The topic of today’s post is sexualization of women. Sexualization is to make something sexual in character or quality. Sexual objectification is treating a person merely as a means for sexual pleasure and nothing more. Now, I do not presume to speak for the entire female population, but I think it would be fair to say that most women have experienced this in their lifetime. Why is this? Because in our society, we start experiencing sexualization and sexual objectification in our early teens, in high schools. We become so accustomed to it unfortunately, that sometimes we lack the recognition of its behavior, we think, “this is just the way things are”, this is how men treat women. Or even worse, we start to find meaning in it. We measure ourselves in sexual appeal, and we enjoy the praise we get for our efforts. Now, as I say this, understand that I don’t mean this is always a negative thing. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel sexy, and be acknowledged for that, man or woman? But there is a limit on what is, or should be acceptable. Sexualization has become so entwined into the dynamics between the sexes, for obvious biological reproductive reasons, but what I am criticizing is the socialization of it; the commonality and trivialization of unwanted verbal or even worse, physical sexual objectification. Some men might turn their nose at this accusation, for lack of a better word, in the solid belief that they do not treat women in such a manner. I believe unfortunately that the gender normality of male dominance and female docility, on which I will address in another post, may be blinded by these norms and not realize they are doing it ‘innocently’. Furthermore, some women may not understand the implications of these actions upon her individual self, or the female population as a whole.
What I really want to do with this post is open the floor to other women’s experiences. Whether you would like to leave an experience in the comment, or possibly just revisit and analyze your personal experiences with sexualization as a reminder of why we face some of the issues at hand. And for men to maybe contemplate situations in which they may have sexually objectified an unwilling participant and analyze these actions. I will share some personal experiences with sexual objectification.
These particular instances occurred at my place of work, of which I am no longer employed; for these very reasons. So, let me set the scene, I was a cocktail server at a tavern and pool hall. On a daily basis, I would have men talk to me and behave in certain manners that could not be interpreted in any other way than, he wanted to have sex. Flattering right? No. It was not offensive for the mere conception of being desired in such a way, it was what these men said, what these men did that was just crossing the line. They felt entitled to touch me, when I in no way gave permission for this. They would reach out and place a hand on my shoulder, on my waist, on my back; these complete strangers. They would say disgustingly sexual things. Again, I never warranted any of this behavior. I would observe “invitations” for this behavior from other servers around me. The so called ‘flirting’ with a customer to enhance tips. Which is entirely their prerogative. I. Never. Did. This. I did my job; that is I took orders and I served drinks. Occasionally I would engage in conversation, but never did I ever intentionally convey the dynamics that I was looking for this attention, or for any indication of a sexual nature. I was told by customers on many occasions that I was “too serious”. I assume this compliment to my character was made due to my lack of a bubbly, giggly, smiley nature. Even then, it did not prevent this unwarranted behavior. I cannot surmise as to why they would assume it was okay to treat me this way. This is why she is here. Not to make money to pay her bills, but to serve me, to take my attention, to like it, and to want more. Once, a man grabbed me by the arm, and asked when the next shift I worked was, so that he could bring me a rose. All I had done up to this point in our interaction was introduce myself as his server and bring him his drink, which I distinctly remember was a tall glass of pineapple and cran. Nothing more odd than a grown man coming to a bar to order juice, but who am I to judge? I was flabbergasted to say the least. These men move fast; is the aim of the game to go from introductions to “romance” in 60 seconds or less? At the end of each shift, servers were escorted to their cars because it wasn’t uncommon for men to loiter in the parking lot, whether to rob us or harass us, I’m unsure in their intent. One case in particular was quite bothersome. A regular of the bar apparently had become keen to my service. He would wave me over for a chat, this did not bother me. But then his attitude and his actions began to escalate. He would try to touch me, on several occasions, and I would politely ask him not to. On one occasion, he was there with a group of friends and actually tried to embrace me by placing his hand on the back on my neck, as you would to kiss someone. I grabbed his wrist and said no, as if scolding a bad pet, and unintendedly embarrassed him in front of his friends. From that point on, I made it known that I was not interested in interactions with this customer. He would wave me over, I would ignore, he would try to chat, I would say I was busy. Ignoring his interactions apparently became unbearable for him. One night I was working a double shift, taking my dinner break in the back bar which is quite isolated from the rest of the tavern, and unoccupied at most points. This customer was there this night, he had been there for a few hours, and had been served too many drinks. I was entirely distracted by my meal, and checking my phone to hear him approach me from behind. He grabbed me by the back of my neck and my waist, leaned in right next to my ear and said, “next time I am here, you better talk to me.” He didn’t yell it, he delivered his message in an utterly normal and sociopathic tone. His grip was not painful, it did not have to be. I took the entire interaction at face value. This man felt he could dominate me, that he owned me. I pushed back against him, put my hands in the air and yelled, “do not fucking touch me”. Luckily, one of the bouncers was there to witness all of this. The customer apparently shocked by my reaction, that I would actually stand up for myself, turned and left immediately. I was furious. No, I was fucking furious. That a man, for all intents and purposes, a complete stranger, would treat me this way. That he was somehow entitled to treat any woman this way because we are beneath him. My employers assured me that something would be done about the situation. That was completely unbacked by their actions. He would continue to come in on a regular basis, and sit in my section every time. I refused him service. Rather than ask this customer to leave, the managers would have another girl take his orders. He tried to talk to me several times, even had his friends apologize to me. This is verbatim a portion of the apology, “listen, he is good people. He just gets a little aggressive when he drinks. When he’s sober he’d treat you like a princess”. Wait for it, they then tipped me $80. And wait for it, this sociopath was sitting there, staring at me, the entire time they delivered this apology as I squirmed with discomfort and awkwardness; he did not say a word. Wait for it even more, as one of the friends extended this “apology” he reached out to grab my hand. I was met with hesitation and blatant disbelief from many of the other servers, that I somehow made up this story or exaggerated the interaction. Luckily, the bouncer who witnessed it, would insist on the truth. Some of the women believed me, but did not see why it would bother me in the least. I feel that maybe these women have become so jaded to these types of interactions that they are no longer phased by the meaning of it. Which is exactly why I would like to address it; to remind women that this behavior is not implicit, we give them no right to it, and we should do everything in our power to negate it.
To conclude my experiences of this employment, I kept telling myself that I needed the money, so I needed to put up with this behavior. That my intentions, my actions were justified and that this ‘is just how men are’. I quickly realized I was becoming jaded to men, which is entirely unfair; as not all men treat women this way. It was becoming poisonous to me. This is when I decided that the money was not worth a single ounce of this treatment. I would not let them jade me, I would not let them turn me into a man hater. So, I quit. And it was the best damn decision I have ever made. I will never subject myself to such treatment again, but what really needs to be addressed is the men’s actions (the “guilty” men, not all men). Furthermore, some might think I “asked” for this treatment because I worked in such an establishment, one could say was comparable to a Hooters, or Twin Peaks. For those outside of the U.S. these are establishments that have only female servers, and have uniforms which offer very little coverage of the female attributes. Although my place of employment did not have a uniform. If you are reading this and believe women deserve such treatment for dressing in a certain way, then I’d suggest you stop reading any further materials that I have authored, for you wont like much of what I have to say. These stories I am sharing are concentrated in this one place of employment, but I have experienced objectification in more professional settings, and completely outside of the workplace.
As I usually do, I will end this post focusing on any potential counter arguments. I am not objecting sexuality, that is something completely different. A woman can dress, and present herself in any way that she deems appropriate as a presentation of self. If you love your legs and you find confidence in them, then show them off in the shortest damn shorts ever seen. There is nothing wrong with sexual confidence. I am also not arguing that sexualization is always unwelcome. Many women appreciate being sexualized, when it is a mutual respect. If it is completely mutual to both parties only having sexual interest in one another, then by all means, objectify away. I am arguing any implicit act of any man, that view women as an entity for sex and nothing else, to a woman who is not inviting or welcoming this attitude or behavior.