Alison Bechdel notices a pin-up calendar of a naked woman kneeling provocatively—in her book, Fun Home, Bechdel’s childhood autobiographical graphic novel—and suddenly her 10-ish child self alters. She asks her brother to call her Albert instead of Alison (she looks like a boy) while at the shop because—I believe—she feels exposed and objectified in a way she’d never experienced before. I, too, remember when I became aware of this indelicate difference—at age four—and came home asking my mamma if I could change out of my sundress into pants.
I grew up in the late 50s–60s (think Mad Men) where ogling women and making crude, rude remarks were common place. While married to my ex, he didn’t gawk at women in my presence but I heard from my kids—after we’d divorced—that he “drooled” over women in theirs. The kids mildly heckled him for it until they were older and then told him to stop outright.
What’s the big deal, you ask? He wasn’t really hurting anyone, right? Boys will be boys and all that. “Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t read the menu,” right? Wrong. Girls get the message—reinforced repeatedly and subliminally throughout society and the media—that their true and maybe only power is in being sexy bait instead of the all-encompassing empowered lesson boys receive.
Appreciating beauty, physiques, pecs & six-packs, breasts, art, architecture, nature, food, etc. is normal. But those things are not extensions of you; they’re just things you admire. Like cute kids or cuddly kittens. They exist in their own right. You don’t get to possess or minimize their existence because you desire them.
And speaking of animals, they aren’t just food. They could be food and are in certain circumstances but that’s not who they are intrinsically; they have their own lives and thoughts. If humans only recognize them for this one “service,” then we get heinous CAFOs, chicken “farms” and euphemistically labeled foods: veal, paté.
To perceive females as something one wants to consume suggests we’re commodities not humans. If men only see women in relation to their personal “needs” or desires then we women are spammed up as the main course in sicko porn.
Sexuality, sensuality, eroticism are things I love to participate in, be it “sex with one” or embraces with another. Lecherousness is a whole further level of puke. Who exists as a full being there? We live in an obsessive culture that over-praises sex to the exclusion of other joys or demonizes it to the level of “sin.”
Couldn’t sexuality have it’s own lovely, ordinary, human place? Couldn’t all beings/things on this planet be allowed their own beautiful value without looking for their utility in relation to us?
Begin with women. Practice not ogling; practice not wanting to. Men, if you’re over the age of 25 (maturation of prefrontal cortex), you’ve no excuse. Outgrow it like most men outgrow wanting to party all night, beer guzzling hats, fart jokes, and 20-hour gaming marathons.
In other words, grow the f@#k up.