Reclaiming Our Bodies as Sexual Objects

12 Jul

Several years ago, I found myself in the middle of end-of-semester crunch time, working long days that lasted well into the night.  I ended up at my boyfriend’s place, hoping that a change of venue would eliminate some of my distractions and jump start my productivity.  It did.  J was incredibly supportive.  He made me meals, read with a thoughtful and critical eye when I needed feedback, and dragged me out for walks in the nearby garden when I got stumped and needed a break.

One night, in place of a walk, we cuddled and talked and ended up making out.  In the middle of doing so, J sat back and looked at me with so much raw desire in his eyes.  It made me feel powerful.  I loved the way he was looking at me.  I loved that my body could elicit such raw sexual desire from this intelligent, confident, gorgeous, amazing man.  So I told him–“I love the way you’re looking at me.”  J misunderstood.  He immediately responded, apologetically, “I’m not thinking much at the moment.”  He thought I was saying that I loved the way he felt about me as represented by how he was looking at me.  I wasn’t.

What I was saying was that I loved being an object of his sexual desire.  I loved that my body, which at that time I’d never thought of as particularly beautiful, could arouse him to the point that he looked at me with nothing in his eyes but passion.  In that moment, I was perfectly content to be a sexual object.  And, in that moment, J was a sexual object for me.

There’s a lot of fraught conversation around the objectification of women, about seeing them as sex objects.  For the most part I’m opposed to objectifying anyone in the abstract.  But I think it’s important to recognize that there is nothing wrong with being a sexual object for another person in the right context.  I had a rich history with J–we were good friends long before we started dating.  We had shared a lot of joy and helped each other through sorrow.  J and I had spent a lot of time together cooking, hiking, walking, laughing, studying, talking.  I knew he respected me and loved me and he knew that those feelings were mutual.  And I also knew he wanted me.  I liked that he wanted me for my body as much as he wanted me for my brain and my heart.  And I wanted him for his body, every bit as much as I wanted him for anything else he had to offer.

I like that men want me for my body.  I have no problem with them seeing me, in part, as a sexual object.  It only becomes a problem when that is all they see me as.  When they see me as a complete human being, I expect that “complete” to include seeing me as the sexual creature I am.  When we forget that, when we insist so stridently on not reducing women to sex objects, we run the risk of confining women in the old angel/whore dichotomy that does not allow one woman to occupy both spaces.  Our reality is that we do occupy both spaces–every one of us has not only an emotional and spiritual identity, but also a sexual identity.

There’s nothing quite so thrilling as seeing in my lover’s eyes his passion for me as a sexual creature.  I revel in the power of my body, both as a whole and in its parts, to arouse my partner.  And I revel in the power of his body to arouse me.  I’m all for reclaiming our bodies as sexual objects.

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8 Responses to “Reclaiming Our Bodies as Sexual Objects”

  1. Fanny A July 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Hear hear!! And a hearty Huzzah! as well. Couldn’t agree more, Sister.

  2. Anon July 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    So… how do you get that back, then? When it’s no longer boyfriends and an illicit late night rendezvous, but you crave that rush? When being old, married and responsible with a job and bills and no time, and you find yourself looking elsewhere, anywhere, just to get that validation, that FIX even if you know it’s a bad idea?

  3. Moriah Jovan July 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    @Anon This isn’t flip, although it might seem like it: Pose nude for an art class.

    I have a horrible body. Always have had. At one time in my life it got…tolerable…and I got a lot of looks and whistles and such. It was the first time I felt worthy of, well, ANYTHING. So objectification to me is the Goal, the Brass Ring.

  4. Patty B. July 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Anon, I don’t have an easy answer. I do agree with Moriah that it’s possible to find ways to get some appreciation for your body as a sexual body that don’t involve violating any relationship commitments you’ve made. Something like posing nude may be one way to do that. Others have suggestions for how to regain a sense of oneself as a sexual being?

    I was young when the incident I recounted happened, and I wasn’t married. I’m sure the fact that our relationship was relatively new may have contributed to the excitement of that encounter. But. I was insanely busy and with no time at all to really spare, I had a job, I had bills, I had lots of responsibilities. I didn’t really, in theory, have time to take a couple hours away from working to spend snogging with my boyfriend and just cuddling up and chatting. But I took the time anyway. Again, part of that may have been the relative newness (only a few months) of the relationship, but I know that even in relatively young relationships it can become easy to get caught up in life and not take the time needed to nurture a relationship. I think it’s important to make time for our relationships in our lives. So one way might be to intentionally set aside some time to spend with your partner (it sounds like you have a partner). Remove distractions. Plan some new twist on your usual sexual activity. Take the time to explore and re-discover.

    And I think making your partner feel like the object of incredible sexual desire can go a long way to making yourself feel desirable. I know that when I get my partner aroused and he starts finding it difficult to contain that arousal, I also get more and more aroused and feel more and more sexually powerful. I think sex is one place where giving really can be in large part a form of taking, too.

  5. bananas July 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    hooray! remember me? i’m the one with the husband with ‘good boy syndrome’. he is very paranoid, in a very sweet way, about objectifying me. but it actually makes it rather difficult for me to get all in a sexy mood when i know he is worried about whether his sexuality is hurting me.

    i think i will share this post with him 🙂

    maybe i will submit a guest post on good boy syndrome…

  6. Patty B. July 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Bananas, do share it with him. And I hope it helps. One of the harms we do women when we put them on pedestals of purity is that we make it really hard for men and women both to recognize that women are sexual creatures every bit as much as men are, even if they experience their sexuality differently.

    I’m all for spouses being respectful of each other’s boundaries, but it’s problematic when they’re imposing external boundaries on their spouses. I’m not trying to assign blame here at all. I just think that our culture trains us to think that women by nature have certain boundaries when it comes to sex and that to violate those boundaries is to offer one’s wife a gross insult. I think the important thing is to set aside the externally imposed boundaries and instead explore together what our actual boundaries are. And I have to say, doing that kind of open minded sexual exploration is lots of fun. I say you and your husband should enjoy a bit of that fun. 🙂

  7. Patty B. July 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Also, do submit a guest post if you’d like. That would be great!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Slutwalks: Will They Change Us? « American Parser - July 27, 2011

    […] Reclaiming Our Bodies as Sexual Objects (mormonmissionaryposition.wordpress.com) […]

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