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The Exploitation of Kylie Jenner: A Danger to Young Women

Love them or hate them, the lives of the Kardashian family members are constantly in the media circuit. Recently, the public eye has shifted its focus to the youngest member of this outrageous clan. Due to her rapid increase in Instagram followers and her crowd-pleasing new App, it seems that America’s newest pop culture obsession is 18-year-old Kylie Jenner.

The expression “sex sells” could not ring more true than in the case of young Jenner. She has become an expert in selling herself as a sex symbol and is steadily reaping the profits. However, Ms. Jenner’s “business” moves are not benefitting anyone. Her posts on social media are objectifying, exploitative, and perpetuate the unhealthy sphere of altered images that young women are comparing themselves to daily. What is most frightening about the sexualization of this young girl is the public acceptance and support for her once-felonious relationship. Jenner’s boyfriend, 25-year-old rapper Tyga, publicly endorses it in the most lascivious way.

Supporting Kylie Jenner’s racy behavior validates the sexualization of young women. Her fame is bolstering a vicious trend of bringing up young girls to have low self-esteem, and value themselves based on beauty standards that aren’t real. 

Jenner’s personal Instagram, now boasts more than 37 million followers:

These images promote an idea of female beauty that is completely unattainable. Jenner’s lips, eyebrows, and breasts have all been surgically altered or enhanced. Millions of young girls “like” these photos, encouraging themselves to believe that beauty is nothing beyond what you look like. It is shameful that there is an 18-year-old whose influence is so far reaching that if she promotes push-up bras, young women are inclined to believe that they have to buy into it.

Jenner’s fake lips, fake breasts, and airbrushed skin are so unrepresentative of normal women’s bodies, that when a girl compares herself, she will always fall short. It is unlikely that these unattainable standards of female beauty portrayed by the media will ever come to an end, but these ridiculous standards would have much less of an impact on the psyche of impressionable young girls if everyone was to stop giving false beauty such great attention. 

What’s interesting about these photos is that Jenner has made her body the entire focus of each frame. This is what advertisers call dismemberment, which refers to presenting women in a dehumanizing way in media images. Jenner is breaking herself down into component parts, with each of these parts representing their supposed “perfect” form. In one image, Jenner’s stomach is the feature, and in the other, her breasts; she is dismembering herself. In both of these images, her face is either partially or completely missing.

Although it may not seem like an issue at first, this subconsciously emphasizes that women are valued for their bodies rather than their intellect. Jenner is portraying herself as a sexual object, distant from a human being with brains or emotions. This 18-year-old’s emphasis on her sexuality is permeating the minds of young girls who should be focused on their passions and goals, not their shape.

The conversation of Kylie Jenner’s over-sexualization cannot be had without mention of her boyfriend, Tyga. Rumors began circulating that the two were a pair when Jenner was just 16 years-old, and the relationship was confirmed by both parties when she was 17. The eight-year age gap between the couple has created some drama, but overall has been accepted. Jenner’s older sister, Khloe Kardashian, spoke out in defense of her little sister’s relationship. Khloe claims that because Kylie is not like other 17-year-olds, and as such, she should be treated differently. Khloe used Kylie’s alleged maturity as her defense, but, regardless of how mature a 17 year old may be, she is still only 17.  

Additionally, Kylie is not a special case. “Maturity” is an old excuse used for men to sleep with young girls. Older men are not sleepng with younger women because they are mature, they are sleeping with them because we live in a culture that is obsessed with youth and virginity. The legal age of consent in California is 18, yet Tyga has not been challenged legally for dating an underage girl.

What is even more disturbing is that the rapper has released songs titled “Pleazer” and “$timulated” where he references having sex with an underage female, and overtly states that he is “about to catch a felony for it.” Although many young women likely sleep with older men, that does not necessarily make it OK. An aggressive power dynamic of a dominating male and a submissive female are all too often the characteristics of these relationships. The frequency of these relationships contribute to society’s notion that women are nothing more than accessories for men. The specialness of Kylie’s case, as her sister Khloe described, is unfortunately not special at all. 

Kylie Jenner is certainly not the cause of young women with self-esteem and body image issues, nor is she the reason why young women are in unhealthy relationships. These issues wouldn’t be solved if Jenner’s fame came to a complete hault either. It is important, however, to recognize the issues that come with glorifying a young girl’s sexuality. It is detrimental for young women to be bombarded with images of a half-naked, 18-year-old girl. Let’s praise young women for their hearts, skills, and intellect, not what they look like. 







All images courtesy of Jenner’s Instagram account: @kyliejenner

Junior Political Science and Legal Studies Double Major at UMass Amherst.
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