How many times can we watch women being sold before we start to feel exploited ourselves?
Happy Valentine's Day, my dear friends. I hope that you come to this post with your heart full of the validation we all hope for on this day, and especially that you can feel the warmth and the truth of your worth independent of any circumstance. In short, I hope you come to this post feeling loved.
As I've mentioned once (or five hundred times), it's been a tough year. One of the big struggles has been grieving my naivete about the goodness of humanity, and this partly because I've discovered that pornography use is rampant, even among those we cherish and look up to. If you and your mate are fighting this battle against the destroyer, my love and prayers go out to you. There is some pain too great to imagine, and since most couples are not able to share the struggle, they bravely face it alone. I wish I could sit and cry with you. It is hard, so so hard.
This is not to say that all struggle with pornography addiction. In fact I think it right to clarify that I am lucky enough to be married to a man who doesn't.
But everyone in this fallen world suffers from the effects of porn. It exists on a spectrum: on one end are the most horrifying images and ideas one could imagine--on the other something as seemingly innocuous as a child's toy. Each of us has a line we prefer to stay on the right side of, and while I'm not here to get you to move yours, I hope you can bravely examine how some of what we consider innocent could be harmful. Because we as women are being bought and sold like cattle every day.
And the men aren't the only ones buying in.
Lie #1 Your worth is based on your sexuality.
You think you can spot this one a mile away, but stay with me.
Of course we can all see the subtle messages aimed even at children. Let's pass over the obvious fact that every Disney princess since 1989 (with the exception of Mulan) is portrayed with fantastic proportions and revealing clothing.
Let's even ignore the standard story line, used in everything from cartoons to reality TV to commercials, that has a guy ignoring a girl until she gets her dream makeover and is dressed to kill.
Blatantly, the message is immodesty=attention-from-the-guy-you-like.
Usually the media tears women down in far subtler ways.
Consider the storyline that has the woman using sex to get what she wants. She lures, teases, maybe seduces the ape of the man who can give her a promotion, entrance to the top-secret lab, or tickets to a sold-out show. It's often portrayed humorously, but the message is clear: sex is a commodity; you are a commodity.
Most of the time it manifests as the constant objectification of women in every form of media. Commercially, but also artistically, women are manipulated like props on a set for maximum sex appeal. Take a woman, vamp her up, airbrush her, and make sure there are lots of revealing shots of her body to produce eye candy so you can sell everything from chewing gum to blockbuster action movies. Women's bodies are no longer sacred, they're a commodity to be bought and sold. And just to be extremely clear, when we see sisters used like that, something changes in us whether we know it or not.
Lie #2 Sex is selfish and sinful
Some TV shows and movies are so steeped in pre-marital sex from the first frame, that while there may be many hookups in your 120 minutes, the heroine may never get real love or respect by the end of the film. Let me translate: give sex first, and maybe, just maybe, you'll be valued and loved. Probably not, though, because there's lots of sex but not lots of love to go around.
We consider the sex in these movies as inappropriate, the worst part of the movie, the part we fast forward through or wish we had. How can all of this not train us to feel negatively or at least conflicted about sex?
And we're not even going to go near 50 Shades, because I hope with all my heart you know as little as I do about it.
You would just assume that this is true if you take your ideas straight from Hollywood, which represents married sex only 15% of the time versus extramarital sex 85% of the time. But even if you chalk that up to unimaginative writers who can't find a way to build tension within a married relationship, what gives? The statistics don't lie: married people have more sex, and more varied sex, and report higher levels of sexual satisfaction than those who aren't married. Add to that your own experience. If you don't know how hot married sex can be, find out. Today is Valentine's Day, after all.
Could it be that even within sexually fulfilling relationships we could still be buying the "grass is always greener" garbage the media is selling? And if we are, how does that show up? Well, I don't want to cross any lines here, but maybe if we're told married sex is boring, that's what we expect and that's what we get?
Ahem. Enough said.
It's not just the men.
We think we're above these messages. We think that guys shouldn't watch movies that objectify women, but that it's okay for us.
How many times can we watch women being used as sex objects before we become jaded and cynical? How many stories can we ingest where sex is inappropriate in every form--manifesting as lust, selfishness, and filth--before the pure and beautiful sex in our own lives starts feeling wrong? How many times can we equate airbrushed, perfect women with desirability before we stop feeling desirable? How many times can we see men portrayed as unfeeling sex maniacs before we stop trusting our husbands?
Again, you're thinking that you know sex is a good thing within marriage, but ask yourself this: how many times do you think you've misinterpreted your husband's desire for you as selfish? How many times have you resisted him because you were afraid it didn't mean real love--that if he loved you, he'd have (fill in the blank.) How many times have you struggled to enjoy yourself in bed because you are so hung up on what you think your husband wants you to look like?
It is time for thinking, feeling women and men alike to identify, reject, and fight these slanders against the human race. We need to open our eyes to what messages are coming across, whether blatantly or subtly. Spotting these lies is really half the battle. Are we talking to our daughters about how unfair the media is to women? Do we talk to friends about how objectifying women in public leads to distrust and insecurity in our own hearts? And (you knew I was going there) are we turning off YouTube when one of our sisters is on-screen selling out? Money talks, friends, and if we keep sending it to Hollywood, they'll assume we like the product.
The most important battleground, though, is in our hearts. Think seriously about how a lifetime of media lies has influenced your feelings about yourself and about the men in your life. Where you've been mistaken or mislead, start mending and rebuilding. You may find yourself speaking a different language from the people around you, and that's okay--this is a conversation worth having. We've only been getting one side of it for a very long time.