Conquering Societal Kryptonite: My Female Body is not a Sex Object

supergirl-13mai2015.jpg__932x545_q85_subsampling-2By Jenny

A few months ago I heard Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, when asked what he thought of the new “Super Girl” movie, remark that he thought Super Girl was “hot.” I was already disappointed that we finally have a superhero movie with a female main character, and it has to be Super Girl, not even Super Woman. Super Girl, keeping her in her natural state of innocence and dependence. Apparently the world is not ready for a fully actualized woman who can take care of herself. It’s comparable to that movie “Super Boy.” Oh wait…. And of course, it was only a matter of time before super girl was sexualized, by a middle-aged presidential candidate nonetheless. Sure, Mr. Bush’s remarks were yet another one of his awkward moments on air during his campaign. He was saying what he thought he needed to say to be cool. Therein lies the problem. Our oversexualized society expects, even demands that anything feminine must be sexualized. Female superheroes are expected to be hot, not strong and powerful.
If there was one thing within my cultural conditioning that related to a super power within my body, it was that my body was kryptonite for men. As a young woman I was instilled with the belief that if I showed too much skin or wore clothes that were too tight, I would be responsible for weakening the resolve of the male sex to see me as anything other than an object of lust. This left me shopping in the men’s section in an attempt to thwart the growing danger as my unruly curves took over my body.
The real kryptonite for us as women is the over-sexualization of our bodies and the inevitable issues with body image that follow. Societal ideas on sex have weakened us to the point that we aren’t able to fully embrace our feminine power. Everyone is to blame: Hollywood, the Christian Right, pornography, and anyone who distorts the truth about sexuality and turns non-sexual things into sexual things.
During my yoga teacher training last month, we were involved in an intense workshop, learning to assist each other physically with our hands to go deeper into the poses. I have come to see this tool of assisting as a superpower I can use in my yoga classes to help my students gain greater health benefits from their practices. It allows me to use the power of touch, the power of human connection, the power to help other people in something that can’t be achieved alone. I believe human connection is one of the greatest powers on earth. We discover that power through our bodies. We connect with our eyes, our facial expressions, our touch, and the energy that exudes from our bodies. All of this is created through our bodies and the way we engage with other people’s bodies.
For almost a year now, I have been learning about this power, discovering the unique feminine aspects of this power within my own body. I worry less about the skin that is showing and I think more about how my skin contact with another person might produce a positive chemical reaction in their body. Instead of measuring the tightness of my clothes, I concentrate more on the power that exudes from me when I am instructing and assisting people to be fully in their bodies, doing something that will improve their health and their quality of life. I am thinking less about my curves and whether I should hide or flaunt them, and I am thinking more about how my eye contact can show someone else that I’m there for them.
It has taken me awhile to shut down my cultural conditioning to see everything involving my body as sexual. When I first began my training, I was a little uncomfortable with so much bodily contact. I’ve spent my whole life in a tug of war between a secular world that flaunts sexuality to one extreme and a religious world that condemns sexuality to another extreme. While the religious right claims modesty, gender segregation, and abstinence in an attempt to eradicate the problem of sex, their extreme efforts actually only add to the problem of sex. They add to the problem by turning things that are not innately sexual into something sexual. For instance, my shoulders are not sexual, yet in my religious tradition, wearing a sleeveless shirt is considered immodest. Thus, my shoulders become something sexual.
As we were practicing yoga assists, we had a discussion about this subject because we were working so closely with other people’s bodies. Our instructor told us, “It’s only sexual if you make it sexual.” I think this one concept explains a lot about our culture. It explains why a male doctor can see a woman’s vagina and not get turned on. And yet, in our own Mormon culture, men and women can’t work together in presidencies because of the threat of sexual attraction. It explains why a massage therapist can work on a naked body of the opposite sex and only see muscles, yet an eight-year-old can’t show her shoulders because it’s immodest. Vaginas and naked bodies can be completely non-sexual, while girl’s shoulders and men and women working together professionally in an office become a sexual thing. It all depends on what we make it to be.
It’s time to take a more mature approach to eradicating the problem of sex by not making it a problem. Let’s stop demonizing men by thinking of them as sexual beasts who can’t control their powerful urges. Let’s stop turning women’s bodies into objects of lust, and recognize the awesome power for good that their bodies hold. Let’s unlock that power by freeing them from concern over what they’re wearing and how their bodies will appeal to the male senses. Let’s embrace our ability to connect deeply with other humans through platonic intimacy.  I think that is the key to destroying the kryptonite that leaves our culture weak and unable to embrace our full potential. We have the power to choose whether to make something sexual or not.  We are not weak creatures who will inevitably fall to the great power of sex. So Mr. Bush, I reject your comment that Super Girl is hot, and I reject the culture that expects you as a man to say something like that. I now embrace a culture in which I as a woman can use my body and the superpowers within to connect with other people and help them to discover their own superpowers.

Jenny

Jenny graduated from BYU with a bachelor degree in humanities. she teaches yoga classes and spends her time hanging out with her four kids, reading, writing, and running.

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9 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    I agree with this so much, Jenny! I am so tired of church culture treating us as though we are animals; women must be draped in layers of everything because our purpose is reproduction, and men are so lustful that they can ask us privately in temple interviews about sex but can’t contain themselves when sitting on a church stand looking at a woman wearing a well fitted blouse.

    I encourage my daughters to dress comfortably. And they have gorgeous shoulders!

    Thank you for this post!

  2. el oso says:

    Yet another reason I am glad to not be teaching primary anymore. Of course teen sunday school can get into these topics, but they usually get covered in YW/YM separately. The basic message of your body is a temple is still taught, but a yoga instructor teaches this in a different, but clearly uplifting way in most cases.
    Are you singling out Jeb because is a serious candidate and should know better? One reason I ask is that the two leading candidates are far, far worse than Jeb when it comes to these type of issues. One of the reasons this campaign is seeming more interesting is that many candidates are now telling the scripted or low IQ media “that’s a clown question, bro” or something similar. A new TV series is out with a pretty woman as the star? Of course. This is TV. Your most likely opponent if you win the nomination is a woman. Stick to football/baseball for entertainment comments.

    • Jenny says:

      I don’t think Jeb Bush is a serious candidate anymore. His poll numbers are too low. I’m more concerned with the culture that expects a comment like that from him or any other man. I could have used any number of bad examples, like Fox news using a panel of middle aged men to look at three women wearing leggings to determine which ones would be appropriate for their teenage girls. Jeb Bush’s remarks just for work my superhero theme.

      • el oso says:

        Yeah, Jeb needs Super Girl or another superhero to rescue his campaign. Maybe if he had answered in that way he would have received some positive press!

        I hope you are pointing out the Fox news episode because of the men commenting on the women’s dress, not that they cannot have input into their teenage daughter’s public dress and appearance. If the later is the case I am in triple jeopardy because I do this all the time with my daughters. (Usually, that looks nice, or are you wearing a coat or sweater with that? because it is cold outside.)

      • Jenny says:

        I’m only criticizing the Fox News episode because of how demeaning it was to women. Can you imagine them parading a bunch of men around in spandex before a panel of women who are commenting on the ones that are showing too much of their man parts and judging whether any of them are appropriate for their teenage boys to wear to school?

  3. Anonymous says:

    ‘more mature approach … to connect deeply with other humans through platonic intimacy.’

    Don’t worry; you will be there soon enough with no ability or opportunity to turn back.

    • Jenny says:

      I think you’re comment needs clarification because it sounds like you’re trying to insult me by saying that my ideals are going to result in a lack of sex. However, having an abundance of platonic intimacy does not equate to a lack of sexual intimacy. If that is your intent to insult me that way, you can go ahead and leave this conversation because you’re breaking the rules of civil discourse on this blog.

  4. Ziff says:

    Great post, Jenny. I completely agree. It’s so unfortunate that there are *so many* voices telling women that their bodies matter only as attractive objects for men to lust after, or that you should be sure men don’t lust after too much. What an awful message to send. I’m sorry that women have to deal with this. I really like how it sounds like you’ve succeeded in pushing past these messages, and that you’re helping others in this area too.

  5. Liz says:

    Amen! I’ve been talking about sexual/nonsexual nudity to friends for a while and a few of them have looked at me like I’m crazy for suggesting that nudity could be nonsexual. Sigh. I’m glad that you’ve opened that up even further – not all touching is sexual, not all contact is sexual, etc. This was great.

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