Starting at a very young age, society teaches girls that our bodies were never meant to be ours. We are taught to cover our stomachs, legs, chests, shoulders, etc., all for the sake of not “distracting” others. Our aspirations are supposed to be no more than to attract the attention of men, but never to look easy. We are told that our bodies are meant only to create and care for babies, but even breastfeeding has become sexualized.
We reach a certain age and become less of a resident in our own bodies and rather a playground for the decisions and opinions of others. We have yet to be told that our bodies were created for our own cherishment. For dancing, swimming, running, leading, loving, learning, teaching, and so much more. Instead, society has decided to sexualize and possess the bodies of women, make decisions on our behalf about how we are supposed to act, and make it extremely difficult to be respected as a woman in a society that is and has historically been run by men.
For my entire young adult life, I have been fairly confused on the issue of what society wants from me as a female. On one hand, music on the radio tells us to have “big, fat butts” and a plethora of other vulgar and sexual requests. But society also wants us to “respect ourselves” and “cover up”. I can honestly say that the things I’ve heard teenage and grown men say about their female colleagues is… less than respectable, to say the least. I’ve heard it in my workplace, walking down the streets of Austin, online, and in school. Sexual harassment doesn’t need to be direct to be wrong.
The issue here is not female sexuality. The issue is that our society doesn’t want us to be sexual for ourselves, but for them. Everyone wants to see what’s underneath, but when someone shows off their body for their own personal happiness, their acts are automatically labeled as slutty and attention seeking. Unfortunately, in our world, sex sells. However, we perpetuate this culture that doesn’t want to see women enjoying their own bodies, but instead showing it off for the pleasure of others.
Why can’t women appreciate the beauty of their own bodies without being slut-shamed? Because society thinks the expression of a woman’s body is good until it is no longer for their entertainment. The sexualization of women from all cultures and societies needs to stop. When comments are made about a woman’s body that indirectly brands her as property, we reverse hundreds of years of women’s suffrage and basic human rights that our parents, grandparents and ancestors fought for. Basic respect for what someone says and believes, regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality, is a human right.
So what can we do to stop this? I could sit here and tell you all of the statistics about sexual harassment and the wage gap, but is that really going to change anything? Maybe… maybe not. So, instead, I’m going to quote Mean Girls:
“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
I think that as women, we need to be the catalyst in this reaction of change. When we look at another woman and judge her sexual decisions and outfit choices, we are really letting each other down. Women need to build each other up, not pick each other apart for personal decisions. Beyond being a decent human being, don’t make it okay to judge someone for what they want to do with their body. What a woman does with her body is her choice. What anyone does with their body is their choice.
It is so sad to see that women are not respected for what their brains say, only for what their bodies portray. Don’t let music and media skew your perception of how you view women. Don’t take these stereotypes and stigmas and judge others for not fitting into that mold. Don’t make decisions about someone’s character based on their individual decisions.
With all of this being said, I don’t think the sexualization of women or men is healthy. If anything, it causes unrealistic expectations of what everyone is supposed to look like. But with high rates of sexual assault and harassment towards women, something really needs to be said to the people who think this isn’t a real issue. If reading about female sexuality and the sexualization of female bodies bothers you, I would take a look around at our world and start to question everything that is deemed acceptable by our society, and wonder whether the sexualizatin of women is what you are taught to understand, or what you actually believe.
Written by Rylee Matousek