Her songs have titles like, “Teddy Bear,” “Sippy Cup,” “Training Wheels,” and many others that might strike a memory of your childhood. Melanie Martinez sings from a dark child’s perspective, naive and innocent in a violent and perverted world. Although this may be the reality of our society, is she worsening the issue? Is her art form and the message of her music contributing to the fetishization of children and the acceptance of pedophilia (rape culture)?
Let’s first analyze the issue; pedophilia. Merriam-Webster defines pedophilia as “sexual feelings or activities that involve children.” This often involves manipulative adults preying on minors, who are too young to provide consent. According to the National Sex Offender Public Website, approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. A 2012 study of sexual abuse victims showed that 26% were aged 12-14, and 34% were younger than 9.
But of course, this is an issue even more widespread than her fan base. The United Nations has concluded that about 120 million girls across the world have experienced forced intercourse or sexual activity of some kind, at any point in their life. Of the women alive in the world today, more than 700 million were married before the age of 18.
With more than 325,000 American children at risk for entering the sex trafficking network (The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Executive Summary, September 2001) and the average age of victims entering the network to be 12-14 (Sacred Hope International), the sexualization of minors has become a life-threatening issue.
Though freedom of expression is important, we need to be aware of the consequences of our actions. Melanie Martinez is someone with high visibility, therefore her actions are going to impact the beliefs of many. She is also a consenting adult, so her behavior has different meaning but the same implications as a teenager or child. When she presents a pacifier, a sippy cup, or a baby doll in a sexualized manner, she is encouraging the association of those objects with consensual sexual activity. However, when the people who receive this message seek that same sexual experience, they are met with children who are underage and unable to consent, who then become victims.