Children’s Sexualisation and Toys
Barbie Doll as a Sexual Token in Sarah Strohmeyer’s Barbie Unbound
This article offers an analysis of children’s sexualisation in children’s literature by focusing on the collection Barbie Unbound: A Parody of the Barbie Obsession. With Photos by Geoff Hansen (1997) by Sarah Strohmeyer. In the book, the Barbie doll is used as a medium to discuss sexual issues. Away from her typical pink, glossy and superficial world, in Strohmeyer’s collection, Barbie is depicted while facing real problems; thus, she gets involved with dramatic historical events and violent life experiences, at a variety of social roles. Inasmuch as the famous toy is easily identifiable by a children’s, adolescent, and adult audience, Barbie Unbound addresses a crossover readership, and stimulates an intergenerational debate about sexuality. Yet, since adult writers and readers usually repress children’s relationship with sexuality, sex in Barbie Unbound is depicted in antithetical fashion. On the one hand, Strohmeyer offers detailed theoretical instructions to her young readers, and discusses topics of current interest. On the other hand, she tries to limit children’s and teenagers’ actual sexual experiences by stressing their terrible consequences, such as rape and venereal diseases, thus offering a dual interpretation between transgression and politically correct.