sample paper from previous student in the class)
Sexualisation and Gender Influence in Western Society
In a world brimming with images and innuendos of sexuality, its hard to escape the
reality of objectification, especially under the guise of empowerment. These effects influence
several groups of society, ranging from young girls to adult men, making the fluidity of the issue
a prominent and distressing issue in the modern era. An issue that faces both men and women,
self-objectification is defined as when a person chooses to evaluate themselves based on
appearance and outside accreditation because that’s how society has instilled that other adjudicate
others. The detrimental effects of this mindset is largely acknowledged by many scientists as
dangerous to both physical and mental health for all genders due to the tendencies of excessive
dieting, anabolic steroid use, extreme exercising, eating disorders, depression, and impaired
social functioning. Furthermore, the implications by the media of women to perpetually fit a
highly unattainable body image younger is discussed as children continue to be exposed to
sexually explicit paraphernalia, known as the Lolita effect. Although some may debate the objectification of the female form leads to a
sense of empowerment, findings across multiple studies conducted refute the aspects of positive
body image experienced is short-lived and heavily dependent on the approval from secondary
parties. The boundaries between self-objectification and empowerment are marred and cause
serious and threatening effects both on an individual and on a larger societal scale when left
undefined. A perfect example of this is found in the comedy Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. This
play incorporates female sexuality as a weapon to end a war (significantly portrayed as a
womans only weapon), that many have seen to represent feminine strength. In looking into the
context of the play, the sexuality of women is used by Aristophanes not to promote feminist
values or even to give accreditation to the capabilities of womenits more or less a topic used to
add humor to a political satire.
Arguably the greatest impact of sexualisation is seen in the effects on women, firstly on
the most intimate views of their bodies and how they perceive themselves. Body image is
negatively impacted by the messages women receive daily from society, and the propaganda
stressing the importance of the beauty standard. Confidence is a mere factor in the propitiation of
a common sociocultural theory known as self-objectification theory, defined as a construct that
posits that girls and women are socialized to believe that they are objects to be viewed by other
people, and that this belief affects the ways that women think and feel about themselves
(Cottingham 905). This theory is directly correlated with a prediction of low self-esteem and
high number of sexual partners, a quality does little to preclude the effects on sexualisation in
mainstream society (Visser 504).
The Western Beauty standard then becomes internalized by women themselves, and the
unrealistic pursuit of the qualities represented frequently causes a national development of
anorexia, depression, and poor self-esteem. Society in turn, pigeon-holes women who do not
possess these specific characteristics as less desirable, creating the evidence to support that selfobjectification
is well established as an extremely strong direct predictor of body shame
(Cottingham 909). These women who embody an internalized objectification of themselves and
who pursue the thin-ideal or other dictated physical norms for their gender are more than twice
as likely to display eating disturbances or developing an eating disorder affecting all aspects of
their health. Furthermore, women are conditioned into associated feminine power with
objectification, leading to a sense of sexual empowerment.
The enjoyment of sexualisation has been studied to reveal its relation to positive body
image, and may be beneficial to heightening a womans self-perspective. Though these feelings
of enjoyment and empowerment derive from the choice to self-sexualize, society has duped
[women] into engaged in thinly disguised sexual self-exploitation, to which they are made
vulnerable by self-esteem (Thompson 25, Erchull 2349). In essence, the feelings of inadequacy
initially created by society would prevent the need of women to empower themselves through
self-sexualisation. Many women, most likely in response to low self-esteem and societal
pressure, participate in varying levels of sexual intercourse with a number of partners.
Among these women, more than 37% reported the effects of sexual compliance, a
willing consent to unwanted sex (Katz 460). This sexual efficacy creates both social and
emotional ramifications, including emotional discomfort, low satisfaction and desire, and a
greater emphasis on the ideal women. The heavy implications of research refuting the
conceptualization of objectification and empowerment show the societal, emotional, and
interpersonal effects on women in the Western society, and forces an acknowledgement of the
derivatives these issues create.
The effects of sexualisation are not precluded from impacting men, many suffer from the
same risks and symptoms of poor body image. Studies have shown young men are influenced by
the ideal male body perpetuated by the media, so much so that such exposure has been linked the
development of negative body satisfaction. This strive to attain a perfect male figure is correlated
with unhealthy behaviors such as anabolic steroid use, excessive dieting, impaired social
functioning, and depression (Visser 595). This mirrors the behaviors characteristic of unhealthy
body image women face, making the issue of objectification fluid between genders. The study
conducted also supports the prediction that men high self-objectification would show higher
levels of muscle dysmorphia symptoms than men low in self-objectification (Visser 597).
Furthermore, the sexualisation of society shows the negative and harmful to both
individual and external perspectives. For men, this issue is seen in the impaired attitude of social
norms, and the high demand sexualisation creates. Society has instilled a construct described as
an uncontrollable entitlement to womens always sexualized and always available bodies
(Garner 328) This wild male depiction has been defended as a natural urge that men shouldnt
have to control, but fails to explore how masculinity is used and misused in everyday life. Some
organizations have drawn links between popular culture and media and its role in shaping how
young men understand ways of doing gender (Garner 327).
Male gender roles of hyper-masculinity (i.e., exaggeration of traditional masculine roles
through behaviors such as sexual prowess, physical dominance, aggression, and anti-femininity)
have been described as a way for men to demonstrate power and authority (Fields123).
Collectively known as the gender role strain, traditional masculine gender role beliefs are
associated with psychological distress, sexual risk, and other health risk behaviors (Fields 123).
The stressed factors of masculinity and strength the male gender face in Western society creates
a powerful burden on young and adult men to measure up to the expectations thrust upon them.
Result of this idealized view of the male gender includes psychological distress linked with
failing to meet masculine ideals, difficulty sustaining normative masculine expression and
negative manifestation of masculinity in social situations. The media influences and forced
perspectives creates questions regarding the relationships and manifestation of sexual attitudes of
men toward women, and implicates them as a direct cause of negative body image.
Society has instilled a nurtured perspective in children of gender and sexuality, leaving
little room for fluidity and may create internal and external issues in the maturation process. A
childs definition and understanding of sexuality are crucial to their fundamental development;
interruptions to this can cause a varying range of problems. A huge proprietor of gender
constructs is the media, who provides visuals about the type of products, clothing, and sexual
attraction that are appropriate for each gender, creating these external controls of gender norms
(Gardner 33). In a confused state, children turn to less effective behaviors such as alcohol
abuse, drugs, and violence may be chosen in place of more effective, healthy behaviors in an
individuals attempt to get his or her needs met (Grieve 289). By helping children understand
the similarities rather than difference of gender associations, a promotion of healthy behaviors
and perceptions will lead to broader knowledge, acceptance, and comprehension of gender.
An example of the effects of early exposure to sexuality in media and society can been
seen in the idealized archetypes of femininity being associated with inappropriate selfobjectification.
Young girls ascribe this imagery of idealized femininity as a compulsion to treat
the body as an object to control and manage (Bragg 279). Not only does this create low selfesteem,
it promotes the sexualisation of girls at a young age, also known as the Lolita Effect.
This effect is used by the media and commercial industries to generate perceived notions
of femininity to preadolescent girls and their male peers. Bombardment of hyper sexuality by the
media and culture can cause a misrepresented view of normal and healthy sexual behavior. The
Lolita Effect can be best described as The seemingly safe, unrealistic, make-believe worlds of
media and marketing work to legitimizeand even glamorizethe use of girls sexuality for
commercial purposes, creating a dichotomy of good vs. bad (Blasi 72-73).
The encouragement of oversexualisation by the media confuses young women under the
guise of being natural, and creates a problem for parents and mentors to stress the importance of
maturity and sexual responsibility. By no means a new issue, researches have analyzed the long
tradition of children and young people being represented as objects for erotic contemplation and
found the direct correlation between hyper sexuality and commercialism (Bragg 283). Examples
of this can be seen in the continued inappropriateness of girls Halloween costumes, obsession
with attaining hotness, and becoming sexual active at an increasingly younger age. This
behavior is often misconstrued as an invitation of male attention, and can lead to devastating
emotional, physical, and mental consequences to young girls who fall victim to the sexualized
ideal of the female form.
In Ancient Greece, Aristophanes wrote the comedy Lysistrata, which portrays a
characterization of women in sexist roles, and highlights an ancient over-sexualized nature of
women in the time period. The play opens with the protagonist, Lysistrata, who condemns the
perpetual war at hand, and is attempting to rally the women of Athens to take action against it.
Although Lysistrata does not conform to all female societal norms in Greece, but she still is severely
critical of the women around her. She degrades the women that do not attend her political summons
and qualifies that she really isn’t surprised by their behavior, as the women are stereotypically preoccupied
with domestic responsibilities. Asides from the heavy phallic innuendos, the women are not
only characterized as lustful, but utterly dependent on their Grecian men. From the first
scene Lysistrata says to the women to influence their support: “Don’t you feel sad and sorry
because the fathers of your children are far away from you with the army?” (Aristophanes). Not
only does this show the weak qualities men attributed to females, it implies that the women would
care for politics only when there are stripped of their sexual experiences.
Lysistrata even goes as far as using a beautiful naked woman to control the crowd of men
into listening to their cause, a purposeful intent to reduce the role of women by Aristophanes by
suggesting the only influence women could possibly have would be refraining from sex. As she maps
out the justifications for the war to end, the attention of the men is strictly to the naked female form,
discrediting the strength of women as they must pander to the sex-deprived men, nearly driven mad
by the tantalizing view of a naked women. After considering the context of the play, it is clear to see
this as a hyperbole with the intent to satirize the notion of women even having much power over
Women have notoriously been subverted throughout history in politics, with regard to
peacekeeping, and from a pan-historical perspective, it has only been mere seconds since the
inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations has come into practice (Fox 9). The idea of
women’s right to have a say in the life and death matters of war and peace is a relatively new
concept, and although the play does include images of a strong female protagonist, it is hard to
disregard the stereotypes and oversexualisation of the women in the play.
Oversexualisation and Gender in the modern era have presented alarming and lasting
effects on the minds, bodies and relationships of children, men and women. This indefinite
problem of gender constructs and expectations leaves detrimental issues on those in a constant
battle to achieve the ideal, and those who will never attain the ideal and are rejected by society.
The perpetual and traditional sexualized nature of women can be seen significantly in Lysistrata,
showing the wide-spread implications of an unequal and unbalanced modern perspective.
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