DOES NUDITY FUEL SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION?

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For a while since nudity became a steaming pot of discourse, somehow the aspect of sexual objectification couldn’t be ignored for anything. This budding debate couldn’t be wished away like some Godforsaken tabloid story.

For starters, nudity sprung up as a social phenomenon that graced our television screens, social media and elsewhere that suits the wanainchi. Now comes sexual objectification, one of the most neglected sexual sensibilities in Uganda. What is sexual objectification? What do we have at stake here?

Literally, sexual objectification means to perceive, represent or treat a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure. Objectification preserves the idea that people are just a sum of their body parts.

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The main thrust of this argumentum-ad-popullum fallacy is that we miss the subjective part of the personality by focusing on the detailed parts of the sexual objects.

Nudity compliments the narrative that women love the power they get by having men mesmerized by their breasts and feel sexy, having odd men they barely know ogle at their cleavage.

Nudity simply affirms the hetero-patriarchal stereotype that women are utterly nothing in society except for the pursuit of their hyper-sexualized physicality.

One awkward morning, I woke up to the rhythm of the famous “Bubble butt” hit single by Major Lazer ft Bruno Mars. I was utterly disaffected by the gross explicit content that played uncensored through the video notwithstanding the many others that stream in daily.

Like the usual folk, one may feel energized by the sexual arousal that comes with such connotation. “What was amiss about this?” I mused, baffled to myself. However, the portrayal of women in sadomachistic frenzy whipping their naked buttocks and groping their nether regions with so much diabolical gusto is so much of a bother. “Bubble butt” is just one among many music videos that grossly portrays nudity/semi-nudity.

Surprisingly, the video vixens seem to enjoy the momentary episodes of power and pleasure in dehumanizing themselves by flashing breasts and wiggling their buttocks provocatively to the enjoyment of the expectant audience.

Doesn’t this justify a whiff of irony given that so much concerted effort has been put to fight sexual objectification by feminists? “Could this be a new form of expression vis-à-vis sexual empowerment?”, I wonder.

In so doing, expression in its form is supposed to be executed with specific intent. Inasmuch as these overly sexualized videos are most times a marketing ploy, these unsuspecting women simply have no idea how they objectify themselves. To the audience, they are just pieces of art that can be bought and sold for amusement. The outer beauty is merely a tool of justification for the expected outcome.

In fact, provocative research published in the European Journal of social Psychology in 2012 found that brains tend to process women as a collection of parts. Resultantly, women’s sexual body parts were more recognizable when presented in Isolation than when presented in the context of their bodies.

Based on his “Lecture on ethics”, Immanuel Kant holds that as soon as a person becomes an object of appetite for another, all motives for moral relationship ceases to function, hence making that person usable and easy to discard. In its entirety, this ends up violating bodily integrity and dignity.

Kant went further to criticize concubinage and prostitution as desecrating to the virtues of humanity that are lost when one sacrifices herself as an object for the satisfaction of another’s desires.

In correlation with this perspective, nudity classifies the feminine role to one of sexual objects that are available for men’s consumption. “It participates in its audience’s eroticism through creating an accessible sexual object” says Mackinnon Catherine, an ardent feminist.

According to Kant, sexual objectification lowers humanity to the status of an inanimate object. He contends that humanity accords us rationality on being able to realize and promote our value hence distinguishing us from animals and inanimate objects.

By partaking in sexual objectification, individuality is erased when images show sexualized parts of bodies such as breasts, hips, nipples and waists. Focus is removed from the gaze of the eyes and the other parts that matter to the ultimate personality.

Consequently this reduces women to inanimate objects to be viewed as tools for the knee deep patriarchal society that finds feminine competence unpalatable in favour of their sensual physicality.

That explains why the feminists argue for the notion that women shouldn’t be judged by their outer appearance but basing on a subjective test of personality complimented by their character, ability and competencies.

The feminists seek to challenge the stereotype that women’s physicality has a lot to do with their merit, as well as the sense of self entitlement because society simply owes them for their sexuality.

Odd as it seems, some social commentators argue that some modern women sexually objectify themselves as an expression for their empowerment. They view this tool as a voice of bold expression of their sensual persona. They seek appreciation in their true feminine form and don’t necessarily believe women are objectified through their personal preference to flaunt their exquisite beauty.

Women such as the famous Kim Kardashian have been widely quoted for their bold acknowledgement of nudity as a social tool of women’s emancipation.

In Nancy Bauer’s “How to do things with pornography”, she seems to back this perception as she holds that women often succumb to the temptation of objectifying themselves by experiencing a sense of power and pleasure.

Resultantly women could resort to slimming, plastic surgery to enhance their outer appearance to achieve the fancied ideal look. Regardless of that school of thought, women aren’t entirely to blame owing to the fact that the influence of society has impacted upon this unusual trend.

Usually in patriarchal societies, women feel constantly watched by men and feel the need to look sensually pleasing to men hence objectifying themselves. This crops narcissistic tendencies whereby women are infatuated with their well being. Women often learn to perceive themselves from the outside.

Women and girls develop an unexpected physical appearance for themselves, based on observations of others, and are aware that others are likely to observe as well thence self objectification.

Extremities of such idiosyncrasy could lead to victimization, self-consciousness, body shaming, an idealized western concept that depicts the ultra thin model type figure that cuts down due to dieting and at worst application of cosmetic surgery to enhance outer appearance.

“In order to gain social acceptability, women are under constant pressure to convert their bodies and appearance generally making them to conform to the ideals of their time, hence treating themselves as things to be decorated and gazed upon” writes Sandra Bartky in her “Femininity and domination”.

Bartky argues that a woman’s body is viewed as an ornamented surface, this means that they must apply make up to disguise their skin’s imperfections. In a scale of 1-10 it’s much harder for women to free themselves from their objectification.

Some feminist thinkers contend that women in our society are more identified and associated with their bodies and valued to a greater extent than men.It’s easier to objectify women more so when nudity orchestrates this overly patriarchal agenda.

Breasts represent a huge part of a women’s sexuality. Women are stereotyped based on their breast size, rather breastfeeding in public or humiliated for wardrobe malfunctions,

Does this mean that breasts are merely an embellishment destined to ornament the chests of women? Contrary to sexual objectification, these bodies mean so much in context than just mere commoditization. People are their bodies as well as their minds and souls.

First and foremost, there is so much to cherish in the wonders of the human personality. We feel, cry, laugh, yawn, talk, walk and empathize with each other when in need. We are most civil above every other animal. Doesn’t that exception make us special?

All this interconnectedness is consummated by a love that knows no bounds. So why then should just a mere body part cause so much furore when it doesn’t matter as much as a powerful personality.

Whereas some argumentists concur that objectification is premised on gender inequality, truly the human form is beautiful in the broad perspective as depicted in art and humans are attracted to looking at beauty.

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“The nude; A study in ideal form” was published by Lord Kenneth Clark in 1956. In his introductory chapters, Clark states that to be naked is to be deprived of clothes, and implies embarrassment and shame while a nude as a work of art, has no such connotations.

Kenneth Clark noted that “sexuality was part of the objectification to the nude as a subject of art, stating that “no nude however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling, even though it only be the faintest shadow, and if it doesn’t do so, it’s bad art and false morals.”

This is sarcastically interesting because it re-affirms inherent human weakness to its innermost desires. We are all merely susceptible to original sin. Sexual objectification just cements this notion.

The issue at hand comes down to context of creation, presentation, and intent and audience interpretation. If women continue to be misjudged by their outer appearance, they could begin seeing themselves through other’s perceptions; self objectification breeds shame and anxiety thus draining mental resources and even jeopardizing physical abilities.

Nonetheless to a lesser extent, men too have fallen prey to gross scrutiny of sexual objectification.

Sometimes they are duo-purposely, the objectifier and objectified. Men’s bodies are now more objectified famously known as the “six pack syndrome”. Metro- sexual men are constantly pressured to take part in excessive health regimens such as steroids to meet the standards of beauty set by body evaluation.

Male actors, models and TV presenters more often have to be in excellent shape so as to conform to the ideal shape. When society is subject to men who don’t have ideal bodies, we typically see them as comic relief. Ouf!

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So where’s the pride in women objectifying themselves without the slightest idea of repercussion? Somehow this makes the oversimplification of pathetic men ogling at the nude form look like saints simply because they are just recipients of society’s ills. A society that has validated the existence of sexual objectification.

cc. Shutterstock Images

By Nicholas Opolot, LLB 2 (UCU)/nopolot.wordpress.com.

 

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