Sex with Men, Hoping to Feel Beautiful

By Anonymous

Imagery is powerful. I remember my mother watching Marilyn Monroe movies and looking at her pictures in magazines. She bleached her hair and styled it like Marilyn’s. Mom dressed in high heeled boots and miniskirts and wore the style of make-up that graced magazine covers. My father loved it. I saw the attention men gave her, especially at parties. Looking back I see how the ideal of the perfect woman had a huge impact on the psychology of my mother. And me.

Although beautiful, mom lacked self-confidence and self-esteem. She gave up on her dreams to pursue the love of a man through beautifying herself. She became a submissive woman at the beck and call of the men in her life. No surprise, she married eight times before age thirty.

I watched men walk all over my mother, treating her like a trophy wife in front of their friends. But behind closed doors they demeaned and objectified her. I grew to dislike men, yet followed in her footsteps. It began in elementary school.

In elementary school super cute girls wore bows in their hair and cute dresses with knee high boots in white patent leather. I was plain looking and had a poor self-image, partly because of experiences with my mom. But also because I looked nothing like the ideal
images that surrounded me on magazine covers.

At the same time, I felt uncomfortable wearing glamour styles and dressed more like a tomboy. I covered my body even though looking back, it was rockin’! I still got attention from boys, but not the kind a girl wants. I was one of the guys.

My low self-esteem carried over into my teen years. Mom made comments about my body and told me I better be careful or no man would want me. I’d never had weight issues until my mom made me painfully aware of it.

I looked in the mirror and saw things that weren’t there. I wasn’t fat, but I thought I was. I wasn’t ugly, but I thought I was. I thought my friends were prettier than me. Funny, my low self-esteem made me less attractive.

With poor body image and low self-esteem women don’t reach their full potential. I didn’t. My life goal: attracting a man. I dropped out of high school. I dropped out of college. I had sex with many men hoping to feel beautiful, adored and loved.

I recently took a photography class and learned the secrets of Photoshop. The instructor showed an un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford, highlighting the roughness of her face, acne, arm fat, and a “thick” waist. He then showed how they thinned her waist, removed the arm fat, elongated her chin, and gave her a flawless complexion for the magazine cover.

I sat in disbelief. None of the images we see in Playboy, Vogue, Glamour,
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Shape or InStyle are real images. Men are made to
believe this is what women should look like and they view women who don’t
harshly. Women and girls also believe these images are true representations of
beauty and glamour.

They Aren’t.

But I hadn’t known that.

Hopefully the future will see new media sprout up portraying real women without airbrushing and manipulation. Let women embrace who they are so they can be strong and healthy. I want to get to that point in my life. I am still dieting and still struggling with poor body image.

One day, I will embrace myself for who I am and not worry about what I eat. One
day I will have the confidence I need to make my way through this second half
of life with a great career and a great love of myself. I wish that for all

This piece was written by a student of mine. I asked if I could publish it on my
blog. She requested anonymity.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 20, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. That is true, women in magazines appear without any default. But what is a default? This is very subjective. Throughout magazines, the media sells us a “perfect” body image. It doesn’t make sense to me. In real life there aren’t a lot of girls as we see in there. Plus they have created a lot of illnesses related to eating disorders. The brand Dove has a great ad to sell their body lotion. They took pictures of women with little shapes, and I thought they looked great.

  2. Demi Battaglia

    After reading this essay I really feel like many woman all across the world can connect with the authors story. No matter how confident you may try to act on the outside, most people deal with image and self-esteem issues on the inside. Especially in today’s society because woman are often portrayed as sex objects and feel like they have to live up to that title. It causes woman to have body image issues, and not feel worthy enough to gain a mans affection without having sex with them first. This stereotype tends to have a negative effect on woman and makes it difficult for them to every feel comfortable within their own skin. Hopefully in the near future the media will stop portraying the ideal woman as stick skinny and really advertise natural beauty.

  3. This is a good post like all the other ones on here. I wish we talked about this issue more in class given that it has so many opinions on it! I absolutely hate how women are portrayed in magazines! Every other page talks about loosing weigjt and pleaseing a man why does it always come back to men. It’s dumb!!!

  4. I feel thats a huge issue that women are facing today using sex as a form of comfort and acceptance. The feeling that a man is in love with what he sees, women tend to take that as a sign that the man is loving much more than just the body. While it is the exact opposite, men have sex for the feeling and being accepted by other men. However, women use sex as an emotional getaway because sex is used as a way to bond and connect with your partner.

  5. Victor Aguirre

    There is no doubt that the media brainwashes viewers into believing what they see is real and ideal. Their job is to allure to the sensation of glamor, fame, wealth, and popularity. In short the American dream. Unfortunately, the media forgets to mention that body image is not as important as your own personal well-being. Top to bottom people do the unthinkable to satisfy the unrealistic social ideals. The representation of beauty needs to shift to include a larger population with more realistic goals. For example larger women need to be photographed as well as women of all nationalities. Furthermore, celebrities should reveal more what gets them personal satisfaction rather then letting the imagery do all the talking.

  6. Melina Yousef

    The Media’s Impact on Teenager Girls

    Picture the world controlled by the media. Could you imagine how ugly, scarce, and horrible it would be? In today’s society many teenage girls are constantly bombarded with stereotypes of body images and what a “perfect” body types should look like. It’s everywhere and especially advertised in the media. The effect media has on teenagers’ body image is immeasurable. Each year thousands of teenagers use diet and exercise to conform to an image that has been created by the media. For many teens, becoming a model is the ultimate goal. The media impact being worshipped for beauty is more important than scholarship or being true to oneself.

    No one in high school can deny that how you look has much to do with your popularity status. While parents often reject that looks matter, their teen children know the score. No one wants to be known as the teen that has a great personality, as those are often the keywords to describe someone who is unattractive.

    According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, beauty is defined as, “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” But I believe the U.S. definition of beauty through the media constantly bombards the public with images of svelte, youthful, slim feminine figures and young, muscular/hunk, male physiques. Thus, the message evidently sent is, “the only route to happiness, contentment, satisfaction and self-realization must be through physical appearance alone, and that physique must be perfect for male and female.

    How did the media gain such control over our lives? Perhaps it began during Hollywood’s glamour years when the public yearned to look as beautiful as the pin up girls and as handsome as the leading men on the silver screen. Today, the magazines that line the shelves of our book and retail stores speak to our infatuation of looking like Hollywood actors and actresses. Maxim, Interview, Elle and Cosmopolitan all feature young and beautiful people from the big screen. It is no wonder that teens who consume these magazines try to strive for this type of fleeting beauty. They believe that the key to success is looking beautiful on the outside.

    The media broadcasts the “thin ideal” in almost every way possible. Not only are the models on the covers of magazines and in advertisements embodying the “thin ideal”, but the fictional characters in television shows and movies are almost always portrayed and thin and beautiful. Movies like Shrek where the “ugly” princess is green, overweight, and more masculine and the “beautiful” princess is thin and extremely feminine influences kids at an early age that fat is bad and thin is good. Also, as stated by many researchers, the models of today are drastically thinner than the models of the past. As each year goes by, the front cover models and the A-List celebrities reach new levels in their thinness, even reaching a level thinner than the criteria for anorexia (Grabe, Hyde, Ward 2008). A relatively new media craze is the numerous “reality shows” that are constantly being played on major television networks. Shows like America’s Next Top Model, The Hills, and The Real Housewives of Orange County, have real life women, not actresses or models, symbolizing the “average woman” in America. These women are the prime examples of how our culture’s standard for attractiveness has reached an unhealthy level. Not only do these women possess the scarily thin bodies, but they constantly discuss dieting, exercise to lose weight, and how they aren’t thin enough. It wasn’t bad enough that supermodels were bombarding our culture with negative body image references, but now these “reality shows” with “real people” are portraying the same message.

    Advertising in teen magazines and on television typically glamorizes skinny models that do not resemble the average woman. In fact, today’s models generally weight 23% less than the average woman. Considering the average person in the United States sees approximately 3,000 ads in magazines, billboards, and television every day, your teenager is getting the wrong message about body image much too often.

    In the article of “I Want to be Miss America” by Julia Alvarez it tells us about the experience she and her three sisters had as a young immigrants trying to fit in America. She stated “We complained about how short we were, about how are hair frizzed, how our figures didn’t curve like those of the bathing beauties we’d seen on TV” (93). Our teenage girls feel like they don’t fit in because they’re not perfect enough. Alvarez said “We would have to translate our looks into English, iron and tweeze then out, straighten them, mold them into Made-in-the-U.S.A. beauty” (93). The issue of media’s impact on teenagers has generated a lot of interest in the last decade. Despite contradictory findings, all researchers agree that teenage girls as a group are focused on their looks-especially on what they don’t like about themselves! Marketing departments and ad agencies spend millions each year targeting teenage girls who spend much of their hard-earned dollars (and their parents’ hard-earned dollars!) on looking good.

    Through different forms of the media the structure of body image is embedded into our conscious. On a daily basis women and young girls are subjected to advertisements that specifically target them because they are susceptible to purchase beauty products. Advertisers use any means necessary to attract consumers. The models used for advertisements and on television usually have ultra thin bodies. The photographs that are airbrushed for perfection leave the viewers thinking that the model on the picture is flawless looking. According to Dr. Dittrich Ph.D., sixty nine percent of female television characters are thin and only five percent are overweight. These images brainwash the consumers and leave them thinking that the use of the product will enhance their beauty or make them thinner. Magazine ads, commercials, billboards, television shows, and movies place too much emphasis on the physical appearance of a woman.

    In addition to TV characters, there are movies that present false beauty ideals. The movie, “She’s All That” is about a very popular high school student who makes a bet with a friend that he can turn any girl in to a prom queen and make her his date for the prom. His friend chooses a girl who is considered as an “outcast.” Eventually he is able to transform her into a beautiful girl, by just buying her new clothes and changing her hairstyle. Movies such as the one mentioned show how shallow society’s idea of a romantic movie has come to. “Shallow Hal” is also a movie in which women are not depicted realistically. Many teenage girls watch these movies and begin to wonder if they too should change the way they look to get the approval they so desire from society.

    The mass media are a powerful tool. Their influence in shaping American women’s sense of ourselves and our futures is more than significant. The media’s ability to convey mixed messages to women that fragment our identities makes it extremely difficult for us to become the unified selves of which Douglas writes. The schizophrenic methods that the media has adopted to portray the roles of women in our society has just that effect on us: we are each an unorganized mixture of different women who have learned that we are always being watched.

    Work Cited
    Alvarez, Julia. “I Want to Be Miss America.” Considering Cultural
    Difference. Ed Pauline vUchmcinowicz. New York. Pearson 2004. 91-96.
    Grabe, Shelly, Janet Hyde, and L. Monique Ward. “The Role of the Media in
    Body Image Concerns Among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental
    and Correlational Studies.” Psychological Bulletin 134.3 (2008): 460-476.

  7. Angela Nguyen

    This essay speaks for so many women in today’s brutal society. There’s a set standard, a bar that just seems to rise higher and higher, making this standard impossible to reach in any natural, healthy way. It saddens me how superficial people can be and how often this happens. The worst part was the fact that her mother pointed out her “negative” physical features, as though they were the only things that contributed to getting a man. My mom, quite frequently, does the same thing. Sometimes, it feels like they don’t understand how effective their words are. It’s one thing to have a random person say you’re not exactly the prettiest person, but to have the person how gave you birth tell you that there’s something wrong with you? That’s a completely different story.

    The thing is, a woman can be flat out, drop dead gorgeous with perfect features, but if she had an ugly personality then she’s good for nothing but a sexy picture. Hopefully one day, 100% of women will realize that there’s more to beauty than how much they weigh and whether or not they look good. Confidence is beauty, and if you lack confidence, you’re just falling back into society’s ditch.

  8. Magazines and print ads and things we women find online are extremely misleading and manipulating. They get us to think that we are not beautiful because we do not look like the women in these ads. I was recently watching a show with the Kardashian sisters. One of the sisters was feeling self-conscious of her weight and had to do a photo shoot. She was feeling fat and not attractive. She was feeling so down that after the shoot, she said she didn’t want to see the photos until after they were photoshopped. This goes to show how much pressure women are under, in the modeling business or not. I have also seen a Dove campaign that shows how they can basically transform a woman to looking like someone completely different. If interested in seeing the Dove time lapse video here is the link:

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