some boys thought torturing a drunk girl was hilarious, not because lacy underthings turn previously asexual adolescents into sex-crazed monsters,” she writes. “Here’s a reality check: The average American first has sex at age 17, and by age 19, seven out of 10 teenagers are sexually active. Even if they aren’t having sex, most teenagers are still fantasizing about it. That’s a good thing. They need this time to experiment, make their mistakes, and figure out who they are and what they like before the responsibilities of adulthood start to complicate things. As long as they aren’t wearing their sexy panties at the gym, there’s no harm in giving teenagers a little freedom to do the growing up that they need to do.”

I’m guessing that Marcotte doesn’t have any teen or tween girls in her house, otherwise she would know that the bigger problem isn’t necessarily what the boys are thinking, the issue is that our society is engaged in a constant campaign to make girls believe they are supposed to be acting older than they are. That they are supposed to forgo their childhoods and engage in adult behaviors way before they’re ready. A young teen who isn’t yet sexually active bouncing around wearing panties that have the words “call me” plastered across her vagina or her behind is taking a huge step toward actualizing herself in sexual situations. It may look like innocent fantasies from afar, but we all know that there’s a big difference between imagining sweet kisses from the cute boy in algebra to walking around with a billboard on your private parts that pronounces you are “wild.”

I’m guessing that even Miss Marcotte would acknowledge there is likely a difference in how she herself feels, how she acts, even how she presents herself to the opposite sex when she is wearing a sexy lacy bra and matching thongs—compared to when she’s wearing the big grandma drawers buried at the bottom of the bureau for clean laundry emergencies.

If it’s true for a grown-ass woman, why would’t it be true for a 15-year-old?

And the reactions of parents aren’t even just about Victoria’s Secret. The reaction to VS is the result of years of fighting against this stuff, feeling like the culture is always on the verge of overwhelming our parental attempts to keep our daughters young and innocent for as long as possible. Not only the music, the television shows, the movies, but perhaps more than anything else the clothing that is advertised as children’s but looks more like video ho. Though the Amanda Marcottes of the world may disagree, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with innocence.

One more point: It would be one thing if we were talking about Legos or Fisher Price, companies with long histories of creating delightful products for children, in a moment of temporary insanity manufacturing something that felt inappropriate. But if you’ve ever seen a Victoria’s Secret commercial, you know we’re talking about the closest thing to soft-core porn one can find on network television during primetime. The company’s sweet spot is lurid images of saucy, nubile young things prancing around in lacy, barely-there panties and bras. So forgive us for not trusting VS with the underwear or the innocence of our babies.

RELATED POSTS:

1. Stilettos and 10-Year-olds: A Dad Says, “Aw, Hell To the Nah!”
2. A Dad’s Plea: Let Our Little Girls Stay Little for As Long as We Can 
3. Yet Another Sign of the Coming Apocalypse: Abercrombie Kid’s Padded, Push-Up Bikini For 7-Year-Olds
4. All Kinds of Wrong: Padded Training Bras For 10-Year-Olds

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

5 Comments

  1. That’s going waaay too far. I have two teenaged girls, one who is graduating from high school in June and she owns nothing by Victoria’s Secret. Not even a sweatshirt. Once college comes along I can’t control that but let girls be girls. It’s hard enough finding anything girly for them to wear without them looking like little harlets, can we not have the same problem with their unmentionables?????

  2. As the mom of a toddler boy who will one day be a tween/teen, this is appalling to me. Just as I don’t want the girls in my life to be bombarded with such images, I don’t want my son to be seeing them either. I am now and will continue to work my tookus off to raise a man who is kid, loving and respectful. These types of images/expectations of women thwart that effort. I am glad they realized that this isn’t going to fly and I pray one day these marketing/sales people will think before they put some of this nonsense out.

  3. Is nothing sacred anymore? We most hold these companies accountable. They do not see us as “human”, but rather a dollar sign. I am sick of it!

  4. give me a BREAK, that’s some bull..because the whole shop is marketing soft porn, i went in to look for BRIDAL, it wasnt there. So the ‘sexy’ underwear is for WHAT. VS is not a shop for underwear its a shop for people getting into to trouble, and chances are its not with your MARRIED mate with titles for frags, like temptation whatever. But GROWN people are allowed to do whatever they choose right or wrong, MARKETING soft porn to teenagers #gotaproblem. I took offense at them marketing towards youngsters in college hoping to sell undies to make our daughter LOOSE and objects of some dude who could care less about marrying or cherishing her i mean like ‘forever’ but making her into a ho. #sorry i take issue, because marketing porn to princesses should b illegal, but they package it real pretty and nice with a ‘bow’ on top. As many teen girls gotta deal with STD’s and wedlock births thanks for helping our situation VS. Because apparently many people dont feel our daughters are worth more than a bootylicious one nite stand. #right. So im DONE with victoria’s secret til they pull that crap. it would be illegal if not in American in doesnt matter who your hurt as long as you make the ‘almighty dollar’ #done

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