The ever growing access to media images via the internet has brought with it a barrage of objectification issues for young girls and women. The media and popular culture has always pushed the envelope but now days pre teens can be exposed to and frighteningly contribute to social media sexual imagery far beyond previous generations. Gone are the days when exposure may have been limited to a sneak peek at mums fashion magazines or even a peek at a Playboy. Enter the age of uploading a half naked or sexually provocative image or participating in explicit and often degrading public sexual conversations with strangers via Snapchat, Instagram, WeChat, Vine, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, Four Square, Twitter, the list goes on. Today's magazines, movies, music videos and social media create ever increasing confusing for young girls trying to develop self esteem and a sense of identity when messages seem to be constantly telling them their identity and value is exclusively tied to their appearance, beauty, body and sexual attractiveness. Exploitation of girls and women is rife, when once mums had to protect their daughters from the Hugh Hefners of the world charming their daughters into getting naked in front of the lenses, nowadays it's the lure of ‘LIKES’ by a new breed of perpetrators sitting online ready to exploit the insecurities of women prepared to emulate porn stars and music video icons to become amateurs social media porn stars for instant gratification with little or no comprehension of the future impacts on their family, reputation or career. Add to this the ever growing evidence of the damage and impact pornography (including amateur social media porn) is having on connected respectful relationships, is it time we as women started to claim back our rightful place as respected and dignified pillars of the community and protectors of this sacred identity.
In this article written by Izabella Siodmak, Author and Facilitator of Mental and Emotional Wellness Retreats at www.naturalattitudes.com, Izabella explores the impact of sexual objectification and pornography on girls and women and how they identify their worth, and how men might improve their relationships with the women in their lives through shifting their attitudes toward pornography be it on film, internet or social media.
I want to provoke you. Not with my body scantily clad, chest pushed out and lips pouting. This would be forgotten as quickly as a page in a magazine is turned or internet button clicked. I would like my expression to have a more enduring impact upon you and to perhaps have a ripple effect that benefit those whom you love.
It’s obvious we are in trouble. From prepubescent girls dressing up emulating adults posing in sexual positions that are beyond their comprehension to men ignorantly blind to the damaging impact of pornography, the subliminal messages are fast eroding respectful treatment of women. We have desecrated something so sacred and turned it into something so cheap. What can we do to turn this around?
For risk of sounding like a prude, which I don’t care if I do, I’d like to turn your attention to our rightful roles as protectors and guardians of each other. What I’m inviting each individual to do is to put aside your vested interests and payoffs, connect to the bigger picture of humanity and simply stop with the excuses that justify personal habits that are unwholesome. Let’s consider some new perspectives and options that can make a difference and dissolve the conditioning that has made us fall out of sync with our true essence.
Reconnect to your Instincts and Act on Them - If the thought of seeing a barrage of your daughter’s provocative poses and bikini shots on social media makes you feel sick then there’s something to your gut instinct. As a parent it’s your duty to discipline and enforce healthy boundaries. Don’t be fooled into feeling guilty as though you are a ‘bad parent’ for doing so or for restricting your child’s independence. There are many other ways to healthily allow your child’s independent expression and exposing them to predation and potential exploitation is not one of them.
Speak Up, Say No and Be Protective - The more you speak up and acknowledge the moral inappropriateness and unnaturalness of these behaviours the more permission you give others to see this for themselves too. Say it with clarity, not blame. Set an example that inspires. Boycott products, services and companies that play on sexual image and seduction to hook people in. If a product or service can’t stand alone in its true quality and needs to use sex to sell, it’s not a product worth having.
Watch touching movies and have the kinds of experiences that foster a reminder of the true values of humanity such as kindness, care and authentic connection. When you, or your children, notice how good this feels it becomes easier to steer clear of degrading experiences that, by contrast, don’t really feel good. When any unnatural and disrespectful acts and behaviours are normalised and people become slowly desensitised to them, it can be easy to miss the truth. However the more you act upon the impulses of your instincts, the stronger they will become and the distracting noise and cheap images fade away.
Examine the Payoffs and Find Healthier Ways of Meeting your Needs - If you watch porn, acknowledge what this is compensating for and vow to address the gap in a more healthy way. Face any relationship challenges bravely. Look beyond yourself and be honest about the impact of this on damaging trust and potentially destroying relationships. Relieve stress through prevention or counselling to gain lifelong coping strategies. Enjoy your life more so this does not become the only way of pleasure seeking. Find wholesome ways of experiencing pleasure that enriches others lives rather than exploits them for your own gain.
Men, try to operate from being aware of what you are contributing to in a woman’s life rather than simply using her body for your own pleasure. Relate to real women regularly so your fantasies don’t become disconnected and unrealistic expectations you place upon your reality. Remember that pornography is a commercial industry and you are a pawn being played. It is a manipulative industry that is deliberately scripted and skewed to make money, yet the unhealthy imprints of the messages you receive when you partake can have various long term detrimental impacts upon your life.
When you consider that everything is based on intentions and the energy behind your actions there is very little difference between the fantasy of pornography and rape. Both are about you gaining energy at the expense and exploitation of a woman. As you learn to love yourself and embrace all your emotions you reclaim your own wholeness so then you see her wholeness too, rather than only a body to objectify, conquer or possess. Woman does not exist for a man’s gratification. She is a real person with depth and reflections of truth to offer you. Listen and create a safe space to hear her experience and how she feels about these subjects. Be willing to receive her feedback rather than defend your stance. The equal give and take of energy is important to maintain healthy and robust relationships.
It's worth noting that often pornography performers and prostitutes defend their position publicly emphasising that they have chosen this career because they love sex and pride themselves on being free. The reality is that the women in these industries are often very unhappy and desperate but feel they need to validate their choice to avoid thinking of themselves as victims. 68% of prostitutes were identified as meeting the psychological criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, while 88% stated that they wanted to leave the industry and described what they needed in order to escape.
If you are a woman who uses your body image to gain attention, or gives her body away indiscriminately, you might like to consider if you truly feel completely empowered by your choices or are you kidding yourself. Chances are, you're doing it to boost your self-esteem, your wallet, or both. Self-worth and finances are important, however it's important not to compromise things you cannot get back like self-respect, in the process.
Consider how else can you make an living without exposing yourself to real risks? Risks that are not worth any price. How can you be more honest with yourself and what can you choose now that symbolises the ending of you selling out on yourself?
If your self-esteem is low, regardless of what mask you may present to the world, consider how else you may feel good about yourself in ways that make you smile and are satisfying to your heart. Does selling your body truly build you up or does it give you a momentary hit of ego gratification whilst it gradually tears your morale down?
Bear in mind that men who are exploiting you may be reflecting to you the places where you are willing to be exploited. You do have the option of changing your behaviours and therefore changing your reality. This requires awareness, honesty and maturity. By not settling for anything less than what you truly want, and how you know you deserve to be treated, eventually you will experience it.
By getting in touch with what you really want and allowing this to be present in your life, it becomes easier to say "No" to anything that's far from it. If you want to be loved and cherished you also need to take responsibility for loving and cherishing yourself. Others will mirror this to you. Contemplate your gifts. Celebrate what you bring to this world. Find healthy ways to express yourself, so that unconsciously you are not so starved of love that you resort to anything or anyone’s attention just to make you feel a little better.
Unresolved trauma can make it confusing for you to uphold healthy boundaries, which means you may not know how to say "no" or to speak up appropriately when you have been/are being violated. Consider getting counselling, especially if you have unresolved trauma or have been sexually abused in the past. No incident is too little or too small to be held with compassion, understood and healed with the right, loving support. True instincts may be buried underneath the layers of protection that you can no longer act upon them. A good psychotherapist can help you understand, emote and integrate the trauma so that you heal, function and make more loving choices for yourself.
Speaking up (rising above self-imposed or perpetrator-imposed shame) to loved ones or discussions with other victims can also be helpful in preventing the kind of low self-esteem that can make you susceptible to exploitation or being drawn to prostituting yourself and kidding yourself into thinking it's all okay.
Izabella Siodmak is an author, facilitator of 1 on 1 mental and emotional wellness retreats and emotional healing sessions. She loves to support you to love yourself more and to deepen your relationships. Visit www.lovingrealwomen.com focussed on raising awareness and providing education and resources on the issues of objectification and sexualisation of women. www.izabellasiodmak.com & www.naturalattitudes.com to make contact, purchase her books or to schedule a session or private retreat.