The worst thing about destructive activity is the way in which the victims are blind to its impact until it’s too late. We live in a society where it is deemed ‘beautiful’ and almost necessary for women to use their ‘sexual prowess’ as a given advantage and to define themselves; where men who spend time taking care of their personal hygiene are seen as ‘weak’ or too ‘feminine’. No matter who you are, I hope that as you reflect on this, you can see this as a catalyst to identity crises and stereotypes which will mould many young minds into thinking that they are not good enough.
In actual fact, it is the mould which is not good enough.
Our current perceptions of people are not good enough.
The ideals we are telling our future generations are not good enough.
In her book, Getting Real, Melinda Tankard Reist quotes Rebecca Ley’s article and the description written about an English girl – Sasha Bennington:
“Sasha… has a spray tan once a week and a new set of acrylic nails once a month. Her hair is bleached white-blonde and regularly boosted with a set of extensions. She plucks her eyebrows and carefully applies make-up every morning. Her favourite outfit is a white satin boob-tube dress and a Stetson hat. But Sasha isn’t a Vegas showgirl – she goes to primary school and only turned 11 last week.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
You may be surprised by the number of people in our society who would respond with: “Nothing.”
This has almost become the norm – clouding the difference between ‘child-play’ and the distorted views these children would have of themselves and the way in which their image is being sexualised. Their presentation is masked by the make-up and clothes they wear, but not because they feel comfortable with who they are. They are enslaved by the ideals and conform to become somebody else. What does this say about how they perceive themselves?
And okay, so that’s children… what about the adults?
Let’s talk about the millions of children around our world who are being exploited for money by adults. They are forced to work the sex industry in order to satisfy people who have adopted such distorted views of ideals:
“The children are put to work in brothels, massage parlours and strip clubs. They are used to produce pornography. Violence and abuse are part of their everyday lives… Small human fodder for the facilitation of masturbation by men of all ethnicities, they suffered physical and mental injuries. One had a colostomy bag. Another had surgery to repair internal damage. Another was mentally beyond repair.”
Try to say now, that the pornography industry is not destructive. That the value and worth of people are not being down-trodden. That our children and future generations are not being brought up in a culture which will destroy their self-esteem and constantly tell them they need to change to fit the moulds we, the adults, have set.
Call me a prude, but I was once very disappointed by some comments posted on a friend’s site which turned into a discussion of ‘worthy rewards’ for her husband as she was expressing her gratitude for him. Her friends proceeded to reply with suggestions such as “sex, and lots of it.”; “photos of your boobies”. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the gift of sex shared between husband and wife. My concern here is rather the blurred lines we see forming. You see, this advances our society’s views of ‘sex’ as a common, often fleeting reward. Or rather, something which can be bought to fulfil one’s desire. So, as long as you have the money, power, or influence to get it, you deserve to have it.
In his book The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It, Victor Malarek comments:
“From the moment of man’s first erection, the male sex drive takes on an aura of almost mythical proportions, infused by centuries of lore and widely accepted views about men’s entitlement to sex. Men need sex, the belief goes, to feel like real men, to amuse themselves, to let off steam, or as a diversion from the cares of life.”
A lot of women accept this fact. I wonder how many wives out there are ‘okay’ with their husbands ‘cashing in’ this social entitlement. Again, I think we’d be surprised… because apparently, “boys will be boys”.
As much as I stand for equality and respect for all people – do we see the hypocrisy that is shown by so many of us? How is it that women really crave the attention of a ‘traditional gentleman’ but when they feel like their strength or abilities are being undermined, that same gentleman is labelled as sexist? A real gentleman can win the affection of a woman by offering her genuine love and attention. On the other hand, a man can be strong in principles without undermining a woman’s strength or abilities. Women crave the attention of a gentleman, however when she does not agree with the man’s decision, e.g. career direction, she feels that her strength or abilities are being undermined. It is clear that mutual respect for one another is the only answer. If each person respected the others’ capacity to think, act, feel and love – imagine the trust that would arise… and imagine how much more they would value each other – and understand the worth of not only their character and integrity, but in this specific case: their bodies.
Why is it that in the instance above: the wife’s ‘boobies’ are seen to be the most ‘prized asset’? I can’t help but think that social norms such as these are the ones which fuel the sex trade – as countless women (and children) are being exploited because more and more people see them as commodities rather than human beings with their own special purpose and value. Moreover, as the prostitution and pornography industries continue to be more widely accepted, more people believe that the abuse and exploitation identified are actually acceptable (abuse and under-aged girls’ involvement being a couple of examples).
The problem is that sexuality is so underlying in our language, perspectives and culture – that unless we forcibly step out and look at ourselves objectively, we are unable to see what is wrong with the picture. Furthermore, who would want to go against the status quo? It’s incredibly inconvenient to stand up to the flow of the current, not to mention tiring.
How are we supposed to stand against eating disorders when our young people are continually surrounded by images of bodies which have been modified to be ‘hot’ & ‘sexy’ so they can attract others; how do we encourage healthy body image and self-esteem when we are told that ‘fashion = pain’; and how do we genuinely accept our own personalities when we are constantly told to ‘fit in’ or sexually, ‘put out’?
I’m sure that these questions have been asked repetitively but unless we actively shift our minds and hearts to delve into how our fellow human beings are feeling as they go through life – this destruction will continue and eat them up until it’s too late. Unless we speak up, we are perpetrators of this destruction. The standard we walk past, is the standard we set.
Let me conclude with a personal story. I was recently at a friend’s birthday celebration and had the opportunity to speak with a couple of his mates – one of which worked at a large casino. He proceeded to describe his disgust for the clients and customers who came in each week to blow their money on gambling and booze. At one point we began to discuss the amounts they would approximately spend on one night ($30,000 was a fair number), and I was left speechless by a throw-away comment he made: “Yeah, I don’t know where they get it from. Probably trafficking.” Because apparently it’s a joke now.
“I expose slavery in this country, because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death” – Frederick Douglass (American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895)
 Melinda Tankard Reist, Getting Real, (Victoria; Spinifex Press; 2009), 10.
 Reist, Ibid, 19.
 Victor Malarek, The Johns: Sex For Sale & The Men Who Buy It, (New York; Arcade Publishing; 2009), 15.