Photo: Flickr / Jonathan McIntosh

On the pornification of the female

Young women sexing the camera, or sexing one another. Mouths are open and inviting, tongues are licking, eyes are bed-roomed, breasts and asses are popping up at interesting (and I can’t imagine comfortable) angles.

Any way you slice it, each of the images is a message of sex. It is not heart, nor conversation, not warmth nor intelligence, but rather pure and unapologetic pornification which reads ‘I’d like to get fucked by you, or her, or them, or that camera, or that homeless guy in the corner, etc.’

They are pornified and I would argue from a very personal standpoint that there are two simple secrets: (1) there is nothing sexier than what happens behind closed doors; and, (2) sexy’s acme is when brain chemistry is set off before our bodies are.

Imagine how a young woman must feel when the bottom line is that much of her identity, if not all, is premised on her own self-pornification and self-objectification? Imagine how a young woman must feel when the bottom line is that much of her identity, if not all, is falsified in order to please the gaze of men? Imagine what we are teaching our young men, when these are the images we continue to project of ourselves?

I would argue that through these depictions of women, we are teaching girls that their bodies are here for the pleasure and gaze of men alone. That their identity and a man’s perception of them hinges on how sexualized they appear to be. Let us never automatically assume that a woman who appears to be sexual (by whose eyes, ask yourself?) is in fact a sexual woman. And while we’re at it, how about we never look at a woman and use her sexuality or degree of it use as starting point to evaluate her, please and thank you.

In a recently published article by Meghan Murphy, she lays out a scathing critique of the idea that displaying one’s self is the road to empowerment. Succinctly put, she clarifies that:

[…] when we criticize objectification and sexualization, as feminists, we aren’t criticizing women for having bodies or sex or desires, we are criticizing […] the idea that having a female body is “sex.” It’s the idea that female bodies are to-be-looked-at and that this being looked at is what makes a woman “sexual.” Having breasts or being looked at by men has nothing to do with whether or not a woman enjoys sex or “owns her body.” And, in fact, that we equate female bodies with “sex” and see self-objectification as the only possible way a woman might “own her body” is part of the problem.

Women’s bodies don’t exist to be looked at — they don’t exist, even, for sex. They exist for us to live in. They are, in fact, functional things that belong (or should belong) to us — women — regardless of whether or not we put them on the internet.

Pursued relentlessly continues to be a woman’s right to do with her body as she pleases. Which, don’t get me wrong, it is a necessity. I believe very strongly that a woman should possess the right to choose what she will do with her body and will fight ferociously to ensure it, while being fully aware of the consequences and possible repercussions to these choices. Equally, I believe a woman should have the right to choose how she will exercise her mind, and where she will work, and what she will study, and whether she will raise a family, or not.

What I do not support is a world wherein a woman feels that representing herself as pornified object is her only means of self-expression. That it is her driver, her identifying factor, the only face available. Because this? This, once again, alienates women from their right to choice. And women’s rights must always be about choice.

Where we once fought the male gaze as it pornified the female, we are now pornifying ourselves on their behalf.

There is nothing exotic or unique or mind-blowing about this pornification. Your ability to depict yourself as sexual will not set you apart; but your heart will, and your ambition and your love will. Your ability to achieve, to care and be kind and gracious and understanding. Your loyalty and devotion and commitment to elevating others and to doing right? These are the things which set you apart more than anything in this world.

Ask yourself why it is that young girls aged six have eating disorders because they are dissatisfied with their body ‘image.’

It is important to here state that the enjoyment of losing oneself sexually, expressing and meeting needs consensually and in a safe environment is not to be misunderstood as ‘self-pornification’. Here, I believe that all individuals should have free reign to do as they wish for and with one another. While self-controlled and self-exercised sex can be empowering, fun, healthy, and can have positive impacts on our self-awareness, growth and comfort within our own sexuality and bodies, the problem arises when we present ourselves as nothing more than an object pornified, intended only for the sexual pleasure of others.

Empowerment is the freedom to choose, while knowing that an alternative to this choice is ever available. It is also a body of multiplicity; having the right to education, to work, to safe and healthy living, while also doing with your body at a physical level what you wish.