Sexualized Toys Created for Children Isn’t a Coincidence, It’s a Disturbing Trend in the Entertainment Industry

Written by PTC | Published August 19, 2020

The “Rule of Three” goes something like this: One occurrence is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, three is a trend.

Earlier this month a (justifiably) upset mother called out Hasbro over the placement of a sensor on its Trolls “Giggle and Sing” Poppy doll. The now viral video notes that the packaging advertises a button on the doll’s stomach, that when pressed, will cause the doll to play a handful of phrases or sounds. Not mentioned on the packaging is a second button or sensor in the female doll’s genital area that, when pressed, causes the doll to gasp and make sounds like, “Whee!” and “Oh!”

Hasbro has since pulled the doll from store shelves – but the placement of the button is disturbingly similar to grooming tactics used by child predators to normalize and desensitize kids to inappropriate touching.

More recently, a series of viral videos have called attention to a popular line of dolls called “L.O.L. (Little Outrageous Little) Surprise!” that when dipped in cold water, reveal patterns on some dolls’ “skin” that resembles sexy lingerie or underwear.

The dolls’ manufacturer, MGA Entertainment has issued a statement saying, “L.O.L. Surprise! Is a fashion-forward doll brand designed to be fun and expressive…” they further acknowledged the feedback and say they have implemented “comprehensive corrective measures to our design and approval process while ensuring the essence of the brand is kept intact.” Though it is worth noting that MGA Entertainment also produced the highly sexualized “Bratz” dolls in the early 2000s, so they are clearly committed to a specific brand identity.

If these were isolated incidents, it would be easy enough to write them off as simple mistakes, lapses in judgment, or just a mind-boggling lack of awareness; or to simply assume that there were no malign intentions. But then we go back to the Rule of Three.

These aren’t isolated incidents. They are clearly and unmistakably a trend. A growing pattern of sexualizing and exploiting children for entertainment. It is a cancer in the entertainment industry that is metastasizing.

The toy industry works closely in conjunction with the studios to produce and profit from children’s characters, and it takes dozens of corporate decision-makers to develop a consumer product from a motion picture. The Trolls franchise has especially pushed adult content into its films and TV specials, and has already created a level of distrust among parents. Keep in mind that Hasbro, which produces and markets the Trolls doll, describes itself as a “global play and entertainment company.”

This is nothing more than sick, twisted adults foisting their perverse sense of humor off on innocent children. And we are seeing it more and more.

Nearly a decade ago, the PTC produced a research report exposing a troubling trend of sexualizing teenaged girls on primetime TV. That trend has only grown and now encompasses not just teenaged girls, but pre-adolescent children of both sexes.

In September, Hulu will be dropping season two of Pen15, a coming-of-age series that centers on seventh-graders with a deliberately provocative title and raunchy content. This follows a pattern established on Netflix with Big Mouth, an animated series about puberty that has pre-pubescent girls talking to their genitals and monsters that encourage masturbation. Other teen-targeted programs like Euphoria (on HBO), with graphic rape scenes and extensive nudity, along with Sex Education and 13 Reasons Why (both also on Netflix), are fostering a culture that treats adolescent exploration as fully equal to mature, informed, consensual adult expressions of sexuality.

What’s the result? A more accepting sexualized culture that desensitizes kids while fomenting pedophiles like Jeffrey Epstein.

Let this be a wake-up call. Stopping the sexualization and exploitation of children for entertainment must be our highest priority.

Take Action. Stay Informed.