On The Edge Of A “Sexual Ravine” – One Giant Leap Forwards For Womanhood

ravine
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Most women find themselves constantly on the edge of a dangerous and ubiquitous “sexual ravine.” Those who fall into the trap of the ravine no longer see themselves as unique and valuable individuals. They possess a physical body that constantly requires an appearance corresponding to sexual criteria imposed by men. The ravine extracts from its victims everything that is meaningful in defining what it really is to be human.

 

 

 

ravine

 

 

Last month we all remembered Apollo 11’s moon landing that took place 50 years ago. It was a great achievement for humanity in general and Nasa in particular. Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s words prior to his first steps on the lunar surface have become immortalised in history,

 That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

 

For glamour model Rhian Sudgen, nothing felt better than to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing by taking off her Earth clothes and pose in an outfit that would have got her in to serious trouble on the deserted shores of the Mare Tranquilitatis

Rhian Sudgen is over the Moon to celebrate today’s 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar mission. To mark mankind’s giant leap the 32-year-old does what she does best and strips down to a shiny silver bikini in honour of the occasion. – Daily Star

 

You may not believe me, but I had never heard of Rhian Sudgen before she was forced on my computer screen courtesy of Sky News’ review of the front pages. Seeing her so scantily dressed and so blatantly daring, reminded me of my schooldays when certain of my comrades in arms regularly got hold of second-hand copies of the Sun left behind on the Piccadilly Line, which featured, more often than not, a blonde damsel in a predicament not too different to that of dear old Rhian.

For the Sun‘s Page-3 iconic model Samantha Fox, the only explanation to have landed on the infamous page of a down-market tabloid instead of on the Moon, at the tender age of 16 – long after I had flunked my A-levels – is,

I’m sitting on the school bus and there I was on Page 3 with my boobs.

 

Now there’s a lass I have heard of and God knows how she managed to take the wrong bus home. I never did. Silly girl, more beauty than brains, I presume. But at least she didn’t forget her boobs on the bus because such “naturals” are so difficult to find, nowadays.

The above of course, is to be taken with a pinch of salt and reflects in no way my views on women.

 

Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that Miss Sudgen (I may call her “Miss”) was at no moment forced to pose for such photographs by being abducted from a schoolbus and is thus a free agent. She enjoys it and gets paid easy money just for standing in front of the camera with little more than her ego.

What really infuriates me about her appearance in the Daily Star, is not the fact that she was “selling” her body to the imagination of perverted old men and insecure teenagers, but the caption that went with the photograph – “does what she does best.” Is that really what the newspaper thinks of the models it hires? Is that what men think about women who are, naturally or not, perceived as being more glamorous than the average woman? More worrying still is that this attitude can apply to all women, even those who score a 3,2 on a scale of 1 to 10, when judged by a horde of drunken gits in the Red Lion on a Saturday night. “Shut the f**k up, and show us your knockers!” they chant in an uncontrolled frenzy.

Now then, gentlemen, let me disappoint you. Disappoint you I shall because this particular bimbo can actually read.

ravine

Not only can she read, but she is also very choosy about who she follows on Twitter. 

I just wonder how many followers, out of the 400K, actually read her tweets or are just there to keep abreast of what she’s up to, if you’ll excuse the pun.

 

In 1997, Barbara Fredrickson and Tommi-Ann Roberts published a ground-breaking article entitled, “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks.” The authors postulate that many women are being sexually objectified by men whose sole purpose is to treat them as an object and value their “usefulness” in the context of male sexual desire. In other words, the women are not treated as persons but primarily as physical objects. This male-dominated attitude can lead to mental health problems affecting primarily women, including eating disorders and depression.

The deleterious effects of sexual objectification occur via two pathways. The first pathway comprises a direct effect of the objectification experiences, whereas the second pathway is much more subtle, comprising victims’ internalisation of the experiences. The internalisation leads to self-objectification, where the woman’s life revolves around the appearance of her body which must remain perfectly centered within the socially accepted male values. The affected women no longer consider themselves as unique and valuable individuals, but as having a physical body that requires a pleasing appearance based on criteria imposed by men. This constant obsession with physical appearance can lead to mental health issues via negative psychological outcomes. In the case of eating disorders, it is as the internal sensation of hunger related to the need for food is completely ignored and is overridden by the external sensation of the mandatory physical appearance that pleases men.

 

ravine
Sexual objectification experiences can cause psychological trauma via a direct effect or via internalisation and self-objectification – from Szymanski et al. (1)

 

It is about time we stopped with this constant flooding of the public sphere with an often unattainable and potentially dangerous picture of how a woman should look and linking this look with sexiness and worth. Women should not have the choice between being bitches or sexy kittens, nor should they be portrayed in the media as being more often than not  half-naked and unconditionally beautiful. In all cases the women are stripped of what comprises the fundamental buiilding-blocks of who they are – their humanness – and end up being classified as animals or machines.

History has taught us not so long ago what dehumanisation can lead to and the degree of suffering endured by millions of human beings who have been arbitrarily denied their humanness.

 

A human face is the most exposed, most vulnerable, and most expressive aspect of the Other’s presence and of what it means to be human.

 

But as a man, I ask myself an honest but frightening question. I ask myself if I too have not be conditioned to view women in this way – even if it is just a matter of milliseconds. How can it be otherwise when I have been bombarded with such mass stereotyping of what womanhood represents, practically from the day I was born. No matter how hard they try or how well they are educated, the first impression that women will give to most men relates to their physicality.

French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas argued that it is the “face of the Other,” that leads to moral values being practiced. During times of war, you can easily shoot your enemy in the back, but will you be able to shoot him if you stand face-to-face?

The face represents a “living presence,” someone other than myself who is present in my space. The presence of the Other cannot be conceptualised, cannot be reduced to an image. It represents the other’s “infinity,” that I cannot dominate. It is the most exposed, most vulnerable, and most expressive aspect of the other’s presence and of what it means to be human.

 

To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to have the idea of infinity. But this also means: to be taught.”
― Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority

 

Emmanuel Levinas may have given us the solution to the problem. Sexual objectification may just be eradicated if men are taught to look at women’s faces instead of their pants.

 

(1) Szymanski, Dawn & B. Moffitt, Lauren & Carr, Erika. (2011). Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research. The Counseling Psychologist. 39. 6-38. 10.1177/0011000010378402.