Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On the Sexualization and Objectification of Young Women

Some time ago, I went googling for "cute Pashtun girls" pictures and, whaddaya know, I come across these sickening sites that totally sexuality and dehumanize Pashtun women--and all other women.

I was looking for "cute" pictures of little Pashtun girls (prepubescent) who were NOT being displayed as "attractive, hot Pashtun beauties" because I find that very demeaning to women. (Warning: I would very gladly castrate any man who looks at my daughter or any other young girl in front of me with a lustful gaze.) I wanted and still want pictures of innocent, cute little Pashtun girls to put as my display pictures on Twitter and Facebook. I actively watch the American police/crime TV show Law and Order-SVU (which features all sorts of crimes committed against girls and women, including underage girls), and yet, I am foolish enough to falsely believe that a little girl cannot be sexualized, that she cannot be put on a display so as to satisfy a pervert's sexual urges. I should've known better than to expect to find pictures, really, of cute little Pashtun/Afghan girls! So disappointed in humanity. All over again.

Let me first explain what I mean by the term "to sexualize." As the verb itself implies, it literally means "to make something or someone sexual." Just like to "destabilize" means "to make something or someone unstable." A human being (almost always a young woman, not older women and rarely men) is sexualized when they are made to appear sexual objects (read: objects. And I really mean objects) that are there for someone's (read: men's) pleasure, there to be desired, to be played with, to be fantasized, to be stared at, to give pleasure. Rarely is a young woman sexualized so as to be desired by other women. One may argue that males too are sexualized. And, in the Western society, that's usually tall, muscular preferably dark-skinned older men of over 35 or so. I believe this is the case as well to a small extent. I don't deny that men are also sexualized, but I know that they are not objectified (or are barely so). And what I'm interested in is how both genders (read: the possibility of the existence of other genders is never there!) are sexualized. Think about it - what all is done to a ma to make him look attractive to women (of course, never/seldom to other women, since, duh, homosexuality does not exist)? What all is done to a man to handsomize him? And what is done to a woman to make her look attractive? How much skin does a man have to show in order to be viewed as hot/attractive, and how much does a woman have to show in order to be seen as hot/attractive? How does the male have to act and talk in order to appear attractive/hot? What about the woman?

For now, however, let's talk only about women's sexualization and not men's too because of the reason I wanted to write this post (reminder: Dil Raj, a young, barely-of-age Pashtun singer; I'll write about this in the next part on this topic). In very simple words, a person is sexualized with the intention that those (the opposite gender/sex) who see them should, well, be "excited," that the viewer should desire them sexually. Look around you: how fast are girls growing culturally today? I'm not talking about physically, since the food we eat and the way our bodies function play a vital role in how fast/slowly we grow. But I'm talking about socially, culturally. What are girls expected to dress like in elementary schools? What about when they're in high school? How are these ways different from, say, two decades ago? And why is this happening? Why do girls feel like they should be growing sooner than they're really meant to (i.e., wait until they are physically mature naturally)?

What is wrong with being sexualized? For one, all you're viewed as, then, is an object of pleasure. Your talents, your personality, your character, your achievement-- all of these are ignored. What and who you really are is ignored. Attention from the reality that is you, the real you, is diverted to that of your sex (female) only. All that is attached to you is "sexiness," your "hots." Rarely beauty! Since rarely are hot girls beautiful, but I understand this is subjective ... as are almost all other things I might be saying here. But whatevz. Try being beautiful and successful at the same time and see how far you get at least in the Western society.

The documentary Missrepresentation is an almost excellent source on this whole idea of sexualization and objectification of women, especially in the Western media. And from what I've seen in Pakistan and India, other countries are frighteningly close, catching up very fast with the "modern" and "civilized" idea of "the modern woman." It's truly scary.

Understand that I distinguish being sexualized (yourself) and sexualizing (others). The two are not the same: it's a different matter when you do something to yourself per your own will and volition and when someone someone else does it to you or when you do it to someone else. Sexualization is a problem so long as it is done to others. This assertion inevitably points to the question of agency--that is, whether these "sexualized beings" have any power and choice in being sexualized. That might require a lengthy discussion, so let's not talk about it here. But I hope I'll remember to do so in another post (remind me in case I forget, thankz). For now, I can only acknowledge that, yes, there might definitely be some women who choose to and enjoy being exploited and sexualized and looked upon as only sexual entities, being used only for pleasure. But a deeper insight into this question leads us to wonder whether it is truly their choice, whether they really want and appreciate that exploitation ... or whether its "benefits" for them are such that they have no choice but to participate in it.

Coming up on this subject:
- Dil Raj and other Pashtun female celebrities


  1. Is sexualization of women in particular because men to a large extent depend upon visual stimuli? Did Islam get it right in Hijas?

    What do women desire to see in men? Why is that absent in a discourse?

    1. Hi, Dignaga! Thank you for your response!

      I wonder, too, why what women desire in men is often absent in discourses on gender sexualization, and I'd love to hear what others think about this, particularly those with a strong opinion on the sexualization of women.

      You know, frankly, I doubt women are sexualized because men generally depend on visual stimuli. From what I see and understand, it's all about control, manipulation, abuse, exploitation ... and I can't understand why women give in to it. Reading statistics on women in the porn business, women in modeling and acting and other industries where they are generally exploited and manipulated, I'm certain it's about control. Women are considered the weaker sex, and they are believed to be lacking in intellect; the "only" thing, it is believed, that we women have is beauty, and beauty is unfortunate defined in such a way that it becomes true that only women have it and men lack it!

      Also ... women don't generally depend on visual stimuli? If not, what kind of stimuli do they depend on?

      About the hijab, naaaa, I don't at all agree with the opinion that the reason women are to wear the hijab (headcovering) is to avoid being "abused," etc. because that actually doesn't help. In all Muslim countries, women still get raped even if they have a headcovering on, and heck, I know of women with face-covering (full body covering) on who have been raped or at least molested. How would one explain this?

      But you can read about my view on the whole "hijab as a solution to rape" here:

      But, yes, many Muslims do believe that women should wear the hijab so as to avoid being sexualized. I, however, think that the hijab can sexualizes a woman as much as it can de-sexualize her.

  2. Ladies assumed as commodities, that is how the culture of "Consumerism" has been exploiting it. Blame Freud or Edward Burney's?? Subversive slavery enshrouded under the cuticle of Liberty. The sense of sexuality being gender specific is, the primary component for this subversiveness to augment. You might compare it to Unfettered Capitalism's 3% compound growth.The system breathes on it.

    1. Thank you for your response, Mayo! :)

      Ahhh - I don't think we can blame Freud or Burney or anyone else because the sexualization of women isn't a new phenomenon; it's been in existence as long as ideas about men's stronger sexual drives became popular and socially accepted! No?

  3. As long as women continue to sexualise themselves in order to please men, or in order to feel desired (trust me there are a great deal of women in today's world who enjoy having that sort of power over men) men will just take in the eye-candy, it's natural I'm sure if men walked around half naked women might start doing the same but the fact is that self respecting men dress more conservatively and thus they tend not to be defined by their secondary sexual characteristics. - I'm sure miss Wollstonecraft would have agreed.

    If by young women you mean kids ..well that's pedophilia it's sickening and it works both ways. *Sigh*

    1. Unfortunately, yes, women themselves play a strong role in their sexualization. But that's where the question of agency becomes important, I think. Who REALLY is behind their sexualization? And I wonder why they do it, for those who do it purely out of choice and not because they need to for whatever reason.

      And, yes, I agree that there are women who enjoy having that sort of power over men - using their bodies/sexualities/etc. to get to men. If that's all where it ended, though, I don't think we'd have much of a problem. But it often goes beyond just this.

      Death to pedophilia!!!! *angry voice*

  4. The sexual dynamics of a population is not always determined by its power structure. In the animal kingdom, it's the males that have to objectify themselves to seek the attention of their female counterparts. Colorful feathers, dances, shows of prowess, etc. Similarly, a man has to achieve a certain level of social prosperity to be considered a "suitable" match for a woman.

    In other words, the process of objectification is present for both genders. Men are objectified for their social prosperity, women are objectified for their physical beauty The difference being that the objectification of women takes on the face of base desires, while the objectification of men follows more of a "respectable", socially friendly curve(albeit, these lines have recently blurred, and we see guys spending time looking pretty and girls spending time being socially prosperous).

    In a perfect world, people would be attracted to each other just for the content of each other's character, but that simply isn't the case now, and we just have to come to terms with our innate objectification of the opposite sex.

    As an example, here is a conversation between two of my friends at our medical school
    friend 1: yo, so every parent wants their daughter to get married to a doctor/engineer/lawyer. What's left over for all the other guys?
    friend 2: well, somebody's gotta marry the ugly girls too.

    1. Good to see you here, Parody Man!
      Yeah, I believe I did mention that it goes both ways (though to a much lesser extent for men) but decided I'll talk only about women's case for now.

      But you see, in the points you've given (re: prosperity in case of men; physical beauty in case of women), the men aren't being sexualized, since nothing sexual about them is being used/abused. I can't think of a word that might best describe that kind of objectification right now, though. And this difference is highly problematic, no? What does it say about how we view women and women's social power versus how we view men and men's social power? Attaching beauty to women while attaching social status to a man. Which one of these actually earned what they're being linked to? etcetera, etcetera.

      LOL @ the convo.... sorry, that wasn't funny, but still!


Dare to opine :)

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