I’m Sorry, But I Don’t Think Victoria’s Secret’s Line For Teens & Tweens Is A Big Deal
High school students wear underwear. Middle schoolers, even!
Crazy, I know. That’s who Victoria’s Secret’s new line, Bright Young Things, is targeting: the girls who are a little too young for the Pink line of mostly cotton panties, thongs, sweatpants and tees.
This is making lots of people upset.
Pink’s Bright Young Things line is an extension of those products, but marketed directly towards teens and tweens. Panties from the Bright Young Things lime include lacy panties and thongs with slogans reading “Feeling Lucky?”, “Call Me” and “Wild.” Said Limited Brands’ Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer at a conference in January, “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? 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.”
I’ve written about sexually suggestive underwear for kids. I’m a feminist activist who is repulsed by the rampant sexualization of girls and young women. Stuff like seven-year-olds on stripper poles disgust me; I have three elementary school nieces, after all. But the Bright Young Things underwear line doesn’t bother me much. Young women are already buying VS products — oftentimes with their mom and dad’s money. Pandora’s Box has already been opened. If you’ve ever been inside a Victoria’s Secret store or a standalone Pink store, you’ll see that Pink products are already popular with younger women who maybe feel “grown up” shopping with the brand or maybe just like the colors and fabric more than the ones offered at Justice or Target. Pink’s brightly colored tees and sweatpants appeal to any age, really, as does the VS line of cosmetics — including acceptable-for-any-ages nail polish, lip gloss, and lotions. I see Bright Young Things as a opportunistic capitalist move, not a sign society is going down the shitter thanks to VS.
The concept of “age appropriate” is a nuanced one when we’re talking about normal, every day underwear versus stripper poles and crotchless thongs. Everyone of every age wears underwear; it’s not something like, say, a negligee that is purchased for an expressly sexual purpose. Some tweens even need to start wearing bras as early as age 9 or so. I don’t think it’s the craziest suggestion in the world that there be something between Hannah Montana/Jonas Brothers undies and grown-up Victoria’s Secret stuff.
Pearl clutching doesn’t change the fact puberty cannot be avoided and teens respond accordingly. We’re not talking about three-year-olds or the cast of “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Bright Young Things is marketed towards teenagers who watch “Real Housewives” and listen to Britney Spears music. We can’t put our heads in the sand that teens and tweens aren’t already thinking about sex, either out of their own desires or because of their exposure to it in songs, TV or the Internet. In an already sexualized world, slogans on underwear hidden beneath the clothes are not going to be the tipping point for unsafe sex. The reality is some teenage girls are sexually active, or at least thinking about it. If this disturbs you, ensuring they have access to comprehensive sex ed, contraception, and a deep knowledge of consent seems like a better use of time than freaking out over a pair of panties that say “Call Me” on them. (Or selling pro-abstinence panties that say “Not Tonight!”)
Would I personally rush out and buy my hypothetical 13-year-old girl a thong with a sexy phrase on it? No. (And that goes double if the phrase is “I Love Rich Boys,” Kmart!) I wore a Playboy Bunny T-shirt as a teen girl, bought a black thong from VS to wear at prom, lost my virginity at 17, and still managed to go on to college and become a productive member of society. If my daughter asked me to buy one, or went ahead and bought it herself and I came across it in the laundry, I would use “Feeling Lucky?” panties as a teachable moment for my tween or teen. Why does she want it? Is she thinking of becoming sexuality active? What are her friends at school doing and saying about sex? Does she have any questions she wants to ask me? I wouldn’t do this because I’m trying to be a “cool” mom. I’d do this because I want to raise my daughter(s and sons) in a reality-based world that acknowledges teens and tweens are approaching the age of first sexual activity … and yes, might want to buy a pair of sexy panties.