The Objectivization of Women

Are women better off in our society? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last night while watching TV, my wife and I came across a sitcom we hadn’t seen before but within a few minutes, I saw the usual problem I see in many sitcoms today. The whole idea was one character had been introduced to some women and was trying to do everything he could to get them to sleep with him.

At this point, I told my wife that it was really sorrowful how our society has lowered to seeing women as nothing but sex objects. A few moments passed before I added a second point that I think it’s even sadder that the women themselves in these sitcoms seem to often have the same attitude and want nothing more than to immediately get naked for the guy and every woman is instantly available.

Let’s start out with some clear points on how sex is from a Christian perspective. Sex is something that is made to be enjoyable. A husband and wife are to thoroughly enjoy the passionate love of one another. Both are intended to get pleasure from the act. While it is normally seen that men have the highest libidos, women too can have libidos. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting sex for physical pleasure any more than there is a man wanting to have sex to get some emotional closeness.

But in all of this, men and women are not just meant to be used for their bodies. A man is not to approach a woman solely for sexual pleasure and it is a shame that this can happen in marriages even where a man wants to have his wife around so he can get in his kicks and then when he’s done with her, he is immediately absent, as if he just got out a movie, book, or video game, and after he was done playing, put it away again.

A woman meanwhile is to honor her husband sexually as well and the great danger for women is that sex can be used to get something someone wants. In both cases, neither party is focusing on the joy of the other. There is nothing wrong with finding one’s own joy, but the true lover wants when done to know that he or she has done their part to please the spouse.

As I was thinking about this, I thought about shows I used to watch. Consider for instance, the Mary Tyler Moore show. This was a show about a woman rising up in the world seeking to take her piece of the pie. Nudity did not show up on the show. There was no doubt about how many men around Mary wanted her, but they would not have been as overt as they are today. The woman was still respected and you had to win her heart and treat her honorably. Mary was a woman who was going somewhere and a man would have to rise to the occasion in order to be worthy of her.

Meanwhile, on most sitcoms today, the woman meets the man and immediately she wants to take him back home and sleep with him. There is hardly any thought of STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, family commitments, or values of any kind, other than the value to have a lot of fun.

With that is gone any idea that sex could mean something greater than just a pleasurable time. It could also be a builder of commitment between two people who have formed a covenant with each other. It could be an ever-increasing way of actually getting to know the other person. For all we know, maybe it just might be that when you stay married to one person for life, you get to know that person exceedingly well.

Keep in mind that all this is happening in a society that is supposed to have got past the oppression of women that supposedly took place in its Christian heyday. Now we are secular and we have thrown off the shackles of the past. We have embraced abortion and thus given women control over their own bodies. Truly, women are free today.

And yet, for all their freedom, they seem to be treated as objects just for the purpose of sex. Is this an upwards move? Is this any more about launching careers or being incredible mothers? Is the highest aspiration a woman can reach in this life that of giving a man a really good time in bed?

This also has an effect on the way men are. Men can grow to expect women to always want sex. Women can grow to expect that men want nothing but sex. For the Christian, sex is an important aspect of a woman, but her greatest good is not in the pleasure of men but in the pleasure of God. The opposite is true for a man. A man’s greatest good is not in pleasing the woman, but in pleasing God.

Yet this is supposed to be the age where we are free from the shackles of religion that treated women as objects. Go look at how several skeptics speak of how women are treated in the Bible. Well now you have supposedly broken free of that and what can I see regularly on TV? Women being treated as objects of sexual pleasure on TV and no other redeeming factors are mentioned. The important part of a woman on the show is what her body looks like and how good she is in bed.

As a Christian man and as a Christian husband, I do believe women are better than that. In fact, the danger for us with lust is that we will lower our wife by thinking the other woman might be “better” and in doing so, we won’t just lower our wives, but we’ll lower all women by treating that as the standard. On the other hand, if a man wants to truly love the female species, the best way he can do that is by honoring his wife and forsaking all others.

And as a married man, I have indeed made a serious commitment that I intend to honor till death do us part. Part of that commitment is that I am to have sex with no one else but my wife. I have made it a point to honor my wife sexually so much that she thinks I can be paranoid around other women because I do not want to risk giving off a wrong idea or adding an image to the rolodex that men have in their heads.

What would happen on a sitcom if a woman in response to the invitation to sleep with the leading male actor said “No. I won’t. You have to marry me first. I just believe that sex is to be reserved for marriage.” Chances are in our society, she would be immediately a prude and part of the lead’s task then would be to rid her of this concept.

Let us hope that our society will move past this stage where instead of reaching maturity, we are acting rather immature and realize the sacredness of sex and the sacredness of one another. If you ask the question “Is nothing sacred?” in a scheme without God, the answer has to be “No.” In the Christian system, the answer is all that is is sacred. The more something is like God, the more sacred it is, and thus humanity and our sexuality are incredibly sacred. Let us not treat them as cheap.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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3 Responses to “The Objectivization of Women”

  1. Walt Says:

    Hey Nick, your concern about what our society expects of its men and women is a hugely important one, but I don’t agree that a TV show gives us a good picture of our society. I’ll offer an alternative hypothesis for what programs like the one you mention (and movies, video games, books, etc) may actually be telling us about our society, and I’d appreciate your feedback.

    I don’t have any data on the subject, though maybe another reader does, so I’ll speak from personal experience. I don’t watch much TV, but I do play video games. I often play video games for the fantasy of it, sort of an escape from normal life stresses – it just feels good to concentrate on frivolity for a little while. Growing up, I heard much fuss about the problem of violence in video games and how it can spill over into real life, but I never experienced that effect, and none of the real studies supported that fear to my knowledge. I talked to my mom recently about why she made the choice to let me play violent video games, and she told me about her attempts with my older brother to prevent him from playing with guns. It turns out that he just made guns out of paper and any other seemingly harmless materials – boys will be boys, apparently. My brother and I are nice grown-ups, and we enjoy/have enjoyed our “escapes” through games. Programs and games, in my opinion, allow us to experience what we don’t experience in real life. I agree with you that these consumable media have become more extreme in every respect, but I would argue that this could just as easily be a direct result of our lives becoming better behaved. The trashy romance novel, after all, has been around for many years, perhaps to provide an outlet to frustrated middle-aged women who have historically had little control over their lives (apologies to any trashy romance fans). It seems that men are now embracing trashy ways to live out their own fantasies since they are less able to do so in real life with such abandon.

    As a tangent, I’m curious what you think about the raging popularity of the Twilight series in which there is no sex before marriage. Is this a meaningful exception to current media?

    Finally, I’ll agree that there are serious problems with expectations placed on men and women by various forms of media (body image, what it means to be masculine/feminine, etc), but I think sitcoms and other forms of fairly frivolous entertainment are just pandering to the trashy romance novel in all of us. If you want to really dig into male/female roles in our current society, I think there are more useful metrics like rates of unwanted pregnancy, eating disorders, and sexual assault, for example.

  2. apologianick Says:

    Hi Walt.

    I too enjoy the games. As it is, I am going through on the Wii again, my Gamecube “Metroid Prime.” Throughout the day, I am going through the Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection on the PSP.

    I do agree that boys will be boys and in fact should be. An interesting look on this is John Eldridge’s “Wild At Heart.” The real truth is we men are fighters at heart, but we must learn to be the fighter at the appropriate time. The same with sexual desires. We have strong libidos, but we need to save those for appropriate times.

    The question could be to ask if the media makes the society what it is or reflects it as it is. I do believe we have come a long way from the shows of the past to the shows of today. I do agree that looking at other forms of information would be helpful as well, but I’m also aware of the effect we can get when we try to normalize behavior.

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