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So Sexy It Hurts: Sexual Objectification Has Emotional Fallout

By HERWriter
 
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So Sexy It Hurts: Sexual Objectification's Emotional Fallout Sergey Ryzhov/Fotolia

How do you experience being female? Do you equate your worth with your sexual attractiveness? Do you enjoy the attention you garner with a pretty face, or large breasts, or high heels and a short skirt?

If you’re a man, do you ogle women? Catcall? Leer? Do you believe expressing appreciation for a woman’s body, any woman, is your prerogative?

Sexual objectification equates a woman’s worth with her body’s appearance and sexual functions. Men sexually objectify women. Women sexually objectify women. We objectify ourselves.

Scientists are beginning to study the psychological effect of sexually objectification.

Just Be Beautiful

I was raised to be beautiful. I’m not saying I am beautiful. I’m saying I knew from very early on that the most important thing I had to offer was beauty — not humor, intellect, drive or productivity.

My father, an otherwise sensitive, kind man, felt entitled to comment on the appearance of women — when they were beautiful, when they had let themselves go, when they were fat. He would mention if I needed to lose weight.

Ah, weight. My genetics are 100 percent Eastern European, built for comfort, not for speed as they say. My mother possessed the 1960s ideal of an hourglass figure with platinum hair. Any money she ever had went to clothes.

She, too, felt compelled to comment on my weight, my hair, my clothes. At 12 years old, I began waking an hour early every day so I could wash, blow dry and curl my hair and do my makeup.

Why? Boys. Beauty. Acceptance.

With the subtlety and elegance of a crowbar, I wedged my way into the popular group at school — the tall, lithe pretty girls. I starved myself, took laxatives, purged, exercised compulsively trying to fit my Hungarian/Russian, wide-hipped, short-legged body into a Barbie template.

My brunette sixth-grade teacher told me she had “always wished she were blonde and blue-eyed” like my classmate, Cathy. My mother went into paroxysms of praise over the prettiness of my eighth-grade blonde and blue-eyed friend, Julie.

1) Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research. APA.org. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
https://www.apa.org/education/ce/sexual-objectification.pdf

2) Do Women Want to be Objectified? PsychologyToday.com. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201211/do-women-want-be-objectified

3) 10 Things You Didn't Know About Gretchen Carlson. Fox News Insider. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/06/15/gretchen-carlson-reveals-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-her

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Anonymous

I've been ugly my whole life and treated like crap because of it. I've had to swim against the tide of social disapproval my entire life, and I could just forget about having any kind of romantic relationship. As I've grown older I've noticed some unexpected benefits from having lived this way for so many years. I'm USED to being ignored/invisible/treated as unworthy, so my gray hair doesn't bother me, and I don't even try with makeup. It's such a relief to not even have to try. Trying is just a waste of money and effort to win a game you can never win. All around me, women who were pretty in their youth and were used to all the advantages they got from men and the rest of society were panicking at the advent of invisibility and irrelevance. There's no use trying to hang on to youth and beauty. YOU CAN'T. Invisibility is freedom. Irrelevance is FREEDOM. When your oppressors aren't interested in you any more, that is a GOOD THING. You have to give up any dreams of romance you might have though, and most women find this very hard to do. Needing a relationship with a man puts you in the position of having to try to please him, which will always be the position of less power. Dump the men and become a radical feminist. You'll get all the validation and friendship you need from other women who are exactly in the same boat as you, and you'll get to fight this bullshit system too.

August 4, 2016 - 11:02am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for reading, and for sharing your experience.

August 4, 2016 - 1:53pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I've been ugly my whole life and treated like crap because of it. I've had to swim against the tide of social disapproval my entire life, and I could just forget about having any kind of romantic relationship. As I've grown older I've noticed some unexpected benefits from having lived this way for so many years. I'm USED to being ignored/invisible/treated as unworthy, so my gray hair doesn't bother me, and I don't even try with makeup. It's such a relief to not even have to try. Trying is just a waste of money and effort to win a game you can never win. All around me, women who were pretty in their youth and were used to all the advantages they got from men and the rest of society were panicking at the advent of invisibility and irrelevance. There's no use trying to hang on to youth and beauty. YOU CAN'T. Invisibility is freedom. Irrelevance is FREEDOM. When your oppressors aren't interested in you any more, that is a GOOD THING. You have to give up any dreams of romance you might have though, and most women find this very hard to do. Needing a relationship with a man puts you in the position of having to try to please him, which will always be the position of less power. Dump the men and become a radical feminist. You'll get all the validation and friendship you need from other women who are exactly in the same boat as you, and you'll get to fight this bullshit system too.

August 4, 2016 - 11:02am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

As young girls we are raised to evaluate & value who we are as individuals based only on our appearance. I have been dieting, purging, binge eating for decades. Now at 50 I am literally terrified of stepping any closer to that edge & falling into "nothingness"
I don't know "what or who" I'm supposed to be. I am still attractive. You know for my age.. Ugghh
very few men my own age are looking anymore. I've gone as far as putting sheer curtains over my mirrored closet doors.
I look, critique, crictize every line, spot, lump, bump.... I can get very depressed. My child is grown & has a family of his own. I love being a grandmother however I'm not ready to be shelved.
I began to really notice around 35 how less often men & women were noticing me. Men = not hot enough, women = not a threat. I never "abused" my appearance but neither did I use it for any advantages.
Now I'd almost KILL for multiple plastic surgeries.
I am who I am & I am learning or at least trying to put a healthy perspective on that. My outer shell has changed not my inner self.... Self B 4 beauty

July 9, 2016 - 2:26am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

That's really, really sad. Surgery would most likely not even work and just make you look fake.

August 4, 2016 - 11:04am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for sharing your story. I had an older professor, whom I thought was beautiful, tell me women become invisible after a certain age. It's quite a pickle, to be raised in a beauty-centric culture when invisibility is inevitable.

July 12, 2016 - 9:34am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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