Monday, March 8, 2010

Sexy girl

Everything has to be sexy nowadays. Movies, video clips, advertisements, clothes, magazine covers. And women. Especially women.

Women nowadays see many more images of attractive woman than they used to. They are on our TV screens, our computer screens, our movie screens, our iPods and our phones. Wherever we look, there is an image of a attractive and definitely sexy woman, reminding us of how far short we fall of the ideal. And when I say attractive, it usually means sexy. The pure and innocent look may be appealing to some. But it doesn’t tend to sell a lot of magazines, deodorants or clothes. Women don’t want to look pure and innocent anymore. They want to look sexy.

So what came first? The images of the sexy women or the women who want to look sexy. They seem to be tied in together.

Sex sells, as the saying goes. But we are heavily influenced by the images we see. And a lot of the images we see relate to people selling something. Even if it’s not a specific product, the sexy, gyrating video clips are using sex to sell their music. The movies use images of sexy women to get people to come to their movie. And all these images influence how we see the world and our place in it. If sex sells, images influence. The more images of sexy women we see, the more women will want to be sexy.

Now this may not be such a huge problem when it comes to grown adult women. Possibly it is. Possibly it isn’t. But my main concern here is with young girls and young women, particularly teenagers.

But let’s go backwards a little bit. Because even children now are getting sexier. Instead of pink frilly dresses, they’re wearing midriff tops and hipsters. Because image does not just influence, it matters. Even for children or the parents of children. Who wants to see their child wearing a pink frilly dress, when everybody knows that pink frilly dresses aren’t fashionable? What is fashionable is sexy. And so children are wearing sexy clothes. Not to look sexy exactly. But to look trendy. Pink frilly dresses are not trendy. Midriff tops and hipsters are.

And so by the time they’re 12, children already have a good idea of what’s fashionable, what’s in, what’s trendy. They probably don’t even think of it as sexy. But the fact is they’re being influenced by the culture of today and the culture of today is all about sexy.

Not only do they know what’s hot, but the message is constantly reinforced. The magazines they buy, the TV shows they watch, the video clips for their favourite singers, all continue to give the message that sexy is trendy.

And teenagers want to be trendy. Not only that, they want to be accepted. They want to be popular. They want guys to like them.

And so they look to the world around them (which increasingly means their friends and popular culture) to tell them how to be trendy, accepted, popular and attractive to boys. And what does the culture say? It says be sexy. In fact, it doesn’t just say be sexy. It practically screams it at them. Continuously.

And of course, the more teenagers dress and act in a sexy way, the more they do get noticed. But that’s not always a good thing. Okay, in a minute, I’m going to say something that may not go down too well. So before I get there, I’ll change tracks a little bit.

Twice in the last week, in very different programs (neither of them religious, by the way), I have heard someone say that fathers are more afraid now to tell their daughters that what they are wearing is unacceptable. Because a father knows what a young boy will think when he sees his daughter dressed that way. But the problem is he feels it’s politically incorrect to say anything.

The message we’re told nowadays is that no matter what a woman wears or how a woman acts, she doesn’t ask for sex. Which is fair enough. A man should never force a woman into sex just because of what she’s wearing or how she’s acting. And it’s a very good message and one that our young men need to hear.

But the problem is that now it’s difficult for people to tell young women that what they are wearing may draw unwanted sexual attention. Because the message is they can wear what they want, act how they want and boys just have to keep their hands off.

I stepped backwards before. So now let’s step forward.

When an adult woman wears a sexy outfit, she knows she looks sexy. And unless she’s completely na├»ve, she knows exactly what men are thinking when they look at her. And maybe she likes that. She feels sexy, desirable, attractive - and often in control. She knows she has the ability to reject any unwanted sexual advances.

But a young woman does not always realise the effect she is having on men. She wears an outfit because it’s trendy. She is flattered by the attention she receives from boys. She hasn’t necessarily learnt how to tell the difference between a boy who is interested in her as a person and one who is not so much concerned with admiring her new outfit as he is with taking it off.

Rape is wrong. Obviously. But sometimes a young girl will find herself in a sexual situation that she isn’t really ready for, but isn’t really sure how to say no. She’s not yet sure herself how far she wants to go. I don’t want to get explicit here, but things can slide from enjoyable to regrettable pretty quickly. And it is my belief that many teenage girls will let things go a lot further than they actually want them to.

The solution here for many people will be to just give girls coping skills on how to say no. I don’t think that’s enough. Because I think sexy behaviour and appearance puts young girls in situations that they’re just not ready for. Not only are they not ready for sex, they’re not ready to learn how to cope with unwanted sexual advances. And not only that, sometimes they don’t want to say no. Because when a guy wants to have sex with a girl, quite often that girl feels wanted. It’s hard to say no to that. It’s hard sometimes for adults to say no to that. Let alone young girls who want above all else to be wanted - and popular and accepted and attractive.

Well give them condoms, I can hear someone say. Sure. And make it even easier for them to have sex before they’re ready for it. And make it even harder for them to say no. When a young girl walks around with a condom in her purse, it’s like she’s admitted to herself she may have sex. And admitting you may do something is always the first step towards doing it. Whether it’s something you should do or not. Whether you’re ready for it or not. Whether it’s good for you or not.

I don’t know what sex education is like these days. But I hope at least some of it involves telling young people how to avoid sex. I don’t mean the whole abstinence only approach. I like abstinence - as in abstinence education. And honestly, I think it would be good if that kind of sex education actually worked. But I really don’t think it is ever going to be fully successful in the highly sexualised culture that we live in.

But at least giving kids (for that’s what they are) some knowledge on how to deal with or avoid unwanted sexual advances. And teaching them the kind of situations that may lead to sex. Perhaps even letting teenage girls know some of the thoughts that are running through teenage boys head. And even though this may be politically incorrect, telling girls what affect their sexy clothes and behaviour has on the males around them.

I’ve never been a boy, so I don’t know what it’s like to be one. But I imagine it’s not easy. Right when their hormones are going wild, they have all these teenage girls wearing the skimpiest outfits possible, acting in the sexiest ways, often giving them the idea that they want to go further than they actually do. And many of the girls don’t actually know what they’re doing. They’re just trying to be trendy and attractive.

Feminists complain about the objectifying of women. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I also get very annoyed at the objectifying of women. I don’t think it’s all men’s fault though. When women or young girls go around trying to look as sexy as possible, can we honestly blame the men for looking at them and thinking ‘sex’? And that was probably politically incorrect statement number two.

Now I don’t want to enforce rules where modest dress is compulsory. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mature women (and I say mature, because the exact age can vary from person to person) wearing sexy clothes. Women like looking sexy sometimes. But I do think we should be educating young girls about the types of clothes they wear - and the types of behaviours that go with them.

And I suppose I better leave this post here, before I get to politically incorrect statement number three.

4 comments:

  1. oh jesus, yet another corner of the internet devoted to blaming women for the failings of men.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This post was hardly 'devoted to blaming women for the failings of men'. If that's what you think it is, you didn't read it properly.

    I didn't write this post to blame women for the failings of men. I wrote it because I care deeply about what is happening with teenage girls.

    What's more important? Protecting our young women from getting hurt? Or blaming men after they do get hurt?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Liz
    It's funny because I was thinking about something related - sex on film - just before I read your post. Sometimes I dislike it(sex on film) so much that I can't watch it. It seems to me that sexuality is now portrayed in quite a demoralizing way - usually. And I do think that people are influenced by all this stuff going on around them - much more than they realize. Music videos, for example, used to be just the singer or band doing something funny or nice or slightly dumb - whatever - but a lot of music clips, when I last saw one (though I actually haven't seen any for a while ...have they got better or worse? I don't know) were all about sex.

    Curiously, when my alarm went off the morning after I read this post, some people on the radio were talking about the influence of pornography(in its many forms) on relationships between men and women and, while I thought these people were making a complex issue too simplistic, I agreed with some of it. They compared our society now to 50 years ago. They said that, because of the constant barrage of pornographic images, men are now more focused on lust than on being a family provider. I do think there is some truth in that but that it also has to do with a general discordance of societal values and a loss of spirituality.

    It certainly seems that the portrayal of sexuality has been reduced to a very specific and narrow set of behaviours and attitudes. And it can be really disturbing to see young people mimicking that. But even grown up people seem to barely have a clue - so how can they set examples for their children. Skimpy dress in itself doesn't bother me but a few times I have seen young girls - children -in the street dressed in clothing that has a sexual look about it and their fathers looking proud of the attention they are getting. I find that totally revolting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Teresa,

    I'm not overly bothered by sex in film. Although I do prefer sex scenes to actually have some kind of a context, rather than those movies where they seem to have an [insert sex scene here] in them.

    I am worried by the easy access that men (particularly teenage boys) have to sexual images and pornography. I wouldn't have phrased it in terms of lust versus family provider. I'd see it more as 'just sex' versus 'sex as part of a healthy relationship with someone'. And I imagine it would also give men some warped ideas about what a woman wants in a sexual relationship.

    Although again, I think the biggest danger here is for young people, that don't have the life experience to draw on. I think there's been some studies done on the effect of pornography on young men and it would be interesting to see what they have to say.

    I also wonder whether this constant barrage of sexual imagery we receive removes some of the wonder and thrill for young people in a relationship. They're no longer content with 'holding hands' and 'snuggling on the couch' because society seems to be telling them that sex is everything.

    And instead of seeing sex as something to be explored when the time is right, it's seen as something to mimic and copy, from what they have seen on TV and computer screens.

    Liz

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