In this Ted Talk, Caroline Heldman explains in detail the state of our culture and how it pertains to the objectification of women. The part of it that I find most poignant is the idea of, in sexual encounters, the men being the subjects and the women being the objects.
Men are taught what they’re supposed to enjoy in sex. They’re taught to be the powerful ones, the ones in the driver’s seat. Women are taught to be the object that gives the men pleasure. We are taught to enjoy being the object of desire. And if we are giving a man pleasure, we are sexual or sexy.
To fully comprehend the effect this has on women and how we view ourselves, you should really watch Ms. Heldman explain it. But, if you’re a woman, I’m sure you already understand much of how it makes us feel.
I see a lot of things on the Internet, giving advice on how to not be the object. All of that is great. It goes along the lines of, don’t let men control you, don’t do things with which you’re truly uncomfortable, don’t feel bad about your body.
Essentially, don’t view yourself as an object.
All this advice always leaves me still feeling confused. Great, I know what not to do, but what do I do? I know what I shouldn’t find sexually appealing (being objectified), but what should I find appealing?
If men are given all of these examples in the media of what they should find sexy, of course they’re going to learn to pursue that. But, we’re not taught what to pursue. We don’t know what to pursue. How can we become the subject of our own sexual lives, if we have no idea what to do, only what not to do?
So, I’m going to do my best with this one, as I’m a product of this culture as well, and probably as confused as the next woman. But, here’s my list of what to do to make yourself the subject and not the object.
- Reaffirm that you are a sexual being.
You’re not just sexy. Maybe your body looks fantastic, but that’s not all. You’re sexual. You have sexual desires, even if you don’t consciously think about them often.
- When something is sexy or appealing to you, take note of it.
Allow yourself to feel that attraction.
- Hookup with whoever you damn well please.
Do it without making excuses. Be smart about this one. Wear protection and be conscious of the possible risks. But, make your own choices and feel good about making them.
- Pursue someone you’re attracted to.
Compliment them, say you like them, make the first move. If you’re lazy and passive, you’re going to be viewed as passive and an object.
- Tell people to back off if their advances aren’t welcome.
Walking away and hoping he gets the hint isn’t sufficient. Be clear with what you want or don’t want. Voice your feelings. Don’t let there be any “blurred lines” of consent.
- Talk openly about sex.
It’s not shameful or gross or whatever else people think. If they’re going to use us as sex objects to sell shit, you bet your bottom dollar we’re going to start talking about sex, or else we’re just voiceless, walking advertisements.
- Realize that choosing to degrade yourself is still degrading, even if you choose it.
You can choose to make yourself into an object, but you’re still an object, and to the subject that choice doesn’t matter. Choose to be the subject, if not for yourself, for all the other women who’s choice was taken from them.
- Focus on what you can do to make yourself happy.
Don’t think about what men can do to make you happy. You can’t control another person, only yourself and it’s up to you to make yourself happy.
There you go, eight things that you can try. I’m trying to implement them into my own life. Change happens on smaller scales and then translates to society. You can’t directly change the way our society’s been for so long, but you can work to not listen to it. You can make yourself happy by breaking free from these rules. You don’t have to be the object, if you take things into your own hands.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/modashell/3234497068/”>mod as hell</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>