By Hannah Blair
Women make up the vast majority of those who are being exploited within the commercial sex industry. Have you ever wondered why that is?
The way men objectify women lays the foundation for the commercial sex industry. Turning on the TV, glancing at the magazines in the grocery store checkout line, or walking down the street is all it takes to notice the way our culture has objectified women. From half-naked girls in commercials selling beauty products and hamburgers to provocative bodies of nameless women displayed on billboards in poorly executed car ads, they sublimely communicate the message that women are sexual objects meant for consumption. And with this constant exposure, desensitization begins to take root and pave the way for the societal norm of objectification.
Women are inherently oversexualized. We are sexualized whether we’re in the bedroom or the conference room. There is a fetish for the stripper and a fetish for the nun. The virgin is defined by sex and the whore is defined by sex, and this over-sexualization of women and girls in our society leads to the cultural acceptance that says that the value of women and girls is their sexuality.
The male gaze negatively impacts today’s women. Breastfeeding in public is frowned upon because how dare we use our breasts outside the bedroom. Wearing mini-skirts is “asking for it” because how dare we imagine that legs are our transport system. This cultural narrative screams that women have no value because of who they are but rather because of what they look like and what their bodies can offer.
We are seen as nothing more than sexual objects. Research shows that when someone is being objectified, the objectifier is viewing them as if they do not possess a real, individual mind – as if they are less deserving of moral treatment. Once women are turned into objects, abuse and exploitation don’t seem unreasonable. Men turning women into things is almost always the first step toward rationalizing and justifying violence against women.
The objectification of women cultivates a climate where the exploitation of women is not only tolerated but implicitly encouraged. Because if objectifying other people is a societal norm, then nothing is wrong with paying them for sex. If objectifying people is acceptable, then nothing is wrong with paying for pornography. If objectifying people is conventional, then sex trafficking is no longer something to end but something to embrace.
Boys see how they are represented in relation to girls and internalize the belief that achievement and attractiveness are dependent on dominance, control, and aggression. We set the gauge for social norms. We determine what is societally acceptable. It’s time to change the message we send to little boys and men. Women are not objects.