The Sexualization of Willow Smith

8 May

We need to talk for a hot second about the sexualization of young girls.

Specifically, we need to talk about the sexualization of Willow Smith by the media.

In case you’ve somehow missed the whole hullaballoo, the picture below of thirteen year old Willow and twenty year old actor Moises Arias was recently posted on Instagram, and the internet subsequently exploded.



Everyone immediately leapt to the conclusion that the photograph was somehow sexual. Hollywood Life referred to it as “compromising.” Complex Magazine said that it was “creepy.” Folks on twitter said that it was “disgusting on so many levels,” and promised that the picture would “seriously gross you out.” Even Sesali Bowen, coming to Willow’s defence in an article on Feministing, wrote, “The photo itself is sexy. I can’t deny that.” The general consensus seemed to be that, whether you thought (or cared) that the photograph was inappropriate, it was undeniably sexual in nature and indicative of some kind of romantic relationship between Willow and Moises.

And that is incredibly fucked up.

It is fucked up that people are creating this narrative about a sexual relationship between two people based on one picture in which they are not doing anything sexual. It is fucked up that news outlets are throwing a thirteen year old to the dogs in order to get page hits and retweets. And it is unbelievably fucked up how quickly and easily we sexualize young women (especially women of colour), to the point where their every look and gesture is dissected and somehow turned vulgar. Jada Pinkett Smith gets it exactly right when she calls the media “covert pedophiles.” That is exactly how they are behaving, and the fact that they are peddling this so-called “compromising” picture for their own profit is appalling.

It is an enormous leap to go from seeing a candid photograph of two people – one of them sitting, the other lying down, one of them shirtless, the other fully clothed, their bodies barely touching – to assuming that something inappropriate is going on. It says a lot about how we view girls, and especially how we view black girls, that this captured moment was immediately sexualized. As bell hooks wrote in her review of Beasts of the Southern Wild (which she uses to criticize the eroticization of the film’s protagonist and of black girls in general), “black children no matter their age are always seen as miniature adults.” The reaction to this photograph is certainly proof of that. If it had been a white girl, would we have had this reaction? If it had been a thirteen-year-old Elle Fanning or Hailee Steinfeld or Kiernan Shipka, would we have been as quick to leap to the conclusion that there was something untoward going on? Maybe, but probably not.

Had this been a picture of a young white girl with a man a few years older than her, it most likely would have been written off as totally innocent. If there had been a media narrative at all, it would have contained the facts that a) the two of them were not alone; they were hanging with Willow’s older brother Jaden and b) Moises is a family friend and particularly a close friend of Jaden’s and c) the three of them were attending Coachella (where, as is my understanding, going shirtless is pretty standard). But those details are all missing from most articles about this picture – instead, it’s presented as an intimate moment between two lovers.

Black women are so consistently devalued and dehumanized by the media that most people barely even notice it anymore. Young black girls are sexualized from the moment they hit puberty (and often even before that). Black girls are barely allowed to have a childhood before they become the object of the male gaze – especially the white male gaze. And when we share and judge and comment on pictures like this, we are contributing to that problem.

I mean, Jesus, she’s just a little kid – even if you do look at this picture and see something sexual, why would you think it was fine to attack and humiliate a kid like this? Think back to when you were thirteen, and then imagine that the entire world was passing around a humiliating picture of you and calling you all kinds of horrible names. I don’t know about you, but I would pretty much have died of shame. So why would you do that to someone else? And don’t say that as a celebrity she’s asking for it – she’s thirteen. She hasn’t asked for anything. You are the adult here, so start behaving like it.

Female bodies – especially black female bodies – do not exist purely for our voyeuristic enjoyment. We need to actively push back whenever stories like this are created by the media, and we need to work hard to protect the privacy and autonomy of young women. Most of all, we need to stop ascribing sexual intentions and desires to young girls, because doing so is dangerous and damaging. Treating a picture like this in this way says far more about us, and what we project onto black girls, than it does about anything else.


113 Responses to “The Sexualization of Willow Smith”

  1. swo8 May 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    It’s all kid of sad.

  2. londryfairy May 8, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    Sexualizing this photo is absurd and irresponsible. It does look intimate, but the same way watching TV with my daughter is intimate. It’s free of pretense. I missed the uproar because I live under a rock, but I’m glad to know you are out there pointing out how ridiculous this media narrative was.

    • Ruth Leahy May 11, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

      She’s setting up a Racist conquer and divide by calling this to be a BLACK RACISM issue when it isn’t. glad she’s pointing out? hell, it is hideously frightening and dangerous what she is pointing out!

  3. bluestgirl May 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    I think that this same photo, with a young white girl, would still be sexualized. I bet there’d be less shaming of the girl and more disgust at the guy, but I think it would be read as a sexy photo no matter the race of the girl involved. And I think that’s partly because of the rampant sexualization of young girls, and partly because of our cultural inability to separate intimacy with sexuality. People who are comfortable with each other’s bodies, especially people of opposite sex (yay heteronormativity) MUST have a sexual relationship because all other contact is regulated and proscribed.

    Its sort of like all the memes about how men and women can’t *really* be friends, because all men automatically desire all women, and any friendly relationship is actually filled with lust on the men’s part. We have so few narratives in which touch is okay, and normal, and not sexual.

    • The Write Partner May 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      “our cultural inability to separate intimacy with sexuality” – this really hits the nail on the head! The photo has no context given so the jump is immediately to something to something sexual. We then us this mis-diagnosis to shame those depicted. Just goes to show the misguided nature of our culture.

  4. Miriam May 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    I totally agree. To jump to the conclusion that this picture is sexual is ridiculous. It looks like two friends hanging out to me. I think there’s a bit of a witch hunt on this family though, because the parents have chosen to raise their kids in a non-mainstream way, and they’re not ashamed of it. Too many people get angry when confronted with any parenting outside of “the norm”.

    • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 4:25 am #

      I don’t think jumping to the conclusion it’s sexual is ridiculous. It’s a man and a women, lying in bed, and he has no shirt and bed head hair. The statutory rapey vibe is creepy. I don’t know what the man was thinking.

      • Jojo May 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

        …I wouldn’t really call Willow a woman. She’s 13. If they were in a compromising position or it was that awful, I don’t think it would’ve been posted at all. Willow isn’t even really in the bed. She just happens to be on it.

      • Jennifer C. May 11, 2014 at 12:21 am #

        No, it IS ridiculous. You’re exactly the type of person the author of this article talks about.

      • linddykal May 11, 2014 at 4:47 am #

        It turns out he was an old family friend…that is different. The original article (as I remember it) just said “friend” that posted a picture on Instagram. This was disputed and i believe her, no questions asked. I don’t think it’s crazy to infer that an older man in bed with a young girl is inappropriate.

    • mimi May 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

      2 friends hanging out? Really???
      Regardless of race, (because I do see the argument for over-sexualization of black girls and women so won’t argue that point) what do a 20 year old man and a 13 year old girl have in common regardless of race?
      If this were your daughter, would that make you comfortable?
      This is a man, a man who is most likely out on his own supporting himself, hanging out with a dependant child in middle school. What could they possibly discuss?
      Just yesterday Dr. Phil had a guest on where the child was 13 and the bf was 18. He commented on the inappropriateness of that! This is a child and a man ‘hanging out!’

      • Miriam May 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

        I think it’s entirely possible that this picture is innocent, and I see no reason why people of all ages couldn’t “hang out” together- it totally depends on the situation. I also had older sisters- there were always people of all ages around, and yes, “hanging out” was normal. I had friendships with older people when I was young and it wasn’t necessarily creepy. Thinking back, as long as the older people were “family friends”, it was never creepy. Much depends on context. My own kids have a wide age spread- 23 to 8. It wouldn’t be unusual to have young adults and young kids in my house.

        I also have a daughter (now grown) and of course I’m protective of her. She is also protective of herself- she’s the first one to pay attention to a creepy vibe and has always trusted her instincts. Is Willow Smith the same? I have no idea, no idea at all what is going on in some Hollywood family. It may be fine, may not be fine. Given the tiny bit I’ve read about their parenting style, it doesn’t seem unusual to me. I’d have to see more than this picture to jump to conclusions about an inappropriate relationship. If more comes to light, then I would absolutely change my mind.

      • Marilee May 9, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

        We need to remember that celebrities don’t live in the same sort of culture we do. They have the culture of celebrity in common, and also the culture of their wealth.

        This is important to remember. It’s also important to remember that a 20 year old male is really still pretty young. Also, they appear to have worked together when they were younger. THIS IS IMPORTANT. They very likely have a very close relationship. I had older cousins I was close with when I was younger. Their relationship is probably very similar.

        “They have nothing in common” ignores so much. You are basing this on how you grew up. Your experiences. Which are going to be VASTLY different from the experiences of two young people growing up *TOGETHER* in the entertainment industry.

      • Max May 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

        When I was that age, the only way we could go to concerts and the like was if we went with my friends’ older siblings. This could very easily be a picture of me or one of my friends.
        Also, music festivals in hot places make you want to tear all of your clothes off and find the nearest swimming pool. He is clearly doing a kindness to everyone in the room by ONLY taking his shirt off.

    • s diouf May 10, 2014 at 1:36 am #

      I get it, but this is not how regular friends hang out, plus 13 year olds dont usually hang out with 20 year olds. And, they’re on a bed so I wouldn’t say it is such a big conclusion to think they’re up to something sexual. You can’t say your first impression wasn’t of something sexual

      • Miriam May 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

        My first impression was not of something sexual- and there are quite a few other commenters here saying that same thing 😉 I just had the misfortune of commenting near the top 🙂

  5. MindCobwebs May 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    I completely agree, you phrase the problem perfectly and Londryfairy, you have commented precisely what I wanted to say (but better!). The photo looks nothing more than a bored sit around between friends, to see otherwise must surely show something about your own mentality?? So sad that the most ridiculous things can be construed to be sexual.

    • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 4:28 am #

      What 20 year old man is friends with a 13 year old? What parents would allow that? It’s creepy and has a predatory vibe…it’s not jumping to conclusions, it’s common sense.

      • welliswan May 9, 2014 at 4:45 am #

        I was friendly with a lot of my older brother’s friends at that age, and there was nothing particularly creepy about my relationships with any of them, and certainly nothing sexual. I was not exceptional in this among my peers.

        If you feel like the photo has a creepy and predatory vibe, ok, but if that assessment is predicated on a “common sense” understanding that 13 year old girls and 20 year old guys in proximity is automatically always creepy and predatory, well, I’m not sure that I can agree that that’s common sense at all.

      • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 4:59 am #

        Willow doesn’t have 20 year old older brothers. Seriously, who is this dude and why is he in her life? She’s not doing anything wrong, she’s just a kid. This guy?….my creeper radar’s going off.

      • welliswan May 9, 2014 at 5:13 am #

        She does have a 22 year old half-brother. I don’t know the circumstances wherein Moises Arias became a family friend, and whether that may have involved her half-brother, other members of the family, some sort of creepy maneuvering, or what. I really am just making the point that there are non-predatory contexts in which teens and twenty-somethings hang out. I’m sure that my example is not the only possibility.

      • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 11:11 am #

        Fair enough.

      • mimi May 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

        This is how young girls get raped and their parents have ‘no idea’ how it happened!

      • MindCobwebs May 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

        So if you have friends that are older than you, they’re predatory? She could have a female friend of 20 or above, is that classed as predatory as well?

        I don’t agree that the guy in the photo looks predatory over Willow. They look comfortable in each other’s presence, and that’s about it.

        Willow’s parents allowed her to go to the Coachella festival with a crowd of mixed age friends. It caused an outrage too, but what happened? Nothing. She had fun, safely, in a crowd of friends of all ages, then went home. Because she’s a smart girl.

        Using Willow as an example. She’s been raised in the world of entertainment, full of random aged singers and actors. Her parents are celebrities. She has been around the most diverse collection of people possible and so has the most diverse social crowd of which to make friends from. You’d no doubt have a few friends older than you.

        But like you said, let’s not jump to conclusions! Common sense will prevail, one day.

      • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

        If her Mom says that it’s fine, it’s fine. It’s her judgement and her prerogative. But I think it raises some alarm bells and it would not be okay for my 8th grader. I don’t think it’s safe. I’ve never raised a famous child so I don’t know what’s normal and what’s not.

      • Marilee May 9, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

        Two young people who worked together, and whose family have worked together, closely for years? Two young people who grew up together? Two young people who have the culture of celebrity in common?

        Predatory vibe? All you have is age to go by and nothing else. There’s no vibe. Just assumptions. Lacking much common sense, considering you completely ignore that these two young people GREW UP TOGETHER.

      • linddykal May 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

        I’m obviously in the minority about this. I will also admit I have no perspective on these situations. Someone I love, when she was 12 was raped by a 19 year old big brother of a friend, after being a family friend for years. I realize that’s not the situation here, but the second I saw that picture that’s where my mind went…I can’t help it, it just sets off a million red flags and makes my spidey sense go off.

    • mimi May 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      If this were your daughter, would you still think this???
      This is why we see young girls get raped. We aren’t ‘watching’!!!

      • MindCobwebs May 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

        Would I still think what? That the photo is being sexualised? Yes, because I don’t think it looks sexual!

        I’ve already commented about not jumping to conclusions. I’m not an angry commenter, I much prefer a well versed discussion, but I’m not going to start commenting about why the horrendous act of rape happens in conjunction with this photo. Once again, I don’t think the photo looks sexual.

        If Willow was my daughter I’d be one proud mama to have such an intelligent and sensible girl, who knows her own mind so well already.

        “There was nothing sexual about that picture or that situation…You guys are projecting your trash onto it.”

        This is what Willow’s own mother said when asked about the photo by paparazzi.

      • southsidesocialist May 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

        Rubbish. Women and girls are raped because rapists rape them.

      • Jennifer C. May 11, 2014 at 12:22 am #

        BAHAHAHAH. No. Young girls get raped because some men are assholes. Grow the fuck up, lady.

  6. Kathy May 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    The whole situation infuriates me. Those kids were leisurely hanging out, so why do the slimy attention-getters need to make something ugly out of it? It’s not only about devaluing women of color, it’s about devaluing women, period. The mainstream media and many men in general are a bunch of sick, perverted bastards who need to be strung by their dick’s. Leave movie star’s children alone for cripe sake!

    • respectthyselfienyc May 8, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

      Completely agreed Kathy! It’s not only women of color, it’s women. And it’s not just a social media issue, it’s just a huge issue.

  7. dianatierney3 May 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    The only thought I had was ok, if I was a parent I might not be ok with that. However, this is the first time I have seen the photo and it’s not grossly in appropriate: I think I was expecting way worse. Secondly, I didn’t hear who else was with her. This is definitely a mountain made out of a mole hill. The media is now reaching for ways to sexualize young girld.

  8. Jason Creative May 8, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    thank you so much for this. when i saw the pic/story, i was like ‘holy crap. wow.’ the media is so complicit in this stuff…it’s so sad

  9. Vanessa-Jane Chapman May 8, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    I totally agree with you, it’s ridiculous. I think part of the problem was, as I understand it, that it was the guy in the picture who was the one who initially posted it on Twitter, and that was why some people jumped on it and took it to mean more, but however it came out I’m sure many would be quick to judge and leap to the worst conclusion! But if people actually thought about it more, if there had been anything going on, the guy would hardly have been posting it on Twitter knowing it’s illegal!

  10. andreablythe May 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    I agree. I would never have seen anything sexual in that photo. It’s ridiculous. Reading sexuality into it is more a sign of the viewer’s biases and issues than anything going on in the photo.

  11. lyne Audette May 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    there is nothiing sexual in that picture,absolutely nothing

  12. Bipolar Girl May 8, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    I see nothing wrong or sexual about this photo. The media is just bored, so they come up with stupid shit.

  13. butterflyny75 May 8, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    Agreed. I just shook my head at the whole thing. What is more sad than the media making things look like this is society buying into it. If society stops, stories like this stop.

  14. makalove May 8, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    This is precisely what I thought when I saw the way the photo was being treated. It’s ridiculous and disgusting. Jada has it exactly right in calling the media covert pedophiles.

  15. runningnekkid May 9, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Urg. Because black girls only exist for sex, right? And men are insatiable predators. I hate everything about this, especially the fact that it took this super sweet and wonderful picture and turned it into a manufactured frenzy.

  16. Keely May 9, 2014 at 12:43 am #

    I actually think that if it was a young white girl and an older guy it would be sexualized just as much. I disagree that race has anything to do with it. BUT i do agree that the media blows things out of proportion. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with the picture.

  17. alexchickynicole May 9, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    Well said.

  18. msrawmojo May 9, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    Right on. Belle Jar nails it again. Why is the media insistent on projecting sex on kids? Let them enjoy their bodies and the freedom of youthful innocence. It’s a pity more adults can’t learn to be this comfortable with each other. It would do us all good.

  19. Mary May 9, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    Dude, I had no idea about this! But this is sickening, my goodness. You are so right about how messed up this is. “Female bodies – especially black female bodies – do not exist purely for our voyeuristic enjoyment.” Boom. Nailed it.

  20. Libby O May 9, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    i love this. i thought the exact same thing when i saw this picture. she’s 13 for christ sake. LEAVE WILLOW ALONE

  21. sunairsealove May 9, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Reblogged this on Sunshine Living.

  22. Toby May 9, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Reblogged this on Speaker's Corner.

  23. jessicalangblog May 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Although I find the picture to be of a non-sexual nature, and I agree that it’s terrible that she has to hear these things, the idea of black women being sexualized more than white women is news to me. If anything my over-all in-put from media and society in general calls for the opposite. :/

  24. mimi May 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Ok- first of all, they’re on a bed. Child of colour or not, it looks sexual. It’s a single bed, the guy looks like he has sex hair and he is half-naked. So regardless of race, it looks sexual.
    It’s in black and white, on a small bed, which for some reason makes it look like it was meant to be romantic/artistic, but not in a father-daughter love kind of way.
    Unless you’re her father (and even if you were) this looks bad!
    What is a 20 year old who is not of any relation to her doing on a single bed with her?
    Perhaps even if it had been shot on a double, king or queen, with him on one end, (just getting up by the looks of his hair) and her at the bottom stretched out, we wouldn’t be having this discussion!
    I’m not sure if this was some ploy to get her more publicity or something, but it’s seriously disturbing if it is!
    I won’t deny that ‘black’ girls and women have been over-sexualized. I can see both sides of that argument so I won’t go there. But regardless of race, this picture doesn’t look good.

    • mutron3 May 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

      Mimi I agree with you. The photographers knew exactly what they were doing when they took that picture they knew it would cause controversy because of the age and color, in addition to how the room was setup (low light, shades pulled down, no shirt, hair messed up, small bed with sheets tossed about and she’s resting her head on his leg) . Let us all cut the intellectual BS and look at the photo for the subliminal content it was meant to induce. Any person that has ever been in an intimate situation would look at this photograph and assume that some form of intimacy might have taken place. let us remove the entertainment industry and the fact that are friends, Put yourself in the position of walking into a room and seeing this scenario what would you think? But the the bottom line is this Will Smith’s and Jada Smith’s daughter and they’re okay who are we to judge, Let’s take a step back and open our closest door. Just look at it as a form of ART! I’m sure we have and will see many more things in a lifetime we deem inappropriate.


  25. sterlingsop May 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    I agree with your argument about the over-sexualisation of girls generally, but I hadn’t noticed any difference between races or according to skin colour. What troubles me is the media who peddle this stuff and are covertly shaping our view of the world to such an extent that even the most innocent and straightforward is twisted and corrupted to such sick levels. And that is something that is right across the board – black people, white people, Asian, European…it seems to make no difference to the amount of sexualisation and corruption that goes on.

  26. robyn mcneil (@birdiebent) May 9, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    Anne, this is a great post. And it has me wondering if the fella being a PoC adds to the sexualization though, men of colour are often depicted has having ‘dangerous’ sexuality too. It makes me think if the girl in the photo were white the commentary would quite a bit different, if there was commentary at all.

  27. yummcouture May 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    Reblogged this on Daniella Has A Blog! and commented:
    This is a clear case of the “perception is reality” ideal. However, there needs to be a line where children are concerned. Willow is in the public eye as a default of her family. That doesn’t take away from the fact that she is still a child. When I was 13, I had friends, girls and boys. Playing with them as more than friends didn’t cross my mind until I read / heard about the “inappropriateness” of it in media. As someone in PR, I am well aware of how media skews perception to suit their needs. It’s all about the bottom-line in terms of impressions, clicks, likes, and activity on a website. But before there was the internet, there were children. Don’t forget that you were one before negligently placing unscrupulous, and uninformed roles on our young women. The sexual deviant in this is not the photographer, or the individuals within. The sexual deviant here is you, Media.

  28. yummcouture May 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    This is a clear case of the “perception is reality” ideal. However, there needs to be a line where children are concerned. Willow is in the public eye as a default of her family. That doesn’t take away from the fact that she is still a child. When I was 13, I had friends, girls and boys. Playing with them as more than friends didn’t cross my mind until I read / heard about the “inappropriateness” our male / female relationships in media. As someone in PR, I am well aware of how media skews perception to suit its needs. It’s all about the bottom-line in terms of impressions, clicks, likes, and activity on a website. But before there was the internet, there were children. Don’t forget that you were one before negligently placing unscrupulous, and uninformed roles on our young women. The sexual deviant in this is not the photographer, or the individuals within. The sexual deviant here is you, Media.

  29. bluestgirl May 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    The more I think about this, the more I think that it can be a really positive thing for a kid to have a broader range of close connections besides “peers” and “parents.” A 20 year old can provide more responsibility and authority than a peer, someone who can set positive examples, but still be cool & relate-able. As a 13 year old I would never have looked up to older adults, but a young adult/old teenager could have been a good influence, someone who can sort of translate between teen-thought processes & world view and more adult thoughts and world views.

    Some families are large enough, and close enough, to have cousins who fill that sort of in-between role, but not everyone has that kind of family. My cousins were all too far away. If we’d had family friends like that when I was growing up, I think that might have been good for me.

  30. daniheart21 May 9, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    AGREED! I don’t see anything sexual about the photo… it all looks pretty innocent to me. I think girls in general are very sexualized these days and if definitely needs to stop.

  31. Reticula May 10, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    I hadn’t seen this photo until I read your post. I didn’t see anything sexual when I looked at it …. I read your post and went back and looked at it again …. still nothing sexual. They look like they could be watching a movie. I guess I just don’t go there. I’m not naive. In fact, I’m quite jaded. But I don’t see sex where no sex is happening. Leave that baby girl alone, perverts.

  32. jodiethalegend May 10, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    When I first heard about this photo I thought there was something wrong with me for thinking that the photo looked completely innocent, so I read more. Turns out, the photo is actually completely innocent. Just a moment of time, two people in the same place who don’t seem to be actually interacting in any way. Have none of the people who are disturbed by this photo ever been in the same room as a friend of their sibling, or an older cousin?

  33. Terri David May 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    So explain to me after all that bibble babble what the picture is supposed to be about? I know the Smiths would not let their 13 year old be with a man sexually.

    • trufflesmom May 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      Really? You *know* that? You know the Smiths personally and privately?
      13 yr old girls do have sexual feelings, hormonal changes and emotional needs. Just because she’s 13 doesn’t make her asexual, completely innocent and unaware, or even non-curious sexually. Sometimes parents are the last to realize these things… because they see their children through the lens of parent, and not objectively.

    • trufflesmom May 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      You know that for sure? You actually KNOW the Smiths, in real life, up close and personal? Or are you just assuming ALL parents of ALL 13 year olds would know exactly what’s going on in their kids’ lives every minute of every day? I had my first sexual experience a little older than Willow is in this picture; willingly, with someone who was 4 or 5 yrs older. Think my parents KNEW? They didn’t know, and certainly wouldn’t have approved, I assure you.
      Kids Willow Smith’s age often are sexually aware and hormonally encouraged to be curious about sex. Especially wealthy, celebrity kids like Willow; surrounded by adults who are both as liberal and open as they are in Hollywood. She lives in a very adult world, almost as an adult herself… even at 13. Not a typical lifestyle.
      As for the picture, I don’t have any real negative reaction to it. Don’t exactly have a real positive (read; “naive”) impression either. I just don’t KNOW what is or was going on before or after that moment was digitally frozen… and neither do you or any of us. Could be innocent and non-sexual, could be not. I do wonder though — WHO took that picture, and what was the intent in capturing that moment and then posting it to social media?

  34. Belle May 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Parents be parents! Under no circumstances do I picture a 13 year old girl ( of any race) in bed, laying on the bed…however you view it ..AS RIGHT..don’t care who’s friend she is or what type of celebrity life they live.. Wrong on so many levels…

  35. Belle May 10, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    I personally think the real question we should be asking about this photo is.Why is a 20 year old man friends with a 16 year old boy and 13 year old girl?.in any world the celebrity life or the plane Jane life this should be questioned.

    • Shard Aerliss (@Aerliss) May 11, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      When I was seven we moved house and my parents made a lot of friends who were also parents. The oldest of the other kids was 12, the youngest was 4. We played together and we grew up together. We went on big camping trips together, had massive Christmas dinners and BBQs together, and generally hung out watching films and playing computer games.

      When I was 13 the oldest of my friends, who I had known for half of my life, was 18, and there were new additions who were as young as three. We all still hung out together on occasion. We still went camping and had BBQs. Now some of the older ones could babysit the younger ones too.

      We were like family.

  36. Drea May 10, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    Think one of reasons is because of Willow She sung a song with verses not appropriate for her age and few other things that this young child should not be doing, so it was probably assumed hell she can do what she wants If it was my child You are not lying on a bed with no man other than your brother or daddy (family) Is it right no, but to keep bringing up race is wrong. As a black woman I am sick of us as a race giving the ammunition needed to use against us. Then we are surprised when someone brings up something negative.

  37. Ayana Thomas May 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    I am so pleases that you took a stand for willo. I found it disturbing that everyone jumped to worse conclusion possible to explain a picture that they were not their to see be taken. Your wright she is just a young girl, and to be scrutinize in such a negative way by the media as well as bunch of total strangers can be damaging to a young girl of any race. I am a complete stranger, but My heart goes out to the smith family I have much respect them.

  38. Jay Jackson May 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    Utter nonsense is what you are spewing. The posting of the picture is inappropriate. Perhaps the actual setting and environment was totally innocent. But that us nit how it appears. Family friend or not that 29 year old should not have been photographed on a bed with a 13 yr old at all. And certainly not shirt less. And to add to your already ridiculous rant, you mention that somehow had it been a white girl there would have been no comments about the seemingly “sexy” pic. That makes absolutely no sense. What are you basing that on. A purple 20 yr old sitting shirtless on a bed with a purple 13 yr old is still inappropriate! I am not suggesting that there is anything going on that is inappropriate, but I am saying that taking a pic posting of such a pic is inappropriate. It appears sexual. Male, female, shirtless, bed… those things together not suggest sexual, or intimate. The pic is not a good look. Plain and simple.

  39. KJ May 10, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    We do not need to talk about this. If her parents see nothing wrong about why should we?! I have my own kids to raise, let’s talk about them 300 girls taken in Nigeria and how to get them back to their parents!

  40. AnjumSinghania May 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Well said.
    On a side note, I would be obliged if you could also check out my blog DoubleThink. I’ll drop its link below!

    “DoubleThink is an up and coming blog that is extremely satisfying for every kind of a person, be it the thinker, the optimist, the pessimist, the poet, the musician, the couch-potato, the bookworm or the photographer.We are a bunch of people with different backgrounds, contradictory opinions but one voice. And this blog is our voice.”

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  41. silverguardian May 10, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    First of all, how does this have anything to do with the girl’s color? If my parents had seen me in a photo like this, I’d have been given the lecture of my life, and likely some punishment. It is not because they particularly might have assumed it to have been “sexual” but that it is inappropriate to lie around on a bed with a boy (just walking around the block with a boy, alone, was questionable, and was NEVER okay with a boy 7 years older than I)! And if I’d had a PHOTO taken of it, I’d have been really punished (and for more than a few months).

    I don’t care what color the girl is, and I find it offensive that it’s even mentioned. She is 13. And HE has three things against him. (1) He’s an adult male on a bed with a female child. (2) He’s older than she is and HE knows, even if SHE doesn’t know it’s inappropriate (and at 13, I likely might not have, because I was, in fact, that innocent, so I prefer to put all the blame on him.) And (3) He’s an actor. Never trust an actor.

    • Andrea Smith May 11, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      So True

  42. Emilianne Hackett May 10, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    If a thirteen year-old girl, black, white, brown or purple, is laying on a bed with a hlaf-naked 20-year-old man, black, white, brown or purple, there’s a problem. Shame on this young lady’s parents who should be savvy enough to know better than to allow this to happen. Shame on this man for agreeing to this, and shame on anyone involved with exploiting this young lady.

  43. paulalindo May 11, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    Reblogged this on Paula Lindo and commented:
    “It is fucked up that people are creating this narrative about a sexual relationship between two people based on one picture in which they are not doing anything sexual. It is fucked up that news outlets are throwing a thirteen year old to the dogs in order to get page hits and retweets. And it is unbelievably fucked up how quickly and easily we sexualize young women (especially women of colour), to the point where their every look and gesture is dissected and somehow turned vulgar. Jada Pinkett Smith gets it exactly right when she calls the media “covert pedophiles.” That is exactly how they are behaving, and the fact that they are peddling this so-called “compromising” picture for their own profit is appalling.”

  44. Nick Delgado May 11, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    …..this is sexual? wow i guess none of you virgins have ever seen porn. i found nothing sexual about this pic, i couldnt even try to imagine this in a sexual way (and i have a pretty dirty imagination) didnt even know what the article was about until i read it and thought to myself “wow everyone in the world is completely fucking stupid”

    • Greg May 11, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      We had a week where temperatures hit the mid-90’s in California. I literally just thought, “Oh, it was probably hot that day.” There is nothing at all even remotely sexual about this picture.

  45. Karen May 11, 2014 at 4:08 am #

    Perhaps sexualizing the photo is the wrong approach, but there is not one circumstance I can think of that makes it alright for a 13-yr old girl to be in a bed with a 20- something yet old shirtless male…. Even if she is fully clothed. Would you let your child lay in a bed with an adult? Whether this is for a photo shoot or a real life situation we must question the message and certainly question if it is appropriate in nature. Whether we like it or not, age is more than just a number. This photo has more to do with pushing the boundaries of society and less to do with the over-sexualization of black women.

  46. data4gal May 11, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    I never would have thought of this picture as sexual if it hadn’t been the topic of an article denouncing the sexualization of young girls. It is very sad that this is the type of society we live in: a society quick to sexualize the least sexual of things.

  47. wtf May 11, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    l see a picture of a thirteen year old girl lying in front of a young man with his shirt off in a twin sized bed. Question where is it appropriate for a THIRTEEN year old to be LYING down while there is a male in the bed, any MALE. This is where the picture becomes sexual. It is inappropriate, you can assume they have had sex because he is partially clothed but whether they were or weren’t is only an assumption. The point blank period obvious problem is they are in the bed together at all and then they are in the bed together with nighttime attire. I am sorry to say but for those of you who think that its ok for a 13 yr old girl to lye in the bed with a boy who has no shirt on this is why your daughters get fucked and end up on mtv spring break.

  48. oliviachristensen25 May 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    I didn’t really understand what everyone was upset about to begin with. He is clearly looking at someone outside of the shot to his right and someone is taking the picture. So they are hardly alone . And knowing as we do that she comes from a tight knit family it looks like something that happens when a big group hangs out. Everybody hangs out together. He is shirtless, but I figured its California their weather is nice they were probably swimming or something.
    This is about the same to me as when society slams10 year old “prostitots” for wearing leggings or shirts that show their mid drift. Everyone judges them for sexualizing themselves at such a Young age without noticing the irony that they are the ones ascribing sexuality to a little girl who doesn’t even have developed sexual organs yet.


  1. Back to basics, a meditation on the body | Seven intentions - May 11, 2014

    […] Smith photo in the media this week. I tend to stay away from mainstream media, but I did read Belle Jar’s amazing post about this. For those of you like me who live under a rock, Willow Smith is the 13 year old […]

  2. Weekly Round-Up: May 10, 2014 | CARLY PUCH - May 11, 2014

    […] for these pictures. Ridiculous. The author of the blog, The Belle Jar, wrote an amazing piece, “The Sexualization of Willow Smith”, highlighting why the conversation surrounding the picture has been wrong. Check it […]

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