The Sexual Commodity of Beauty

The rise of self-promotion and narcissistic endeavors is ever growing. The public sharing of ones life is the modern day equivalent to having access to 500 million pen pals. We have less and less face-to-face interactions with people due to the popularity of twitter, facebook, and texting. And in this growing stage of self-promotion, patience, beauty, and humility are virtues easily becoming replaced by immediate gratification, sexiness, and a see-me-hear-me-want-me attitude. The substitution of beauty and pretty for sexy and hot is a concerning trend in media today.

A few months ago I read a great article about how to talk to little girls. Instead of focusing on their outward looks, dress, or appearance, the author encourages us to engage little girls in their mind, imagination, and other aspects that are “non-physical” in nature. This article set a good stage for me in shaping how I want to encourage and engage with my daughter about who she is, not what she looks like. This perspective is quite counter-cultural. Most ads in the media are helping to shape the pervasive stereotype that women are only to be concerned with their looks and outward appearance. A few decades ago, the virtue of beauty wasn’t tied to how much cleavage you had, or how young a woman looked. Today, the trend is for women to be concerned with being all-sexual, or “hot” as Pat Archibald suggests in a recent blog post. Before reading his post, I hadn’t considered defining pretty as a virtue, but compared with the cultural push towards hotness it strikes me as a worthwhile conversation. I especially appreciate Pat’s connection with the drive towards hotness as ending with women becoming a commodity instead of a person.

It’s not uncommon for men to tell me that women are difficult to be seen as anything other than a sex object. Conversely woman often explain the tension they feel in the need to be like a sexual goddess (no doubt influenced by the overwhelming use of porn by men and women) for her husband. Both of these relational realities create huge issues of objectification. It’s impossible to have a functioning relationship, intimate or not, when one is viewed as anything other than a person.

There are two issues here. First is the need for women to transcend the message that to be sexy and hot is to be beautiful. To take it one step further, women need to reject the notion that beauty is synonymous with being sexual. Some of the most beautiful people in the world would never be selected to appear on the cover of a vanity magazine. Capturing and extending external beauty is a losing battle. It’s not just the women’s responsibility to reject this, it also requires men to engage beauty and sexuality in a mature and person-centered manner.

Men need to develop sexual integrity. The statistics are numbing as to when boys/men are exposed to sexually explicit material (average age is 11 for exposure to pornography). These statistics show that the ease by which men can move into sexually unhealthy behavior only supports the previously discussed biases that women are only to be viewed as sex objects. The development of sexual integrity will help men to reject the notion that women are sex objects and that they are only motivated in life by sex. Despite popularly held beliefs, men are more than just a sex organ.

With issues as difficult as this, it’s be easy to play the blame game. This often happens where women suggest that men are the problem because of their hyperactive and aggressive sex drive. Conversely men often say women are the problem because they dress in a suggestive and provocative manner that is impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, the reality is that sexual objectification happens to both men and women. Regardless of the cause, this is a problem that faces every relationship, parent, and person. Thankfully the responsibility of this issue falls on both sexes. It will take action, leadership, and wisdom by both sexes to change the course we are currently taking. Waiting for the other to take the first course of action is choosing to remain silent, and silence does not promote truthfulness.

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