Last night the Yankee and I were cuddling and he said my body was so perfect he feels so honored to get to touch it, nuzzling my neck. I froze.
I could hear in his voice he meant it only as a compliment to the girl he likes. But somewhere on it’s journey from my ears to my brain it morphed into ‘your body is amazing, why don’t you share it?’ I heard it in the context of him showing it off to a friend like a sandwich he just bought “This is amazing. You should get one too. Here, have a bite of mine first. Right? I said it was good!”
And I just laid there, right next to him but miles away.
Sometimes I think of body-me and me-me as being completely different people with different likes and dislikes. Sometimes I imagine dropping body-me off at a spin class and ghost-me sitting in the juice bar for an hour reading John Green. I imagine dropping my body off at orgies to be enjoyed like a vegi tray, just a token of my appreciation for my invitation (which, she considers, is sort of a compliment in itself) but I don’t need to stick around. The rest of me can use the time to catch up on Shameless. I let my body walk home from the party while ghost-me takes the train, it’s slower but safer, and I care less what happens to body-me anyway.
Sometimes it feels like they’re unlikely friends from an after school special. They can be BFFL’s inside but then once there is a pair of eyes nearby they drop hands and pretend not to know each other. Ghost-me walks behind body-me, inconspicuous, no one notices her trailing behind, looking down, hips decidedly not swaying. Noticing in awe the attention her friend gets, wondering how she does it.
There is so much to be said about the effect of prolonged objectification of women on women.
The American Psychological Association has found in recent years, that self-objectification has become a national epidemic. The more women and girls self-objectify, the more likely they are to be depressed, to have eating disorders, they have lower self-confidence, they have lower ambition, they have lower cognitive functioning, the have lower GPAs. How does this connect to women in leadership? Women who are high self-objectifiers have lower political efficacy. Political efficacy is the idea that your voice matters in politics and that you can bring about change in politics. So if we have a whole generation of young people being raised where women’s objectification is just par for the course, it’s normal, it’s okay; we have a whole generation of women who are less likely to run for office and are less likely to vote.
-Caroline Heldman, PHD, Associate Professor of Political Science – Occidental College
We learn that sex is about being desired, staying desired.
So how does this translate into real life? Women spend a lot of time and energy trying to please men. We learn early on that we are being looked at – that we are to be looked at. That we are performers. It took years before I actually started enjoying sex. YEARS. I think what I enjoyed most about sex, when I was younger, was the feeling of being desired. The actual sex part was super boring for the first while.
We learn, as girls and women, that the performance is more important than the actual feeling.
None of this is new information for me. I’ve been noticing this tape running in my head for years. Now I just have the opportunity to deal with it.
The worst part is that I know this man doesn’t feel this way about me. I know that if I announced over dinner tomorrow that I didn’t want to have sex with him anymore he would ask me about the decision, tell me he was really bummed and then when we had talked it out and understood each other he would ask me about my day again or the latest episode of Girls. He would ask me about my latest blog post or if I’d read any good articles lately.
The problem isn’t him. The problem is the fact that I’m a patriarchal woman, a woman raised in the patriarchy and I have a loop running in my head telling me that even though this is different from the street harassers it really isn’t.
His touch of my face or my hair or my leg might as well be a whistle on the street. And I’m afraid that no matter how kind the soul adoring me is I’ll always hear that. And, like in the ending of Lady Han when her lover comes back to marry Hanjo after she’s gone crazy, they can be together forever but his love can never undo her insanity.