Perversion of Journalism: Kylie Jenner and the Media’s Troubling Coverage of Underage Girls

She's only just legal today, people.

By Michael Arceneaux

To the delight of many—and presumably, her boyfriend, Tyga, who at long last can say he has a girlfriend who can legally consent in the state of California—Kylie Jenner is 18. Based on images from Instagram and the word of TMZ, the youngest of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians clan is having quite the celebration. Although she can now vote, buy cigarettes, and date her 25-year-old rapper boyfriend without fear of SVU-like investigation, a new age does not wipe away the last two years of her life and what it all represents.

For starters, it will never not be despicable how much of the media chronicled the relationship of a teenage girl with an adult male. As I have written previously in this space, there was a cutesy quality to the manner in which Kylie and Tyga’s relationship was chronicled. There is nothing endearing about a grown man dating a child, no matter how that child presents herself to the public.

Speaking of said presentation, while it is not my place to police someone else’s expression of sexuality, I can take issue with how those in the media have capitalized on it. These are various headlines taken from several mainstream publications before Kylie turned 18:

  • “Kylie Jenner & Tyga: He Loves Her Showing Off Her Sexy Curves”
  • “Kylie Jenner: Her Sexiest Pics Ever”
  • “Kardashians Bare All! Kylie Jenner’s 16 Most Seductive Instagrams”
  • “Kylie Jenner Wears Same Sexy Slashed Swimsuit as Sister Kendall”
  • “What Is Kylie Jenner’s Sexy New Photoshoot For? (PHOTOS)”
  • “Kylie Jenner Flaunts Boobs and Big Booty in Sexy Bikini Pics! See Her Resemblance to the Kardashian Butts”
  • Again, all of this is before she turned 18. Before. Why was more not made out of adult men and women writing headlines about a 17-year-old girl using the words “sexy” and “seductive” while referring to her “curves,” “boobs,” and “big booty”? Many will argue that Kylie was just being a typical teenager. That may be the case, but that does not excuse the media going out of its way to further sexualize a minor.

    Kylie has been posturing as some sort of Lolita for a good while now. Such motives ultimately fall on her and her mother-manager. Nonetheless, entertainment magazines and news outlets have been all too willing to help her with such endeavors. That did not have to be the case.

    Not nearly enough people ever took Kanye West to task for saluting Tyga’s relationship with Kylie by saying “he got in early.” The only notable person who did was Amber Rose, and that was sold as more of a “feud” with Khloé Kardashian than a reasonable critique on the problems with sexualizing young girls too soon—particularly from someone who knows all too well about it. Moreover, none of these outlets ask questions about Kylie’s relationship with Tyga, or better yet, how she’s literally morphing into a version of her sister, Kim Kardashian, thanks to work of a very skilled cosmetic surgeon. It’s easier for people in that sect of media to focus on the superficial than the substantive. That doesn’t make it any less problematic, though.

    The sexualizing of an underage star—notably a female one—is not a new concept. Those of us old enough to remember can recall the heat Rolling Stone took for its sexually suggestive cover of a then 17-year-old Britney Spears with a tagline that read “Inside the Heart, Mind & Bedroom of a Teen Dream.” By comparison, this remains offensive but is relatively tame to the way Kylie has been depicted over the past year.

    One wonders now that she has turned 18, who will be next? A better question is, will this bad habit ever break?