It feels incredibly wrong to say this out loud or in print. Growing up it was a lesson carved deep that it wasn’t something you could say about yourself. It was for other people to tell you you were pretty or beautiful, changing to sexy or hot as we got older, but attractiveness was not something you got to claim for yourself. If you were anything but self-deprecating about your appearance, you were–gasp!–egotistical and vain.
Many of the messages we received in this were in the schoolyard where girls who were aware of their good looks were looked down upon, called names, and dissed behind their backs. I learned well that you were supposed to put yourself down and did a whole lot of it. And because people didn’t tell me I was, it never occurred to me that I was pretty. I look back on photos and I was really cute but I had absolutely no idea, and besides, it was brains that really mattered. On television and in movies the ‘beautiful people’ were always bitches or douche canoes while the smart, shyly unaware of her looks girl was the one you cheered for. Pop music goes as far as to explicitly lay it out that not being aware of our beauty is what makes us beautiful (Why yes, I do take life lessons from One Direction songs).
As a society, we’re obsessed with beauty. We’re all encouraged to strive for the perfect face/body combo that others will crave, but we’re not supposed to do so obviously, or acknowledge/appreciate what we’ve got. This mixed message is not only directed at those of us with internal genitalia but the penis-havers as well. How many times have you heard a woman say with disgust disguised as humour, ‘he takes even longer to get ready than I do.’ The pressure to be perfectly coiffed, to have 5% body fat and sculpted everything is increasingly present for men, though endless sitcom pairings of schlubby guys with stunning sex-kitten wives indicates the emphasis is still incredibly one-sided.
That one-sided emphasis carries over strongly to many lifestyle settings where the expectation is that women should dress up in specified sexy ways when the men are not subjected to the same expectation. It’s one of the things that actively turns me off attending many events at our local clubs. I love themes and costumes and dressing up but the difference between sexy schoolgirl and the male equivalent–usually nerd or rebel–is extremely off-putting. I’m willing to put on that get-up for a partner I know will get off on it, but not because it’s mandated.
I love to be objectified where and when I ask for it to happen. I am a huge exhibitionist and love to share pics with my partners and fuck buddies and lucky friends (and often, the internet). I love to dress up in sexy clothes and lingerie for my dates but I’m doing it all because I choose to, not because I’m told to or expected to. I’m presenting myself as an object in those moments for my partners (or instagram followers) because it feels good to me. I’m opting-in to objectification in that situation.
Even as I feel good about the sharing I do and the comments I get, I’m incredibly conscious that there is much backlash against women who share a lot of selfies. There are often articles calling out selfie-culture, particularly directed at women–they’re vapid, vain, shallow, and they aren’t capable of succeeding by ‘real’ metrics. In a recent interview, Canadian Olympic athlete Adam Kreek (and sexist jackass) called out Canadian Olympic athlete Eugenie Bouchard in an interview for not being committed to winning because of her selfies, interest in fashion, and her social media presence. She’s in the gorram Olympics, but she uses iInstagram too much for his tastes, so clearly she’s not serious about being a ‘real’ athlete. It’s gross.
Kim Kardashian’s nudes receive endless scolding and slut shaming because how dare she be such a bad role model. I saw so many posts go through my twitter and facebook that she should set a better example and young girls should be shown that modesty is the way to show they have worth beyond all that superficial beauty stuff and shameful sex stuff. Doesn’t Kim know that only the patriarchy is allowed to share and commodify her beauty and body? Dictate if her ass is perfect or if she’s gotten too fat or thin? Who the fuck does she think she is to claim her body, beauty, and sexuality as her own?
I hadn’t been a person who thought highly of Kardashian until that moment because I am also heavily influenced by all the cultural negativity against being famous for being famous, especially among people who value brains over looks. Seeing her owning her image for her personal use to be objectified as she saw fit, I was suddenly on her team. Fuck yeah! And it helped me come to terms with my own bias and shame with regards to seeking the attention I do from people in my life through sexy photos. It’s my beauty, my body, and I get to decide what to do with it.
Speaking of, I look super-cute in these undies as I write. I’m gonna go snap some selfies.