Final Concept Analysis Post

For me, the most important topic that we covered in class this year was sexual objectification. I had no idea that so many different aspects and parts of society played such roles in how boys define girls, and vice versa. Sexual objectification’s meaning is different for everyone, especially men.

In the text, we learned that some men are afraid of looking homosexual, and therefore objectify woman. Certainly, most men would not agree with this statement. However, the way that society has been over the past few decades has certainly shaped this mentality without men realizing its impact. We red many interviews of men and learned that there is wide variety of sexual preferences, especially during intercourse that men prefer. Although not homosexual, men can have some strange preferences based on their desires.

In learning about sexual objectification, we also learned about sexual assault and rape. I think that sexual assault (in particular rape), and sexual objectification have a lot in common. To me, women who are raped are not viewed as wholesome to the offender, as he/she views him or herself.. They degrade the victim, and dehumanize them in the act of seeking sexual or mental pleasure. The pleasure involved in rape cases is something that is an ongoing, very serious problem. Rapists are all trying to fill some sort of void, and fill it by pushing their problems to someone else in one of the worst ways possible.

Learning about people living wholesome lives after experiencing sexual assault was very interesting to me. It brought joy to me knowing that some people experience such sadness, and though the darkness, they can see light at the end of the tunnel. I really enjoyed visiting the museum and photo collection held here at Vanderbilt. All of the pictures were very eye opening. Although no one in the class has undergone exactly what the woman photographed went through, I think that it all brought a deeper understanding to the long-term effects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual objectification.

When we talked more about sexual objectification and rape, more windows opened when we learned about programs on campus, and were required to do an on campus group project. This way, all of the students were able to learn about different ways to stay safe on campus, and learn about the resources that we are offered. I think that this was helpful, but it also made me realize which programs seemed effective meanwhile others seemed to be put in place but didn’t make an impact.

Overall, I feel this class was extremely helpful in making conversations about sex and the many impacts it has on society today. I think that the class made this topic a lot easier to talk about. It made talking about very important and sensitive topics such as sexual assault something that I could talk about comfortably with my friends, in a way that made us all learn. Being able to learn about the sensitive and dark sides of being apart of the LGBTQIA community was incredibly eye opening, and made it easier to look at things with more background and understanding.

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Heterocentric Perpetuation of Rape Culture

Following the Women’s Liberation Movement of 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, women have been encouraged to embrace their freedoms. However, I think that it is very paradoxical that the same society telling women that we should be all that we can be is the same society that has continually placed so many restrictions on what we can be, who we can be, or how we can be. Society has dictated to women that we must act in accordance to its rules to maintain the heteronormative world in which we inhabit and by doing so, has placed limitations on the livelihood of women. This can be seen in several realms of everyday life including the social aspect. Furthermore, an aspect of women’s social lives that is greatly affected by society’s regulation is their sexual lives.

In her article “Adolescent girls’ sexuality: the more it changes, the more it stays the same” Deborah Tolman defines sexual subjectivity as “having a sense of oneself as a sexual person who is entitled to have sexual feelings and to make active decisions about sexual behavior.” While this idea may seem “common sense,” a deeper look into today’s society reveals that sexual subjectivity is only granted to certain individuals. In her artictle, Tolman makes the argument that society should teach women to have desires, not to be desired. As adolescents, girls are taught that there are “good” girls and “bad” girls. The creation of such parallels with and enforces the belief that “good” girls are considered “normal” while “bad” girls are considered “deviant.” Good girls are defined as girls who behave in agreement with and conforms to society’s heterocentric standards in which women are characterized as straight, docile, and abstinent. “Bad” girls are characterized by their rebellious behavior which may include engaging in premarital sex, having several sexual partners, or engaging in what is considered homosexual behavior. Thus, instead of learning to be sexual, women are taught to be sexy, or as Tolman would put it, women are sexually socialized by society and miss the opportunity to experience sexual socialization on their own terms. To combat these issues, Tolman suggests that  society begins to think about the development of sexual well-being as essential during adolescence in hopes that it will foster across our lifetimes. All in all, women should learn to define both what and who they consider desirous, for society teaches us that the right way to be sexual is to be a feminine woman who participates in intercourse with a masculine man.

An interesting point in Tolman’s article comes when she writes “Tackling demands for masculinity in boys that have harmful consequences for girls as well … will be part of the task of articulating and securing sexual rights for teenage girl” (Tolman 157). This statement tells us that as a result of not being able to express sexual subjectivity or experience sexual socialization, women are sexually objectified as props for men and their desires; this aligns perfectly with the idea that women are taught to be desirous and sexy. Seeing as how “sex is about male dominance and female subordination,” (Barber 45) it is easy to see how this is an example of a power based relationship. Sometimes, men think that as men, it is their God-given right to have sex with women when in actuality, that is not the case. Though society does not explicitly come out and tell men that they are entitled to every woman, I think that it would be safe to make the assumption that because society does teach men to view women as subordinate and sexual objects, men grow to view women as just that- a subordinate object. Sometimes, this can result in very violent and sometimes fatal events occurring.

According to the Rape,Abuse, and Incest National Network, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Another alarming statistic is that 9 out of 10 rape victims are females. So, what does this say about rape? I think that these statistics definitely suggest that there is indeed a correlation between rape and gender. As Dr. Chapman stated in class, bodies who are read as female are more susceptible to being raped. In my opinion, all of the issues mentioned by Tolman, including sexual objectification,sexual socialization, heteronormativity, and sexual subjectivity, play a part in exacerbating this newfound rape culture.

Rape culture as we know it is described as a culture in which “people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.” Many times, rapes are justified using heteronormative logic. For instance, the concept of “slut-shaming” which is used to describe the act of making a person, especially a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors, circumstances or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law. The concept of slut-shaming parallels with the “good girl” “bad girl” argument that Tolman makes in her article. If a girl is considered “bad,” society will more readily blame her for that rape and excuse the behavior of the man using the logic that it is just in the nature of men to be hypersexual. Because it is in men’s nature to be hypersexual, society teaches women that we should “protect” ourselves. For instance, women should not wear short/tight clothing, for that may arouse a man. If women wear “revealing” clothing, then they are, in so many words, asking to be raped. This is an example of how society inhibits women’s ability to experience sexual subjectivity.

While Tolman’s article was very intriguing, I do believe that Tolman left out some important issues. I think that it would have been interesting to compare the differences in the development of girls’ sexualities from different racial backgrounds. For instance, I believe that society views certain female bodies (black) as more sexual. This then raises the question that if these black women’s rights as a sexual being are violated, will those rights be protected or will their rights be denied because society views them as hypersexual? Does the law protect, in the case of rape, all women’s sexual rights equally or are the sexual rights of certain women more important than others’?