R.S.C. wrote: “I’d be interested to hear your opinion on whether some degree of exploitation of a woman’s physical attractiveness hurts the entire women’s ‘movement.’ Specifically, I’m thinking of edgier examples such as wet T-shirt contests, oil or whipped cream wrestling in bikinis, etc. If a woman has done that and enjoyed the rush and attention, is that a bad thing, or as long as it’s not hurting anyone and causing regrets, is that just harmless fun? Thanks for your perspective!”
Liz says: Let’s go over the definition of objectification first. Click here and here to read a couple of definitions. You’ll notice something important: it is an act done to someone else, the responsibility of objectification falls on the agent who is perceiving it.
This is important because most often when society is discussing objectification (usually sexual objectification of women) it tends to put the onus on women to control how others perceive them. People tend to blame the victim.
In other words, we should be asking why people have a difficult time accepting women can be sexual beings and also intelligent, educated, compassionate, law-abiding, mature, well-rounded human beings? What’s wrong with someone who sees a woman dressed provocatively and then treats her with less respect as a result? What’s wrong with the women who call themselves feminists but shame and objectify sexier women (ironically claiming the sexy woman is “objectifying herself”)? What’s wrong with someone who judges a woman who poses in Playboy, unable to see it as just one aspect of her life and personality? What’s wrong with the men who buy those Playboy magazines but judge the women they’re ogling? Why do some people assume those who watch straight pornography will only see women as objects to have sex with in real life (and what’s wrong with the men who do only see women that way)?
Even some feminist academics fail by not steering the conversation toward how to evolve attitudes on female sexuality. Instead, they waste time blaming pornography, the advertising industry, the fashion industry, sex workers, and celebrities for domestic violence and rape. It’s so backwards, to blame the victims and not put the onus where it belongs: on those that don’t want to accept female sexuality as just one aspect of our lives and identities, on those that want to use and abuse women. Women owning their sexuality and posing nude, or wearing sexy fashion, or having sex with whomever they choose, doesn’t contribute to the violence done to us. If that were true, elderly women, obese women, and women wearing burqas would never be raped or beaten by their mates. And we all know that they are. These “feminists” should know this, because they’re taught that rape isn’t about lust, it’s about asserting power over someone, it’s about anger, it’s about ego.
Click here to read about a study published in The Journal of Sex Research that showed men and women who watch pornography are more likely to hold egalitarian views (are less sexist).
The people screaming the loudest about the “sexual objectification of women” are guilty themselves of sexually objectifying women, and all that screaming has gone too far. Men can’t even respectfully compliment a woman on her looks anymore without being attacked by these people. As a recent example, remember when Steve Martin wrote a sweet tweet about Carrie Fisher after her death and he was bullied to the point of finally removing his tweet? How utterly repulsive and irrational.
You’re right, RSC, that as long as the woman participating in the whipped cream bikini wrestling contest isn’t hurting anyone, why should it matter and why should we judge her? I suspect, unfortunately, that many of the feminists who would condemn her are responding from a place of insecurity and envy. They’re using activism as an excuse for their catty behavior. Psychological studies show humans have a tendency to have an emotional response to something and then come up with justifications for their feelings and resulting actions, instead of examining their emotions and maybe changing them if they realize they’re over-reacting or their feelings are irrational.
And there’s a huge difference between using your good looks to get ahead (whether it’s to sell your brand or jump start your acting career) and “sexually objectifying yourself”, yet people mistake the former for the latter. The only people I can think of that actually sexually objectify themselves are prostitutes; they’re selling a product to be used that happens to be their bodies.
The world would be a better place if people evolved and stopped feeling threatened by women’s bodies and put higher expectations on men’s attitudes and responsibility for their behavior.