Sexual Objectification and Me
I cut my jeans into skimpy shorts, befriended the weed-smoking troublemakers in detention, and ditched the classes I once cared about.
That’s how I rebelled in frustration over a learning disability that I eventually overcame.
In the meantime, my self-esteem came from self-objectification: Reducing myself to my body while neglecting the rest of me.
Clad in risqué fashions I felt confident and proud. I began to admire and like the person I saw in the mirror. I was no longer invisible Annie. I was the daring, confident, sexy tour de force of my high school.
I wanted to feel beautiful, and had not yet discovered the insidious consequences of objectification that reduces women (usually) to sex and cares nothing about our thoughts or feelings.
Others objectified me. But they could slut-shame all they wanted, I didn’t care.
I eventually overcame my learning disability — along with my one-dimensional self-objectification — and joined my body to my brain.
Still, others objectified me.
My thoughts and feelings didn’t matter
After high school I headed to Mount Holyoke, an Ivy League women’s college.
I was elated and thrilled to join the community of quirky, overthinking feminists dedicated to lifting each other up. I felt liberated, excited and open to any opportunity that presented itself — sexual or not.
At a Halloween party that first semester I connected with an attractive Amherst boy who wanted to hook up. I was new to sexuality and uncomfortable with it, so I shut him down. But a friend encouraged me: “He’s cute! You should have a little fun, let loose. It won’t hurt. Just keep me on speed dial in case you feel unsafe.” So I decided to go for it and reconnected with him moments later.
That night I experimented with sexual equality, without hesitating to assert myself or speak up when uncomfortable. The next morning I felt fulfilled and satisfied.
But everything changed when I met his roommates. They high-fived him, and cheered him on. But they catcalled me as I exited. When I checked my phone I found a series of texts like this: “Hey sexy China doll whore, call me for a good time!”
Just moments after feeling empowered and fulfilled I felt horrified, vulnerable and scared.
Reclaiming my sexuality
Since that Amherst experience I have learned to unapologetically embrace my sexuality and demand respect, even when people are reluctant to give it.
I’ve reclaimed the word “slut” and kindly ask people to not degrade me with it. If they do, I gracefully break contact with a smile and hold my head high.
Sluts are merely women pushing patriarchal boundaries, which is necessary for change.
This was written by one of my students who gave me permission to post the piece with a pen name.