Objectification Is The Cause Of Slut Shaming- Why Don’t We Recognise This?

Image source: www.news.instyle.com

Image source: www.news.instyle.com

 

“Objectification.” It’s a word we hear all too often. The charge of “objectification” is levelled at films, the news media, lyrics, art, and of course porn. Sometimes we intersectional or sex positive feminists might feel like it’s a catch-all term which silences those who have sex industry careers- especially since it is used to silence sex workers and take away our freedom to consume pornography. No wonder some women feel the word is overused or that objectification doesn’t exist. But the irony is that for all the rage against the sex machine, radical feminists are less vocal about the way objectification impacts on women’s basic freedoms.

I’m talking about the freedom to be a single mother. A teenage mother. A sex worker. The freedom to have poly relationships. To be single and “older” without beng pitied or called a spinster. To openly and unashamedly consume porn. And, dependent on region or area, the freedom to be a nonvirgin.

Think about it: why are “sluts”, sex workers or even nonvirgins persecuted? Because women are seen as objects valuable only for our bodies. Valued for how “new” we are. The more partners we’ve had, the more “second-hand” and therefore worthless we become. In the USA, abstinence “education” lessons include teachers using a strip of sticky tape or a chewed up piece of gum to represent a girl getting dirty and unlovable by having sex. The teacher sticks the tape to a boy’s arm and then demonstrates how the tape won’t stick to a second or third boy’s skin. The girl is dirty- and that’s why kids girls should stay new pure. And who hasn’t heard of honour killings as a result of a girl being found not to be a virgin? Egyptian women buy fake hymens from China even if they are inexperienced, just to make sure they bleed on their wedding night. The government has criticised this enabling of immorality, but the Chinese aren’t that much better off; nonvirgins are stigmatised there too. Whether it’s Muslims in Egypt, Christians in America or atheists in China, the idea is the same: women are valued only as pieces of fresh meat.

Andrea Dworkin described how pornography reduces women to their genitals through objectification. But objectification has the power to do this without the vehicle of pornography. Why else is a piece of membrane valued more than character, brains, even beauty? Valued so much that women are murdered over their lack of it? Slut shaming and whorephobia are simply less intense versions of the ideology behind honour killing, and they also equate the whole woman with her genitals: how often she has sex, in what circumstances, with whom, her attitude towards it.

As for lone and teen mothers, they’re often stigmatised as “sluts”, which shows that the stigmas against lone and teen mothers are at least related to slut shaming even if they’re not just an extension of, or form of, slut shaming. If a woman is an object, she should be with a man, and this idea of a free, autonomous woman might be what makes some people uncomfortable. The same goes for “old maids” and “spinsters” who’ve been “left on the shelf”- bachelors are cool and desirable but the older single woman is seen as desperate for a hubby and kids. I don’t think I really have to explain how misogynists- and a lot of society- sees poly and openly kinky women: If you’re an object, you don’t get to have sexual agency or take control of your sexuality (being poly or kinky). And you certainly don’t get to objectify men by consuming pornography or using men for pleasure (casual sex or how some people see being poly).

That’s why women are assumed not to be pornography consumers- and sometimes stigmatised if they are. We are objects, things that exist to have stuff done to us. We’re not supposed to have sexual agency, to seek out pornography and want to do things, to be subjects or autonomous agents. And of course objectification, which leads to slut shaming, brands us sluts for watching porn.

We’re not real people, so if we’re queer it’s hot, it’s a male fantasy, because our sexuality isn’t “real”. We can be desirable as sex objects in revealing outfits, but also simultaneously despised because we’re “sluts” for daring to bare an inch of skin. We’re supposed to be available but if we are, we’re worth less- hence the whorephobia and slut shaming.

And that’s where whorephobia, slut shaming, and stigma against teen and lone mothers stems from. If women weren’t objectified, we couldn’t be equated with our genitals and thereby evaluated on the basis of our sexual activity. Slut shaming and whorephobia could not exist, and the stigma of lone and teen mothers would exist in a different form, if at all. The contribution of objectification to slut shaming/whorephobia, limited family choice freedoms, and limited sexual freedoms is not recognised enough by mainstream feminism. There is a disproportionate focus on pornography and the sex industry while the more immediate and daily-life effects of objectification are not recognised as a form of objectification.

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