Exploring Sexuality

By: Madelyn Starritt

Women are constantly presented as sex objects in the media (Advertisements, movies, etc.). This degrades women and can cause many insecurities and issues for women who are constantly surrounded by this hypersexualized, unrealistic image of what we expect women to be. We all know this though because this content is constantly getting called out and criticized. Something surrounding this issue that isn’t so popular is how it hurts a woman’s sexuality as well.  Problems surrounding sexuality aren’t just reserved for women, there are so many issues surrounding how we should express our sexuality and if it should be accepted for all genders. This is not only perpetuated by the media industry but by porn as well. These industries help to degrade women, perpetuate stereotypes about all genders, and contribute to the idea that women’s sexuality shouldn’t be taken seriously because it is only there for the pleasure of straight men.

Here we are, back to the patriarchy. Where a woman’s sexuality is only supposed to be explored for men to look at and men aren’t supposed to explore their sexuality at all unless it’s to bang as many women as he can.

We see this in movies all the time. Men are shamed by their friends for talking about their feelings and rewarded when they “get laid” or get a girl. In movies and TV shows men are not supposed to care about their relationships because they are only supposed care about the physical aspect of being with someone; the sex. Women are supposed to care very much about their relationships and if they are single, are supposed to be searching for a relationship because apparently, the only way for a woman to reach full happiness is to have a man in her life. Women are also encouraged to fool around with each other on TV but only because men think it is sexy. Once these relations move away from being “sexy” to an actual lesbian relationship it becomes less accepted. Gay relationships are also considered taboo in the entertainment media we consume and men are called gay as an insult and shamed for being anything but the straight, masculine stereotype.

Entertainment media like movies and television shows are obviously not real life but they represent stereotypes that reflect and influence how we act. We can say that these things don’t affect us and that we aren’t influenced by what we see on TV but in reality, entertainment media does influence our thinking and sometimes actions. Children act out scenes they see in the shows they watch and we constantly reference pop culture in our everyday lives.  It does affect us, so sending these messages that it is not ok for men to explore their sexuality and that a woman’s sexuality shouldn’t be taken seriously because she is just “going through a phase” or “doing it for attention” has an impact on us all. It makes those who are different than the “norm” feel afraid to express their true selves because of ridicule and it shows everyone else that they are “normal,” and others are not, so it is ok to treat people badly for their differences or not take them seriously because of their sexuality.

The adult entertainment industry also sends negative messages to its viewers. In most adult videos (porn) The woman is the submissive or there are several guys and just one girl. This content is also usually aggressive and reinforces rape culture and demeaning women by treating them as just something to have sex with. Gay porn is also framed as something to be ashamed of wanting to watch or have. Which again, sends the message that being gay is apparently a bad thing and shouldn’t be accepted. Girl on girl porn is not made for just lesbians but straight men as well because for some reason they think it is sexy. Again, devaluing the sexuality of women with the male gaze.

So many times, I hear “that is just the way it is,” and “just accept it,” which is absolutely absurd. We do not have to just accept the stereotypes the entertainment media is pushing on us. This idea that only heterosexuals are normal and that women aren’t believed if they are bisexual or lesbian does not have to continue. These things only exist because we are willing to consume them. If we stop consuming this mainstream content that is trying to convince us how we are supposed to be and live, then the entertainment media isn’t going to have anyone to push these ideas on. If we stop pushing this idea that “sex sells” and buy something else instead then we are one step toward inclusiveness and fighting these stereotypes.

This is easier said than done. Television is a big part of many people’s lives and we aren’t going to just stop watching TV. So, I challenge you pay attention to what you are watching and the messages the program is sending. If it is something you don’t agree with turn it off and find something else because these things will only keep playing if we keep watching them.

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