Parents beware: The Netflix film ‘Cuties’ is a toxic brew of sexual exploitation and child objectification

GUEST OPINION
By 
Donna Rice Hughes
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Film warrants an urgent and necessary call for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate potential child pornography production and distribution.

Enough Is Enough is joining calls for the removal of the film “Cuties” from Netflix and an investigation by the Department of Justice for potential child pornography production and distribution. Released on Netflix in the U.S. on Sept. 9, “Cuties” places scantilyclad girls on the world stage for all to see, exploiting young pre-adolescent actresses in skimpy attire who twerk, hump, gyrate, and perform stripper-esque dance moves with crotch grabs and leg spreads, while production cameras zoom in and slowly pan up and down the girls’ bodies. Outrage over the film spawned the hashtag #CancelNetflix. Turkey has already banned it.

The film description reads: “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.” In reality, this film is a seemingly criminal display normalizing child sexual exploitation and sexualized behaviors. In one scene, a rival dance member exposes her bare breast at the end of the group’s dance routine; in others, crude sexual comments are made in hopes of attracting the attention of boys. While in school, the girls’ reactions are shown after watching a graphic sex act on a cell phone, contemplating whether or not it was rape.

Shortly after Amy is accepted to the “Cuties” group, she is pressured to film the penis of a fellow classmate while he urinates in the boy’s bathroom. Closer to the film’s end, she is shown removing her pants and underwear to photograph between her legs, then uploads the image to social media.

In a digital society already overrun with child sex abuse images, “Cuties” is an irresponsible, gross display of sexual exploitation on the part of Netflix and the film’s French director and writer Maïmouna Doucouré, whetting the appetites and sexual fantasies of pedophiles, sexual predators and traffickers with its hypersexualized content.

Predators and sex traffickers are constantly looking for vulnerable children, including those who have previously been sexually exploited or abused. In 2018, over half (51.6 percent) of the criminal human trafficking cases active in the U.S. were sex trafficking cases involving only children. This stomach-churning display of hypersexualized, pre-teen eroticized “dance” results in permissiongiving beliefs to young girls that this behavior is desirable, acceptable and safe.

During the COVID pandemic, Teenvogue.com preyed on the vulnerabilities, sexual curiosities and peer pressure experienced by today’s teens and tweens by encouraging its young readers to engage in sexting, putting them at greater risk of exploitation by sex traffickers and predators. Self-generated imagery now accounts for almost a third of web pages featuring sexual images of children that they take down, and more than a third of those images feature 11- to 13-year-old children, of which the majority is girls.

At best, “Cuties” is grossly negligent on the part of its producers and Netflix. At worst, it’s possibly criminal as the dance moves alone by these young actresses may meet the legal standard of child pornography. Child pornography under federal law is defined as any visual depiction of sexually-explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer-generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor. In 2018, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.

In a time in America in which the sexual exploitation of children in the digital world has escalated during COVID lockdown and virtual learning, “Cuties” is only throwing gasoline on an existing blazing fire.

Friends, we must stop this from ever happening again, and we’re going to make sure our voices are heard. We need your voice too.

Donna Rice Hughes is the president of Enough Is Enough, a national non-partisan, non-profit organization who has led the fight to make the Internet safer for children and families since 1994.

Category: