Objectification and the Lost Art of Women
(Words and Art by Amanda)
When my son was about five, we were in an outdoor pottery store, one of those places that is a maze with thousands of items, plants, fountains, statues, forgotten treasures. I came around the corner and found him entranced, staring at a figurine of a primitive fertility goddess. It being more abstract than literal, he cocked his head side-to-side trying to make sense of the short, squatty mass with enormous breasts. He was hooked.
Having tasted, so to speak, the forbidden fruit, I caught him a few days later with his hands up the skirt of a mannequin, doing some investigative work. When I called out his name, completely mortified, he pulled his hands out, glued them to his side and gave me a look that said, “I know that was bad. But it was totally worth it!”
Women were a mystery he had to figure out.
The female body has been viewed as a work of art for thousands of years. Take a walk through an art museum and there are nudes everywhere; muses of the artists, mistresses, wives, models, figments of men’s imaginations. I can’t blame them, as a straight female, I find the female body glorious — it’s mesmerizing.
At some point, the awe evoked by the female form was twisted, perverted, and capitalized upon as a one-stop pleasure mill. She was no longer a mystery, but an excavated tourist attraction with cheap trinkets, void of substance, defaced of history and significance. Granted, prostitution is the oldest industry, but that’s sex, not visual allure.
With ever-present access to digitalized naked women, women in the flesh are becoming obsolete. To quote Bono in his effigy to porn, “It’s even better than the real thing.” It’s better, because it’s fantasy, with no strings attached.
Years ago when porn was made available on the internet, feminists feared that the rate of sexual assaults would skyrocket; men wouldn’t be able to control themselves. Not so. In the article “The Porn Myth” by Naomi Wolf, she elaborates:
But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “pornworthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.
Just as the questions arise in regards to human violations and torture, “Who is hurt more by the violence? The abuser or the abused?” the present pornified world could ask the same — “Who is hurt more? Men or women?” In my opinion, the damage runs deep on both sides.
Wolf goes on:
For two decades, I have watched young women experience the continual “mission creep” of how pornography—and now Internet pornography—has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value. When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman. There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up. Your boyfriend may have seen Playboy, but hey, you could move, you were warm, you were real. Thirty years ago, simple lovemaking was considered erotic in the pornography that entered mainstream consciousness: When Behind the Green Door first opened, clumsy, earnest, missionary-position intercourse was still considered to be a huge turn-on.
When I finally went back to college to finish my degree I was in my mid-30’s, so instead of being asked to frat parties, I was the surrogate “mother” to a few of the young girls in my classes. I remember one girl told me about a boy she had gotten to know. They had been friends for months, he was always ladening her with compliments, and eventually pursued her sexually. She made it clear she wasn’t interested, but he was persistent. After making it clear multiple times, he finally asked her, “Well, if you won’t sleep with me, will you take some pornographic pictures of yourself so I can look at you while I pleasure myself?” She told me she died inside.
This girl had felt valued by someone she trusted and when it was all stripped away, she really wasn’t what he had wanted; he was just after pleasure — pleasure of any kind. Everything about her that held organic value was stripped away, until the least important aspect of her was exalted and exploited, like a tree losing its last leaf.
Can we de-porn the world? Probably not. Is there a way to revive the female for who she is outside the bed? I don’t know. I do know that trends are cyclical and there is a current move towards the real, the corporeal; people are trading out their MP3s for vinyl, for the real tangible item, opposed to its virtual counterpart.
I’ve seen it in religion, where children of Evangelicals are converting in droves to more traditional or liturgical churches, with candles, incense, prayers; something alive with history and void of sterility. People are turning from fast food and packaged frozen dinners to whole foods where the ingredients are pronounceable. There is a return to the organic. To the real. To the touch and feel and smell of the what is genuine.
Perhaps, once men have exhausted themselves, gorging upon the drive-thru woman, they will hunger for the real. Until then, I hope women will not be deceived regarding their intrinsic value, their humanity inside their curves, digitalized or real. Maybe a time will come again when women in the flesh, hold a mystery to be found, where the awe my son had on his face will continue with him throughout life. The absolute awe that God would create something so beautiful to be enjoyed by both man and woman and not to be exploited.