Anything Good About Being A Sex Object?
When I ask my students if they can think of anything good about being a sex object they think there must be something positive, since so many women put a great deal of effort into being sexy, with some aspiring to “sex symbolness.” Here’s what they say:
Sexy women get attention. They feel attractive and admired, so it’s a source of self-esteem.
It’s nice to feel wanted and desired. It’s easier to attract mates or just get sex.
It can be fun to feel sexy.
Sex is a historic source of power for women. Sexiness can gain women resources, whether through marriage or getting men to do favors. It puts women in control over men.
Then I ask if there’s a downside. More comments:
It can be uncomfortable being gawked at. You can feel like you’re only a sex object – and that’s all, like you’re not worth a lot.
You can feel disrespected. Guys want only one thing. You get used.
When women are seen as all about sex, and they don’t want to put out, they’re seen as bitches.
You aren’t seen as intelligent. You aren’t taken seriously.
Your personality disappears.
It can feel inauthentic, feeling pressured from friends or society to look sexy.
Sexual objectification leads to sex trafficking. Treating young women and girls like they are nothing but objects that exist to pleasure men. They have no lives. They’re all about sex and nothing else. And they’re not given an opportunity to be anything else.
But there are problems when you don’t meet sex-object standards, too:
You feel like you’re constantly being judged, and not coming out well.
You may starve. Or get implants and die (that does happen). You have false hope, and when you don’t meet the standard you lose self-esteem.
So much contradiction. Is there any way to get some of the positive upside without all the downside? I’ll admit to feeling the world would be a bit dull without any spice of sexiness.
How about distinguishing between sexy and sex object. And broadening our notion of what “sexy” means?
Objects are treated as little more than a means to others’ pleasure. They are not people with lives, goals, thoughts or emotions. It’s one-dimensional. A limited box. And who cares how you treat an object?
So if a woman does have – and is seen as having – a life, goals, emotions and intelligence, and sexiness is one part of all that, then she can be a full person – who is also sexy.
But still, can we move outside the narrow notions? Who’s sexy to me? Women and men who are classy, smart, talented, confident, and who make a difference in the world.
I nominate Nancy Pelosi, Thandie Newton, French politician Marie-Ségolène Royal, Helen Mirren, Angelina Jolie, Jackie O, Jennifer Lopez, Toni Morrison, Queen Rania of Jordan, Barbara Walters, Sandra Bullock, Zhang Ziyi, America Ferrera, Diane Sawyer, Jennifer Aniston, Queen Latifah, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, and Maria Shriver.
And men? My list includes Ezra Klein, Benico del Torro, Ed Harris, New York Times columnist, Princeton professor and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, CNN anchor T.J. Holmes, Tom Brokaw, Brad Pitt, Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Gabriel Byrne, Japan’s former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, JFK Jr., Antonio Banderas, Sidney Poitier, Javier Bardem, and White House corresspondent, Jake Tapper.
Yeah, sexiness can be fun and alluring, when moving outside narrow limits. But sex objects are just trapped.
Posted on May 23, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, sex, sexism, women and tagged body image, culture, feminism, gender, objectification, sexism, sexual objectification, sexuality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.