Her Campus: Why sexual freedom matters
Over a year ago, I wrote an article about sexual objectification in the media. I reread the article recently, and wow, was I surprised how my views have changed since then. I still believe that many men and women are overly sexualised in movies, videos, songs and magazines. However, I learned that sexuality has its place in the media. We all know that no James Bond movie would work, if the sexually attractive, beautiful and intriguing woman would be absent. It is also great how Austin Powers movies play with these images and tropes, no matter how ridiculous and exaggerated they are.
There are people who argue that sexuality is omnipresent, we see it everywhere and constantly. I don’t agree. It depends how much media you consume and what you consume. You don’t have to turn into a hermit, to take control of your exposure to these sexualized images. What worries me, however, is the one-sided view of sexuality we see in the movies. I stopped watching Pedro Almodovar’s movies after I realized that each movie contains a rape scene. There are still scenes where I have to close my eyes because it is too painful to watch. Which is why it’s strange that I enjoyed watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Does that mean that I show an interest in BDSM? Not necessarily. I think I liked the movie because I found the relationship between Anastasia and Mister Grey interesting. It’s not a very healthy relationship, but I think every couple can somewhat relate to the co-dependent relationship displayed in the movie. Some movies would be too sterile if there would be no sexual scene. Yet, we all know that in other cultures a kiss is already considered too sexual in a movie. Bollywood movies are a great example.
It is also no secret that a man or a woman who likes his/her body, looks after himself/herself and shows self-confidence has a greater sex appeal than a person who compares their body to others constantly. You can even be sexually attractive if you’re wearing something that does not reveal too much. After all, especially on a date, your clothing should leave some room for imagination. Sometimes, we as women have a body part that in a way is very striking and difficult to cover up with a fashionable item. I have a relative who always complains about her bottom, other girls find their eyes too small and overload it with so much make-up it becomes difficult to look straight into their eyes because you’re blinded by the huge amount of mascara and eyeshadow. Less is more. It’s not a rule, but a truth, and it applies perfectly to make-up. For instance, often people are surprised that I wear make-up. I started wearing make-up regularly when I was eighteen. Kajal was by then my item I used to feel beautiful in the morning and get ready for school. After a while, I discovered eye shadow and lipstick. Although, I had phases in the past five years, when I wasn’t wearing make-up for a long time. Even my psychologist recommended wearing make-up to be more socially available. I put some make-up on when I visited her the next time, but I didn’t follow her advice in real life. I started wearing make-up again when I was feeling better.
When I was eleven, I looked at myself in the mirror in my parents’ bedroom (because they have a larger one than I do) and I observed that my body has changed. My legs didn’t look straight anymore because my body was slowly starting to have a silhouette.
I am lucky that I have an hourglass figure, because, and I confess, I’m in love with Botticelli’s Venus. I had an arts teacher who said something very interesting during a history of art lesson: This woman on a painting embodies at least one trait of every girl in this classroom. How empowering and inspiring is that? We were all seventeen or eighteen, had a body part we didn’t like, had to heal from a broken heart and spent most of the time analysing old, defunct texts of deceased men in the classroom.
A woman’s sexuality is beautiful, and we should embrace our feminine parts, because that’s what makes us sensual, maybe even has the power to drive the men and women in the room crazy. This might even explain why so many men simply fail at flirting. There is something intriguing about a woman’s sexuality, yet, it still remains a mystery. How should I tell her that I like her without looking like a fool? Now, we know that many men have made fools of themselves, occasionally even ending up taking the self-worth away from a woman.
What becomes dangerous is how sexuality is represented. and I think it’s a difficult task in the entertainment industry. Beauty is so often linked to sexual desire, that in the minds of viewers it becomes inseparable. What I miss probably in the movies are signs of affection, love and how vulnerable people can be when they are lying naked in the bed are about to make love to each other. That is the reason why I love old romanitc comedies no matter how cheesy some scenes are because they make me smile and think: Yes, this is how love should be.
I confess that I’ve never watched a porn movie in my life. It was already enough when I was fourteen and a male friend sent me a link to a porn site. My window was suddenly popping up with images of women with unrealistic sizes of boobs and close-ups of vaginas filled with cream. I was so disgusted that I closed all the windows and hoped that they never opened again. Luckily, they never did. I have also only been to a sex-shop once. It was my first internship at a newspaper, and I’m still surprised by what actually led me to go during a lunch break (there was one nearby). I remember that I didn’t enjoy my internship very much. My supervisor was correcting my German all the time and sucked out my love for writing and journalism. I think I was so desperate that summer that I decided to give it a go and hoped that maybe a sex shop would inspire me to write an article. It didn’t. On the contrary, I think I spent barely two minutes in the shop and I just felt uncomfortable. Too many large, artificial penises were pointing at me, and there was an older man who was browsing around X-rated videocassettes. I was so disgusted that I left the room in a hurry when the shopkeeper asked me the inevitable: How can I help you?
It’s true that I’m a romantic person, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time. On the one hand, you are moved by beautiful lyrics, cherish the beauty you see in your life, but on the other side, you just have too damn high expectations of love, and especially what your partner should be like. I still have the list of qualities my soul mate should have that I wrote when I was seventeen. I still believe in Prince Charming. I still remember which songs I listened to when I had my first real crush. I prefer the sacred art of writing over simply telling a person ’I love you’ to confess my feelings for them. It is very hard for me to look into someone’s eyes, especially boys and men I found attractive.
I also get easily scared when I can see the passion in someone’s eyes or their lust expressed on their face. Even now, I get so taken aback by the intensity of some stares, and the nerve of the men subjecting me to these situations, as if they don’t realise how uncomfortable they are for me.
When it comes to sexual freedom, as a woman, you can dress however you want, but I do wonder whether all women feel comfortable in their clothes, including Beyoncé and all the Instagram stars of today. There are some cuts, which I find interesting, but I don’t have the courage to wear them in public. I also prefer wearing dresses and skirts over jeans. This might sound strange, but I enjoy the freedom, and it also suits my personality. I have a lot of feminine traits and also have a very feminine body. I am soft-spoken, sensitive, but in an academic environment I prefer leading the discussion (which wasn’t always the case in high school).
I think sexuality is an interesting topic and that it should not be restricted to sexual health and safety education in high school. Masturbation is still a taboo and for a woman, it’s even worse. I was still embarrassed when I interpreted a poem in my English class in high school as referring to masturbation. My teacher then found my interpretation so hilarious that he couldn’t resist telling the anecdote to a different class. My classmates were simply appalled, and I spent the day wishing the ground would just swallow me.
Finally, when it comes to the word ‘slut’, I don’t use it, same as the word ‘whore’. For me, nobody is a slut and the term ‘slut-shaming’ makes my ears bleed. I believe your sexual life should remain private, and it is nobody’s business with how many men or women you sleep. It is a conversation you should have with your partner only. You just have to think about the consequences and that you might hurt someone’s feelings. If a woman wears clothes, which make your mind go: “She’s asking for it,” you should think twice. We are allowed to flirt, but sometimes you have to be aware of your own and someone else’s boundaries.
Fashion and clothes help me to express my feelings and who I am. It is still a sad reality that we girls and women have to be careful while walking at night.
It’s still a concept that I fail to grasp. Maybe we’ve all been influenced by the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and I sometimes feel like this little girl who cannot escape from the greedy looks of men, who remind me of wolves in the night
Sexuality is fascinating and it also makes us human. I wish that in the next couple of years, the discourse around women’s sexuality will change and leave more room for open discussion.