Sexualizing the Female Body

source: unknown via Tumblr

I was a perverted little girl growing up…

Lately I’ve been pondering the idea of women being sexualized. I don’t discount the instances of men being objectified but that’s not what this post is about. And it’s not just men who do this–women sexualize, objectify & judge other women too when it comes to their bodies. I even sexualized my own body before I could remotely understand this concept. Growing up, I developed relatively young. I was obsessed with accentuating my boobs–wearing clothes that were too tight and low-cut. I cringe at this thought but this started when I was in the fifth grade (my tits came around age 10, by the result of being a fat kid in combination of a growth spurt). I was always complimented on this feature. Shit, I was even given the nickname “Jugs” at age 12. It’s crazy to think this was a rewarding feeling for me then. But that’s how humans are. Especially when we’re young and still figuring ourselves out. We seek external validation. “Oh they like this, so I’ll keep doing this.” I was conditioned to think my boobs are what made me attractive and beautiful. Mainstream media made sure to reinforce this idea. I look back at this time and wish I could tell my younger self: you don’t need this attention, you don’t want it.

Through the trials and tribulations of discovering myself & self-love, I stopped seeking this kind of approval from others. Ironically, I’m much smaller now than I was then, but my clothes are baggier and I’ll take a bralette over a pushup any day to keep the girls lowkey. This is more of a style preference but it really puts in perspective how much I was trying to overcompensate back then with clothes that were a size too small and my growing collection of padded & pushup bras.

As my perspective on my body changed, I began to resent men who always sexualized a woman and her body. I wanted to change societal views on the female body. I appreciated the free-the-nipple movement. The idea that overexposure to nudity would in turn de-sexualize our body, because it was more of a norm than anything. However, my perspective on this also changed because of the following notion.

Men are biologically hardwired to think S E X when they see an attractive woman.

It was my boyfriend who told me this uncomfortable truth: he naturally thinks about sex when he sees an attractive woman and that’s just how guys are. I surveyed a lot of my guy friends and they believe it to be true. It’s involuntary and that’s just how their minds work. In an article discussing The Triggers of Sexual Desire by Psychology Today, it discusses a study indicating that men (both gay & straight) are very sensitive to visual cues and “as soon as the lust-inspiring image registers in their brain, they become turned-on—not only physically but psychologically, too.” So if this is truly fact, it made me believe there was no point in normalizing nudity. Guys will always think about sex, no matter how exposed they are to a woman’s body.

But what about tribal societies?

This article proposes the idea that sexual triggers are developed more by nurture than nature. Reflecting on tribal cultures, it states that breasts are no big deal in these societies, as seen on National Geographic. Even in Europe, sex doesn’t sell as well as it does in Western culture. A study showed that by the mid-1980s, people were paying less attention to ads that plastered naked women on billboards. This correlated with the rise of topless beaches around this time. So is our breast-fetish learned or is it biologically based?

source: girlmango via Tumblr

How can women deal with this?

As a female constantly fighting my urge to tell every cat-caller or gawking creep to piss off, or wanting respect in an industry dominated by men, how can I feel free in my own body and expression knowing these alleged facts and point of views? My solution: I do what I want and I do it for myself. Back then, I was seeking approval from others. Now, whether I feel like dressing in loose fitted fits or showing some skin, I feel empowered by the fact it’s my choice. I feel empowered by my awareness of how others may perceive it, but being completely detached from their judgments. Most of all, I feel empowered by the fact that I have so much more to offer than just my anatomy. I strive to have substance behind my every move and expression–and as long as there’s that, I could give a fuck less about what any man or woman thinks about my body and what I choose to do with it.

My advice to women who struggle with this: Express yourself freely and know that you can do & be proud of both – having a beautiful mind & beautiful body.

Whether it’s your intellect or physical assets–showing off either doesn’t cancel out the existence of the other nor makes you a slut or a prude. If you preach self-love, know that goes for both your inner & outer being. If you find yourself feeling bad or looking down on other girls for what they do with their bodies, know they don’t need your pity & you’re better off saving your energy towards something more positive. As for guys: if you believe it to be out of your control to sexualize women, know you have control in being more mindful & respectful to a women’s sexuality and her choices. And to the creeps: at the very least, try not to stare.

What’s your take on all this sex talk? Do you think we as humans are wired to be sexually aroused by ass & tits or is that a socially constructed reality? From the male point of view, I really can’t say whether it’s biology or cultural influence. From my own experience as a heterosexual female, I’d say I sexualized myself because of my environment. I’m glad I grew out of that and can simply appreciate the female body as an art when tastefully expressed (otherwise it’s like porn but no judgment here).

sharing is caring, mmmk?

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