Hyper-Sexualisation of Women and Children in K-Pop
Since its inception, conventional K-pop standards have been built to cater to the male gaze, the after effects of which can still be felt through its current practices. The ways in which female idols are objectified are structured and manifold− including music videos, lyrics, choreography, stage outfits and even their behaviour on-screen. From fads like the aegyoculture to the Coming-of-Age Ceremony, some of the most popular trends in the industry rely on either outright or more discreet forms of sexualization of women.
Now, one may argue that there is nothing wrong with sexualizing grown adult women as long as their consent is secured, which isn’t entirely false. Sex sells, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry, and it would hardly be reasonable to expect profit-driven companies to put a cork on one of their easiest and most inexhaustible sources of income. However, this carefully maintained ‘politically correct’ image starts to crack as one takes a look at the broader socio-cultural context which facilitates such demands in the first place.
After all, this is an industry in which a stark majority of female employees have ages
between 15 and 20. The infamous Lolita Complex and its tenets being rooted deep within the industry are the reason why half of the industry has been shaped to satisfy the tastes of “uncle fans”,− men above the ages of 40-50 who fetishize pre-pubescent girls. This is a recurrent theme across K-pop concepts for girl groups; female idols, sometimes including minors, clad in revealing miniskirts or “school uniforms” are made to dance sexually provocative choreographies to suggestive lyrics in front of large crowds often comprising of old men. Sometimes, certain companies’ stylists are instructed to purposefully allocate problematic wardrobes to younger idols for the attention it garners. Undoubtedly, the industry stoops to a new low every time a CHILD is forced to perform
‘sexy’ concepts wearing skimpy outfits they obviously feel uncomfortable in. Legendary K-pop star Hyuna debuted at 13 and has several times been heavily sexualized by the industry even as a child, which worsened as soon as she hit the legal age. She conceptualized her experience with pedophilia and sexualization while working in the industry in her hit song ‘Babe’. Although deemed a subjective debate by some, the lyrics, “ What're you looking at? Why do you keep staring? Why do you keep smiling?” and “You make me 19, 19, 19, You make me 17, 17, 17, I feel like 15, 15, 15” clearly hint at something more than mere flirtatious remarks. This was also portrayed through her style− a plain pastel baby blue dress paired with a highly contrasting sultry pair of red boots to signify the sexualisation of young girls.
While these trends are not all that K-pop has to offer, with the industry itself transforming to be more progressive in keeping up with the new-age demands, it is important to recognise the flaws inherent in a culture which currently holds the greater part of the mainstream audience in its grip.