Last week, I wrote a piece on the objectification of women. My audience was primarily men, of which I am one, who need to do a much more intentional job of not just holding themselves accountable, but holding our peers accountable to a standard of not sexualizing women at every turn.
Today, it’s the ladies’ turn.
You’re not going to like what I’m about to write, but you must embrace this fact: It takes two to tango. Yes, you also are part of the problem.
Nick Lembo of Shared Hope International made a comment last week during Corban University’s symposium on sex trafficking that stuck with me. He used the term “Over Sexualization” of our society. I think that well describes our entertainment, our media, our advertising, and really just about everything today. Our society seems obsessed with the sexualization of everything.
But let me ask you this question: Is it the over sexualization of men or the over sexualization of women? You know the answer.
A reasonable argument could be made that it’s a supply and demand issue. If there were no demand, there would be no supply. In other words, if men didn’t sexualize women, there would be no issue. That is sound economics, but it also is what we call “normative” thinking. Normative thinking is believing in how things should be not in how things are. If there were no demand for drugs, we wouldn’t have a drug problem. True, but completely unrealistic. In a fallen world, unfortunately there will always be a demand for sinful things, including the sexualization of women.
So, is the problem just the demand side? Many women would argue yes. Men are pigs and are the problem. Women should be able to do, wear, and act any way they want without sexual responses from men. It’s a nice normative idea, but again, totally unrealistic. Men – for the most part – are not pigs, perverts, or social deviants. Men are men, built differently than women. Men are visual while women are emotional. Saying a man should not be sexually stimulated by a scantily clad woman is like a man saying a woman should not be emotionally affected by gossip, criticism or a sappy movie. Neither are going to happen because we’re just built that way.
So, let’s look at the supply side of the issue. And again, I’m talking about objectifying women sexually, not crimes, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, sex trafficking and the rest. Please don’t confuse the two. Nothing I’m about to say in any way justifies crimes against women. PERIOD. What I’m talking about is reducing the objectification of women as sex objects, which can lead criminals to commit these acts, but if we’re honest, doesn’t lead the vast majority of men to commit these acts.
Let me start by asking you to try this: Open several tabs in your browser and go look at several media outlets. I don’t care which ones, but be diversified in your search. Then count how many stories, pictures, or advertisements in some way focus on a women’s body. It doesn’t have to be overtly sexual, but just uses that body in some way to drive the point. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Every morning, I read a number of online newspapers and sports pages. They include The Oregonian, The Statesman Journal, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, the Washington Post, The Washington Times, Fox News, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Yahoo News and more. And of course, I see my Facebook feed and various emails. Let me share some of today’s news!
- “Irska Lawrenec promotes body confidence with inspiring message and unretouched photos” Picture of her in bikini NY Daily News
- “Women let photographer capture their orgasm face” NY Post
- “Jackson’s revealing pics” Fox News with pics of topless Paris Jackson showing off chest tattoos
- “Danielle Darrieux, luminous beauty of French cinema, dies at 100” Washington Post (Why not just call her a French actress instead of luminous beauty?)
- Sports Illustrated has a section called “Extra Mustard” which has its Lovely Lady of the Day – pics of various models in various bikinis and undress. They also have their SI Swim section for their swimwear models who often wear even less.
- ESPN covers sports, which I like. But not to be outdone by SI’s swim issue, ESPN several years ago came up with The Body Issue – naked athletes posing in the buff.
- “Lady Gaga has been hanging out in Southeast Portland” The Oregonian – story is fine, but picture is of Lady Gaga wearing – I don’t really know what – a studded bikini bra and panties with fish net stockings….
- Photo Gallery! 15 Best Cheerleading Squads in the NFL – Washington Times
You see where I’m going with this. Even in our mainstream news we cannot avoid the supply of oversexualization of women.
So as a man who albeit sees things very differently than women, I have a question for you: Why do you do it? Why do you allow yourselves to be used in such sexualized ways? Let me share what I’m talking about:
- Why do women consent to doing nude scenes in movies?
- Why do women consent to doing nude modeling shoots?
- Why do women consent to modeling barely-there clothing in very provocative modeling poses?
- Why do women consent to topless photos using the so-called “Hand Bra?”
- Why do women consent to doing advertising that flaunts their body?
- Why do women consent to wearing push up bras or other clothing that accentuates their cleavage? What exactly are they trying to do with this look? Feel better about themselves or bait men?
- Why do women consent to wearing skin-tight clothing? Again, what is your point? Body positive for yourself or dressing so others pay attention to you in order to meet some emotional need?
- Why do women wear see-through clothing, making under garments outer garments or worse?
- Why do women support things such as Free the Nipple, Naked Bike Rides, and other causes that actually objectify them?
- Why don’t women understand that they are objectifying themselves by their actions just as much as men are objectifying them by looking at them?
The answer I get from most my women friends is they don’t do any of this stuff and it’s all the man’s fault for thinking this way. Sorry ladies, that just doesn’t wash. You absolutely know what you’re doing and while your motive may not be to sexualize yourself, the result of your actions and decisions is that you are sexualizing yourselves.
So, imagine with me my ideal normative world as a man:
- Movies no longer have nudity or sex scenes, which honestly add nothing to the story.
- Models no longer have to go braless or naked to sell the next fashion line.
- Bikini Models really serve no purpose whatsoever, so stop it.
- Sports don’t need cheerleaders to be entertaining, so stop it.
- Advertising sells the product not sexual innuendo – I’m talking to you Carl’s Jr. among others.
- Women can dress modestly and still be attractive – you don’t have to show skin to be considered beautiful.
- Women help other women from being exploited for pornography, including strip clubs (this is a more difficult one because there are both willing and unwilling participants)
- Women understand their role in the over sexualization of our society and play their part in reversing the trend.
Yes, I know it’s a pipe dream. We can’t change Hollywood, which always has been a mecca for lewdness. We can’t change the fashion or modeling industries because honestly, there’s just too much money involved. We can’t change advertising because again honestly, sex sells and there’s too much money involved. The porn industry will continue to thrive primarily due to illegal trafficking because, again, there’s too much money involved. And alas, I’m afraid women will continue to hide from the fact that they are part of the problem and that they have a lot more power over this issue than they are willing to admit or wield.
However, because I am being bold by even writing this blog, let me give my women friends some advice as lovingly and gently as I can.
You have the power to make significant change in our culture by what you accept as socially acceptable. In fact, I would argue that you COMPLETELY CONTROL what is socially acceptable when it comes to your own sexualization. I’d urge you to stand up and shout from the top of your lungs not just “Me Too” which I whole-heartedly support, but also “Enough is Enough!”
As a culture we must reject this idea that it’s okay to sexualize a woman’s body – women and men together must reject this! Women, tell other women it’s not okay to be used that way in movies, advertising, modeling, or any other part of society for any purpose. Don’t just go along to get along –Raise your voice and reject the cultural norms which honestly disrespect you and simply use you as a slab of meat.
Men, if you’re reading this, go back and re-read what I wrote to you about objectifying women and double down on your own effort.
The only way we make progress in this area is if we work together – men and women – in our homes, our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our communities. It starts with you individually and will spread as you convince those in your social circles to join you in these efforts.
Women, it’s not just a man’s issue or problem. We must have you as a partner doing your part if you really want change. Are you in?