How I Objectified Myself
On when you want to unsubscribe to objectification
Whether it be the astrological wonder of The Age of Aquarius, or the shift into both occupying and creating space as a means of truth telling, our macro society is currently being viewed by the collective under a microscope. For time immemorial, sexual objectification has been woven into the foundation of society. Interestingly, not only has this objectification become profitable, utilised for self-benefit, tangible, and in most instances continually problematic, it has also been put on a stage for the entire world to see. Be it the powers of tech globalisation or the collective chant, questions are undoubtedly being asked. In our increasingly expansive society, in which people are calling out, existing, sharing and defying imposed gender and sexual binaries, demanding self-sovereignty, autonomy and justice (ideally, an end to violence), why is the archaic nature of sexual objectification still present?
As I’ve grown, albeit still fawning my way into adulthood, I’ve become increasingly aware of the product I have become: slipped somewhere between nature and nurture, I have operated in both spaces of the non-consensually objectified and the deliberate object of desire. As a younger woman, still finding my voice, I was pornified by the gaze, action and intention of the other. I let people (usually young men) sleep with me how they saw me: a sexually embodied individual down for anything. Or perhaps they slept with how they had been taught to see me: as an object. And yet, I didn’t play a passive role in these exchanges either; I learnt young that the power of my pussy was the quickest vehicle for getting what I wanted. My femininity could be commodified and with it I entered heaven’s supermarket where I could purchase love, intimacy and admiration even if fleeting. Which, when you really think about it, is equal parts heartbreaking and self liberating.
Within this paradigm, maintaining a sense of emotional security and control meant being in charge. It became a question of: if I was going to be sexualised anyway, shouldn’t I oversee and master how it is played out? How many thirst traps have I shared with the world: labelled truthfully as self empowerment, hot girl shit, my body is mine but also slide in my direct messages where I’m in control of whether I respond to your interest. How many times have I played into the hot-bisexual-girl stereotype? How many times had I created a counter-narrative for my pussy? In which it had agency, sexuality, sovereignty; in which gave me power.
The sub context of the above statement presents the polarity of coming-of-age, things cease to be linear and instead become everything at once; this mentality was my best attempt at thriving within this system but, it was also a means of survival. Because I would be lying if I never acknowledged here, with vulnerability, the myriad of ways I have been made uncomfortable. The vampirification of my physical being is constant, adjusting to this normal has felt unavoidable. Powerful polarity. When I first began identifying as bisexual, I was quickly fetishized. Cue, “So, do you wanna have a threesome with us?”. This felt painfully dismissive of my tender heart. Wolf whistles and word vomit on the street makes me sick. They remind me that I’m never really safe, both in real life and online. Then, there is my sexual trauma; a thorn in my side. The amount of therapy it has taken to realise that this abuse wasn’t punishment for being a promiscuous girl, an in charge girl, a girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, I was a victim of rape (culture) – objectification at its peak. And it wasn’t my fault. Infact, I survived it.
Introducing my own Age of Aquarius, my own unfurling, awakening, growing; the painful catalyst that continues the story. My experiences came with the stark realisation of my own ignorance within the construct I felt imprisoned by, just where the hybridity of capitalism, the patriarch and institutional sexism wanted me, frozen like a deer in the headlights. This unconscious adaptation, subscription to my own objectification, is just as silently damaging as how deafeningly loud being catcalled is. Here there is anger. But, there is also a chance for growth, truth and actively taking steps to rewrite this narrative – there is a movement for change.
On a deeper-rooted plane, we must take note of the institutions most of us have transitioned through. Our cultural climate is at a boiling point. The Australian Government proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, preventing religious schools from discriminating on the basis of students sexuality, failed to protect gender-fluid and trans kids from that same birth right. A paper thin attempt at inclusion. Sexual assault and harassment disproportionately impacts First Nations women, women experiencing disability, women of colour, lesbian and bisexual, trans, non-binary and gender-diverse women; there is limited structures or systems in place that are trauma informed, efficiently respect cultural protocols and take responsibility for institutional discrimination. Whilst recognising that sexual violence is gendered, men and boys who are sexually assaulted are shunned into silence by social attitudes and stereotypes. This isn’t a witch hunt – it’s how we’ve built the foundation of our society.
And yet, utopia isn’t a complete illusion. Grassroots activist Chanel Contos, and the countless women who shared their stories, have campaigned so loudly that the Ministers of Education around Australia have unanimously committed to sex education including “comprehensive consent education including an understanding of gendered stereotypes, coercion, and power imbalances” (Teach Us Consent, 2022, Instagram). We are better off for the leadership and advocacy of Brittney Higgins and Grace Tame. Before these women were heard, Dhanya Mani – a former NSW liberal staffer who went public in 2019 with her sexual assault experience by her colleague – was and continues to campaign for workplace and political safety for women and minorities; you perhaps haven’t heard of her because our mainstream media almost solely push stories of conventional women, attractive white women, cis-gendered people and able-bodied people at the expense of everybody else – a deepening of the divide.
Despite moving in semi-progressive spaces, and a more sexually holistic society on the horizon, thwarting at sexualisation, objectification and the air of un-fixability surrounding it all is still paramount – still in process, much like my own self examination. This is written with deep knowing: as a white appearing, middle class woman from a developed nation, my iceberg may very well be another’s tip.