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