The Sexy Lie of Sexuality and Gender

We’re not so different, You and i. 

I’ve often heard the idea that boys are just more visual than women as an excuse for why we normalize activities that tend to objectify women – the way women are presented in the media, the ritualistic ways in which some men attend strip clubs, and the almost universal use of porn. All of these behaviors are supposed to be a natural expression of sexuality. However, when the roles are reversed and a woman engages in these same activities she is seen as abnormal and crass, no matter how visually-oriented she may be. This, to me, is a sign that this herd behavior toward a visual male sexuality is about more than just an appreciation for the visual realm.

One of the first indicators of this is the inconsistency within our gender stereotypes. When we talk about men from a sexual standpoint, it’s fine to call them visual beings; but when we talk about them from a general standpoint, we are asked to believe that they are analytical, unlike the “silly women” who dwell on the visual components of life like fashion, art, and interior design. As a result, the idea of a “man” is appropriated, such that, in each situation, he is dominant.

Dr. Caroline Heldman further develops this argument  through her apt observation that, contrary to popular belief, sex doesn’t sell. Both men and women are sexual beings, and yet the majority of advertisements objectify women without regard to their audience. “If sex sold, most women are heterosexual, and we are sexual beings, so why wouldn’t we see half-naked men everywhere in advertising?” Heldman suggests that what these advertisements are really selling is the idea of the dominant male and the female sexual object. In other words, they are selling success within a male-dominant society.

I don’t claim to know what emphasis on a person’s appearance is acceptable. I only mean to challenge the idea that men need objectifying situations to be aroused and that women can only be the object of another’s desires. There isn’t one way for men to express their sexuality and one other way for women to express theirs. We are all just people, each with our own way of existing, regardless of any way we can be categorized.

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