While taking my sociology class our teacher had the class read some feminist articles in our textbook and write about them. At first I was not thrilled with reading feminist articles because, well, generally I tend to disagree with modern feminists to be perfectly honest. However, I came across an article called, “Get a Life Girls,” written by feminist Ariel Levy. As I read her article I couldn’t help but find myself agreeing with almost every thing she wrote about. The article was about the sexual objectification of the woman’s body in our culture today, known as Raunch Culture. Now I know what you’re thinking, this is just another pro-Christian conservative message from Matt…great. But this is an issue that transcends my personal views as it is shared among feminists (most of which are liberal) and is even recognized by our federal government as a social concern. So hear me out.
Levy writes about the evolution of our culture into a “Raunch Culture.” Originally women who expressed their sexuality were liberating themselves from our oppressive past, has now become over-sexualized in the present. In the 60’s and 70’s America saw a transformation of women’s roles in our society. Women began to enter the workforce and liberate themselves sexually. Do bras being burned ring any bells? Now when I discuss “sexual,” don’t necessarily think immediately of sexual intercourse, think more along the lines of sexual roles and status between male and female. This sexual revolution in terms of roles and status, I believe we can mostly agree was a good thing! But this sexual revolution has evolved into something today that focuses more on the bodily intercourse part of sexuality, which in turn effects the roles and status of male and female in our social system.
There was a time when sexual promiscuity and exposure was a pleasure of secret. Something that would damage careers and reputations, not make them. As Levy writes, “…strippers, porn stars, and Playboy Bunnies have gone mainstream, writing best sellers, starring on TV shows, living a life we’re all encouraged to emulate.” Look at adds anywhere you go and you’ll notice that the motto “sex sells,” is truer than ever. Our ads convey the same message subliminally over and over again for women: Attractive and sexiness is what matters the most and you’re not anybody unless you look like this. For men, the message is: attractiveness and sex is what you need to look for in a woman. If you have an attractive woman, you’re a man.
The evolution of Raunch Culture is not a progressive movement but a commercial movement. As said before; sex sells, it’s good business. Raunch culture is not women freely expressing themselves, but instead women attempting to validate themselves by conforming to the commercialized sexual atmosphere in our culture that pushes sex. It’s not sexual liberation, but instead sexual distortion. For example, women might think that promiscuous sexual activity, wearing revealing clothing, and other adoptions to raunch culture are empowering to women… but as you read on, you’ll see that this empowering is a distortion as well. A distortion that causes more harm than good in the lives of women.
As Levy writes, “If we were to acknowledge that sexuality is personal and unique, it would become unwieldy. Making sexiness into something simple and quantifiable makes it easier to explain and to market. If you remove the human factor from sex and make it about stuff- big fake boobs, bleached blonde hair, long nails, poles and things- then you can sell it. Suddenly, sex requires shopping; you need plastic surgery, peroxide, a manicure, a mall.”
So we are instead viewing sex as consumption, instead of its deeper purpose of connection.
So what’s the big deal? Why is this an issue? People can do whatever they want. This is America! But this is a major issue, one that the United States Government itself recognizes as a social concern. Why? Because media is what molds our young people today and has been doing so for the last 30 years at least. An over-sexualized media equals an over-sexualized generation where women are taught from a young age that their body is a sexual object. Therefore the only way to fit into social norms is by conforming into Raunch Culture. This in turn leads to incredibly low self-esteem in women.
I look fat, my breasts are too small, and my butt is not firm enough, my nose is too big… And our culture sends out this false promise that if you’re thin, have big breasts, a firm butt, a cute little nose, and dress this way and look like this, people will like you, you will be validated, and you will be happy. If people like you, you will have something to like about yourself. How utterly depressing and shallow. Because ultimately these things will never satisfy nor improve your self-esteem, but instead further be-little it.
Social analyst Kacey D. Greening wrote a study about the repercussions of media outlets pushing sex and body image, which she found often lead to depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders within women of all ages. A 2007 report from the American Psychology Association concluded that advertising and other media sources that focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to the physical and emotional health of women in general. A study in 2004 found that women with self-objectification turn to self-surveillance, which leads to body shame, depressed moods, and eating disorders. Another study in 1998 found that women with self-objectification developed shame in how they looked which in turn lead to various eating disorders, which in turn lead to more shame and ended up being a catch-22. Another study in 1997 found that women who are blind from birth have exceptionally less dissatisfaction with themselves, eating disorders, appearance anxiety and instead a higher self esteem, than woman who were not blind or blinded later on in life. A 1995 study observed centerfold syndrome, which constitutes behavior of voyeurism, objectification, trophyism, the need for validation, and the fear of true intimacy. The causes of these behaviors was analyzed, and between biological causes, instinct causes, and socio-cultural causes. Their conclusion; socio-cultural causes was deemed the most plausible cause for centerfold syndrome.
Greening concludes the following about sexual objectification of the woman’s body.
“Undoubtedly, the sexualized portrayal of women in the media has significantly negative outcomes. These negative outcomes are not only affecting adult women but also young girls. Females are buying cosmetics and beauty products at increasingly younger ages. Recently, researchers have begun exploring self-surveillance, body shame, and disordered eating tendencies in preadolescent females and found that girls as young as seven are showing signs of disordered eating and self-surveillance. The media affects some women in subtle ways (unconsciously), and other women are affected in a more direct way (consciously). The problematic representations of women in the media deserve our immediate attention, consideration, and research.”
There is also another ramification to objectification of the woman’s body which some consider self-mutilation. Think about the standard media pushes as to what a “sexy” woman should look like. Super thin and with big female attributes. Something you either have genetically or you don’t. Most women can’t naturally achieve a thin body and big breasts at the same time. So what is the alternative? Plastic surgery… expensive plastic surgery. Again, we go back to consumption. Don’t like your nose? Solution: plastic surgery. Don’t like your belly? Solution: plastic surgery. Don’t like your double chin or sagging cheeks? Solution: plastic surgery. Have you ever heard of labiaplasty? It is a surgical procedure to “correct” how your vagina looks, to make it more presentable. How obsessed do we have to be with our bodily image to need our genitalia altered to be more presentable? Isn’t that something only your significant other should be seeing? And if they care that much about how your genitalia looks, perhaps they shouldn’t be your significant other! Our culture creates an industry that thrives off a woman’s dissatisfaction with her own body. As a woman, if you can’t obtain a thin body and big breast, if your skin sags with age, if you find imperfections with your body… new flash! You’re human. Your body is supposed to be like that. Don’t allow our culture to tell you how you’re supposed to look. As long as you’re healthy, you already are how you’re supposed to look. Self-esteem in yourself is the key to recognizing that.
When you think of female role models, who do you think of? Do you think of the Real Housewives,America’s Next Top Model, the Real World, the Bachelor, the Girls Next Door,JerseyShores, and the Hills? Because these are the shows that studies show influence young women and girls the most! Shows were the women themselves have no self-esteem, make poor moral decisions, back stab each other, whine, express constant insecurity, obsess about how they look, and mostly, call each other a “bitch,” every 30 seconds. Are these the stereotypes we want to reinforce in children and young women? Because studies show these shows are a heavy influence today. And on a side note, for you people that view these shows that claim that you watch for entertainment purposes, you know better yourself, you know it’s horrible, but who is it really harming to watch it… well guess what? You watching the show adds to the show’s net ratings. In other words, you help keep the show on the air by watching it. Don’t think I’m tooting my own horn, I admit I’ve been guilty myself plenty of times for watching these shows. But I’m beginning to understand the ramifications and am personally deciding to never watch these shows again because their prevalence on air influences the young population.
We also should not overlook the detrimental effects this culture has on women when it comes to engaging in sex. Women with this objectified low self-esteem often look at sex as a form of validation, and thus engage in sexual activity at very young ages and/or irresponsibly. There is no question that engaging in sex at a very young age and/or engaging in sex irresponsibly has serious mental and physical repercussions on the lives of children and young people. “The preponderance of evidence suggests a cause for concern in these sexualized images and the mental health outcomes for girls,” Tomi-Ann Roberts, psychology professor at ColoradoCollegein Colorado Springs.
Parents are a big player in this social issue too. As a parent you may not allow your child to watch these shows or not buy into the raunch culture, but you as their parent may have already bought into it yourself with out even knowing it! Parents often complain about their own body in front of their kids, jump from one dieting gimmick to the next, or show over concern about their child’s appearance. Children pick up many behaviors from their parents. So in essence children learn that how they look is a major concern for their parents and therefore their self-worth is placed into how they appear on the outside. This carries over as they go through puberty and become an adult, and now have low self-esteem and social anxiety about how they appear. As one girl answered in a study, “Dieting means not eating.” Is it any wonder why anorexia and bulimia is prevalent in our culture?
This issue also extends to insecurities among men. Men searching to find their masculinity believe it is achieved and validated in viewing and treating women in this way. Raunch Culture creates a false sense of what it is to be a man, in that being a man mostly involves sexual activity with women. As John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart,
“Certainly there is the fact that a man is visually wired, that pictures and images arouse men much more than they do women. But the deeper reason is because that seductive beauty reaches down inside and touches your desperate hunger for validation as a man you didn’t even know you had… If he can feel like the hero sexually, well, then mister, he’s the hero. Pornography is so seductive because what is a wounded, famished man to think when there are literally hundreds of beauties willing to give themselves to him? (Of course, it’s just not to him, but when he’s alone with the photos, it feels like it’s just for him.) It’s unbelievable- how many movies center around this lie? Get the beauty, win her, bed her, and you are the man. You’re James Bond. You’re a stud.”
Ok, so it’s been concluded that raunch culture and the sexual objectification of the woman’s body is bad. So how do we fix this problem? Well unlike many activists who say, BAN IT!!! CENSOR IT!!! I disagree. This is a free country. This is a social issue, and therefore everyone in society is responsible. As Greening concludes, “It is important to note that advertisements are not the cause of the problems, per se, but they contribute to them by fostering an environment in which the selling of women’s bodies is seen as acceptable.” Instead of being reactive about this issue, we must be proactive instead. Sex only sells because it is bought. If something is not bought, it does not sell. The media sells sex because it sells. So if it stops selling, the media will move onto to other methods because in the end it’s all about turning a profit. Media has recently focused intensely on humor in ads because humor has been very effective in selling. Humor has been selling well, so it is being more frequently used. We need to understand that we as the consumer drive the advertising market. If we don’t buy into sex, the media will focus on various other ways to push products, like humor.
To end this social concern is simple: It starts with you. Don’t buy into it anymore. If you’re a woman you need to recognize that what is on the inside matters a hell of a lot more than what is on the outside. Don’t let what’s on TV, in music, or online determine who you are and how you express yourself. As Levy concludes, “get a life girls!” Recognize your worth, the value you have which is there regardless of how anyone else thinks about you. If women have a strong self-esteem and value themselves they will be less likely to buy into the Raunch Culture.
For you men: Stop buying into it! Stop viewing women as sexual objects and don’t let media outlets influence you into thinking women are sexual objects. Disassociate “sex” with how culture portrays it to be, and stop expecting women to fulfill the sexual role that raunch culture creates an expectation for. You need to instill and encourage self-esteem in the women in your lives. Show them they are worth more than just how they look on outside. Women are to be respected as individuals and recognized for their character. And for yourself, understand that being a man is more than just sexual activity. Stop looking at women to validate your need to feel masculine, because you’ll never find it there.
For you parents: Make sure you always present to your child that you yourself are confident in your own appearances as well as their’s. Encourage healthy diet and exercise based off health reasons instead of image reasons. Compliment your child on personal accomplishments, moral integrity, talents, or personal values to show them that character is what counts. Lastly, reduce the amount of time your child is exposed to media outlets that push the objectification of the woman’s body.
Now with that said, would it really be one of my articles if I didn’t bring a biblical perspective? Christians should take note of the following verses regarding this issue.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)- “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Peter 3:3 (NIV)- “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment”
Proverbs 31:29-31 (NLT)- 29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Here we see that what is most important is not outward appearance but what lies on the inside; character and integrity. These are the things most important to God.
Titus 2:7 (NLT)- “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.
Epehsians 4:29 (NLT)- “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
As I said, everyone in society is the cause of this social concern and so it is therefore our job individually to turn the tide. These verses show that is our actions towards these issues are important. I think this is our opportunity to instill self-esteem in each other.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)- “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Lastly we see in these versus that we should not buy in to the world’s culture regarding sexual objectification of women.
 Ariel Levy, “Get A Life Girls,” Pg. 338.
 Ariel Levy, “Get A Life Girls,” Pg. 339
 Tiggeman, M., & Kuring, J. “The Role of Objectification in Disordered Eating and Depressed Mood.” British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 2004, Pg. 299-311.
 Fredrickson, B., Noll, S., Roberts, T., Twenge, J., & Quinn, D. “That Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-Objectification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1998. Pg. 269-284.
 Baker, D., Sivyer, R., & Towell, T. “Body Image Dissatisfaction and Eating Attitudes in Visually Impaired Women.”London: Division of Psychology, University of West Minister. 1997
 Brooks, G. (1995). The Centerfold Syndrome: How Men Can Overcome Objectification and Achieve Intimacy With Women.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
 James Eldredge, “Wild at Heart,” (Thomas Nelson Inc:Nashville,TN 2001) Pg. 91-92.