May 20, 2014

ALL YOU YOUNG, WILD GIRLS: The Sexploitability of the "Scene Girl" Subculture

Girls' ministry involves long talks with young women about their hopes and dreams, their walks with God, their frustrations with parents, their questions about relationships...and the way they choose to present themselves to the world.

I was talking with a young woman the other day who gravitates toward the "scene" look. [For those of you who are unfamiliar, the scene subculture applies to both guys and girls who identify largely through fashion and music. Having been labeled everything from emo to grunge to punk, scene kids generally have the same "look": an ultra-slim frame, outrageously-colored hair, dark makeup, facial piercings, tattoos, etc.] If you are involved in youth ministry of any sort, I'm sure you have seen your fair share of scene kids (ba-dum-tsss!).



A major issue for teen and young adult women is image. In many ways, that is what defines them - more than their family, more than their friends, more than their Savior (ouch!) - their image is what they hone the most and value more than anything. I think this comes from the vulnerability of puberty and the challenge that young women face when trying to reconcile the way they look with the way the media portrays beauty. At any rate, the scene subculture has for years taken in girls who feel misunderstood, less than beautiful, and desperate for a place to fit in. Many of these girls are attracted to the scene look and the scene crowd, as they've found it to embrace their darkest, deepest feelings and flaws yet still providing them a way to be viewed as beautiful.

Anyway, after talking with my young friend…and after recently attending a conference session on human trafficking…all these thoughts started swirling in my head. Now, I realize these two things seem very different and possibly not at all tied to one another. But all this thinking led me to some pretty scary places. Please know that with my writing today, I am not seeking to poke fun or make harsh judgments. I am also not seeking to say that scene culture and sex trafficking are irreparably linked. What I am seeking to do is to lovingly warn and protect some of our most vulnerable young girls.



[Note: some of the below is a bit blunt and graphic, so please be aware.]

All of the following statements come from recent research I've done on the scene subculture that strangely connect to the markers that sex traffickers are looking for in young women they wish to lure into the trade. 


1. Your average scene girl is striving to be a size 0. Slightness of frame is obsessed about  among this group, and that focus often leads to unhealthy eating habits in order to maintain the frail norm. 


2. Scene girls appear to be seeking the attention and affirmation of others. When searching for "scene" images (please don't!) on Pinterest or elsewhere, I encountered mostly selfies…and many of them were quite sexualized. The problem with the selfie obsession is that it is heavily steeped in vanity [I wrote earlier about selfies here]. But the sultry, sensual poses of the scene girls I encountered took a further step into wanting that attention and affirmation from guys. I'm going to be frank here: the pouty-lipped, angled-from-above selfie basically gives guys the image of girls that they would see from being "on top of" them. While most will not be that candid, I feel it's necessary to do so in order to help girls see the image they are truly portraying. Most likely, the men that are searching for and viewing these images are making the young women their fantasy fodder. 


3. Scene fashion is quite the attention-grabber as well. First, there's the extreme hair: vibrant colors, multiple layers, extensions, teasing, etc… Second, there's the outrageous makeup, which involves a ton of black eyeliner, among other things.

4. "Scene" clothing is often tight, ripped, and provocative...think "Monster High" for actual people. These sexed-up outfits do not portray modesty or chastity to the world of men. And when these clothes are combined with the right hair and make-up, they almost serve as a costume or "mask" that the young woman can either hide behind or use to prompt more of a caricature-type lifestyle rather than reality. [Otherwise, they can be who they "want" to be rather than who God created them to be.]

5. Tattoos and piercings are also common among scene girls, and while I do not believe all tats and piercings are bad, one must be judicious with how far she goes in this area. Many of the popular piercings of this subculture are facial - usually multiple mouth piercings - which originated for the purpose of oral sexual pleasure. [Girls: while this may not be your reason for getting them, rest assured - guys are going there in their minds. Again, you are likely becoming nighttime fantasy material.] Going even further, piercings and tattoos are both known to induce pain, and thus they are both tied to a sexual subculture that is downright vile and not at all how our God designed sex to be. 'Nuff said on that one!



6. The scene look has some obvious ties to Japanese anime, a type of cartooning. This is all fine and dandy - but anime has a dark, pornographic cousin called hentai. Hentai is erotic cartooning that often embraces sexual violence, which would obviously appeal to men entrenched in pornographic viewing enough to want something more - like an "in the flesh" representation of what they're watching.


7. Human trafficking is a growing problem in our country. 83% of confirmed cases in the US are American-born citizens, and 98% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls. The average age of women entering forced prostitution is 12-14. 

So let's take into consideration the average scene girl profile from the eyes of a trafficker: very light weight (easily dominated), seeking attention and affirmation (looking for someone to make her feel seen and loved - easy to groom and abduct), outrageously dressed and made up (already looking sexy and somewhat "in disguise"), tattoos and piercings (obviously "into" pain and more readily able to sexually please men through this), and having a perfect "look" to attract men who are already entrenched in porn and prostitute-hiring (a.k.a. "they look like a hentai drawing," a la point number 6 from above).


Young girls are clearly our most vulnerable segment of the population when it comes to being taken advantage of sexually. Because sex trafficking has been on my brain lately, I have chosen to tie the markers of scene girls to the most extreme danger out there. And while that danger is real, most of our young women are not falling into the hands of traffickers. More often than not, our girls are - at the very least - finding their worth in social media and in men...not in Christ. May we continue to teach our girls about how they are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) and very precious in God's sight. And may our girls seek wisdom in the crowds they run with and in the way they portray themselves to the world.

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