Sexual socialization starts at birth according to social constructs, and influences people’s perception of how men and women should behave in society. It has a particularly strong influence during adolescent sexual development because the observations children make significantly impact their perception of what is normal and accepted. Noting the behavior of men and women in the media and in real life, children learn how society expects them to perform, in order to gain approval from others. As a result of sex socialization, there is an emphasis on heterosexuality and conforming to male and female stereotypes in today’s society (known as heteronormativity).
Sexual socialization in Disney movies subconsciously compels people to view heterosexuality as normal, as it aligns with the sexual orientation of all the Disney princesses. There are no lesbian princesses, and this instills the idea in young children that it is better to be heterosexual, as the princesses they look up too. It is also notable that all the Disney princesses fall in love with people of the same race. Majority of the Disney princesses are Caucasian and marry white men. This supports the idea of white supremacy, as white people dominate the media. Nevertheless, in Princess and the Frog the prince and the princess are both African Americans; this movie is relatively new and shows that society is advancing. However, none of the Disney princess movies tell the story of an interracial couple.
Furthermore, the portrayal of princesses in Disney movies conforms gender stereotypes. For example, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White all do household chores, confirming the stereotype that women stay at home and take care of the house. Additionally, there is an emphasis on external beauty and the need for women to find a man to save them from their adversity. Women are portrayed as vulnerable, gentle, and dependent upon men, while men are portrayed as strong, masculine, and saviors of women.
Growing up, I idolized all the Disney princesses, and wanted to emulate them. I dressed up as Sleeping Beauty for Halloween and had my own pair of glass slippers like Cinderella. I think I was heavily influenced by Disney movies, as the they had a lasting impression on my perception of how love should be. It was not until I questioned social constructs, that I realized that Disney princess movies are not representative of society.
Do you think Disney princess movies influenced your views as a child? Do you think that society will ever overcome gender stereotypes? If so, how long do you think this will take? How do you think men and women should be portrayed in the media?