Definition: Sexualization, when used in relation to tweens and children, typically refers to the process of emphasizing the sexual nature of an individual. Sexualization is not a healthy form of sexuality.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sexualization can show up in four forms: 1) when a person's worth is assumed to only come from his or her sexiness; 2) when a child is expected or encouraged to act or dress sexually; 3) when a person is treated as a sex object rather than as a whole person; and/or 4) when physical characteristics are considered to be the only indicator of sexiness.
Both females and males can be victims of sexualization.
The term "sexualization" is also used to refer to a type of psychological defense mechanism in which people use sexual behavior as a way of managing anxiety.
American Psychological Association. Sexualization of Girls: Executive Summary. Accessed on September 18, 2010: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx?item=2