learned self-objectification

Updated: Mar 10


Reflections on trauma & abuse 1.

When abuse happens, there is always a real or perceived power imbalance.


The perpetrator might be a parent, adult, teacher, elder, boss or leader. Someone in a position of authority.


Or often, just a man.


My contention is that being a man in a patriarchal world is, in itself, already to hold more power in public and private space.


And the extent of this power will vary according to culture and context.


One of the effects of this systemic imbalance is that an "unconscious male gaze" is privileged and normalised.


Meaning that it is so pervasive and embedded, it goes unquestioned.


As a result of which, females grow up with the conditioning of self-objectification: a phenomenon that leads them to:


- disinhabit their bodies and give away responsibility for their pleasure - have a love/hate relationship with their bodies - use their bodies & sexuality to negotiate for power & attention - buy into the virgin/whore dichotomy - believe their primary value lies in their sex appeal - judge & compare one another - develop eating disorders


This is the feminine wounding & separation I come up against in my work and personal life every single day.


I'll give you an example.


My 16 year-old daughter has two friends, who went through puberty early and developed large breasts.


And so, from about the age of 12/13, these girls have been on the receiving end of constant sexualised remarks and approaches from adult men.


Whilst wearing their school uniforms, as much as on weekends.


These comments aren't from the odd pervert. They are from "ordinary" men. Often in packs.


These comments are made in public. Often in front of other adults, as in, for example the other day, when a man kept hassling one of my daughter's friends for her Snapchat & Instagram account whilst sitting next to her on the bus.


She repeatedly told him she didn't want to give it to him. But he kept asking.


The thing is, it didn't occur to her ignore him, get away or tell him to fuck off. Just as it didn't occur to my daughter to intervene.


Because he was an adult. In his early 20s. And they are children. Sexually innocent. And used to obeying their parents at home.


There was a level of fear. A level of submission. Due to the power imbalance of age, size and gender.


And, I'd venture to suggest, because male ownership of public space and the male right to pass comment is taken for granted. Left unchallenged.


But here's the interesting thing. What also seems to happen is that those girls, who got such sexualised attention early on are now more likely to be the ones to flirt a lot, wear make-up and dress to flaunt their "assets."


Without really understanding, I'd venture to suggest, what they are doing or playing with.


They have learned to objectify themselves.


Supported by a selfie culture, air-brushed magazines, reality TV and the marked absence of real, wild women in the main-stream.


The socially & culturally conditioned self-objectification of women is just one factor that makes sexual abuse possible.


And it stems from a power imbalance that privileges men, male desire and masculinity.


How do we disrupt this pattern?


Model for and teach your daughters, nieces and grand-daughters, that their value as women is inherent and in no way dependent upon looking pleasing to men.


Praise, listen to and support them for their unique gifts and interests - not just their visual appeal.


NEVER judge, criticise or belittle them for their physical appearance.


Do the work as woman to reclaim your body, pleasure and sexuality as your own.


Encourage your daughters, nieces and grand-daughters to connect with and love their bodies, sensuality and moon cycle for their own empowerment, wisdom and well-being.


Teach your daughters, nieces and grand-daughters what to say to any man who makes inappropriate comments or approaches towards them.


Teach your sons, nephews and grand-sons to honour, protect and speak up for the women and girls in their lives.


Call out any man you witness invading a woman's space, making objectifying or sexualised comments or touching without permission.


Do the work as man to own, integrate and take responsibility for your desire. Your sexuality can be a most potent and precious gift to women and the world when appropriately aligned and harnessed. But used unconsciously, it can breed fear and destruction.


For any woman reading this, I'm an expert in teaching women to love their bodies, expand their pleasure and ignite the power of their sexuality from within. Be in touch if you'd like to know more, by clicking on the contact button on the top right.

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© 2020 Shakti Sundari.