When posters promote sexual objectification

| Staff Columnist

I feel awkward. Everywhere I go, I see posters advertising events like Dr. Judy’s Tantric Sex Workshop and Anal Pleasure 101, and I, with my sheltered life, can’t help but blush. Red face notwithstanding, I am fully aware that students will enjoy these events, and they have every right to do so. What bothers me, though, is the way that the posters that have been blue taped to every wall on campus portray women.

The only advertisements with real people on them show skinny women bent in some sexy position with their bedroom eyes assaulting passersby, which makes me feel like even here at our very accepting school we are perpetuating the cycle of the objectification of women and telling a lie about beauty.

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The look is thin. Everyone knows that. My friend and I were discussing the other day how chain stores like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch have shrunk the size of their women’s clothing (she had to go up two sizes to fit in their clothes). Couple that with the skin-tightness of everything, and we find our nation’s girls trying to get thinner and thinner to fit the standards of the magazines they read and the television shows they watch. Preteen girls have begun to develop eating disorders as early as age 5 or 6. It’s easy for us to see that, shake our heads in derision, and say what a shame it is.

And it’s easy for us to call shenanigans and sexism when we see Beyoncé and Lady Gaga writhing in their music videos (“Video Phone,” anyone?), and talk about the degradation of society, and put the Federal Communications Commission on speed dial. I mean, even Miley is showing a little skin nowadays. They have every right to do whatever they want with their bodies, don’t get me wrong, but they are promulgating a super-sexualized body image for impressionable younger (and even older) females that has been around for centuries. You are breasts. You are hips. You are uterus. Throw in a little prophecy, and you are the makings of a Virgilian epic.

We have had a culture of misogyny and objectification of women created for us. We all know that.

What I can’t seem to wrap my mind around, though, is the thought that even here at Wash. U., where we find ourselves so educated, we fall into those same constructs. It’s more than just the posters, but they are a prime example. We try so hard to be politically correct here, and we read our Foucault and our Times, but then we slap these half-naked girls on our posters, falling right back into the cultural norms. If men and women were equally represented, I would understand, but that isn’t the case. Sport is still being made of her quality as a sexual object.

And might I add that the women presented on these posters are skinny white women? We’ve become so inextricably tied into this view (although it may be implicit) that the ideal woman is white, thin, curvy in all the right places and sprawled half-naked on the hood of a Ford truck, even here at our school.

Why do we continue to enforce these beliefs and values of beauty where we can actually influence beauty’s perception? When we fall back on the default of the super-sexualized woman (even when it’s something as small as a poster) we only augment years of the subservience of women and insult who they are as people. Check out the Tantric Sex Workshop, yeah, but remember that you and/or the women in your life are more than that.

Gabe is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at gcralley@gmail.com.

  • Dallas

    Came back to see if there was a reply to my questioning your “facts” and found that the only difference is that the link I posted to (not-at-all-obscene) picture used for the flyers had been removed… huh, go figure.

  • Dallas

    While you make lots of good points about misogyny in American culture and the advertising campaigns of some major manufacturers and performers I take issue with the way you portray the advertising campaign used on campus. I’m an alum, I don’t spend a lot of time on campus but I was there during sex week and I saw several posters for sex week and none of them were anything like what you described in your opening. Please do me a favor and take a picture or (now that sex week is over) take down the posters you describe and scan them in and post a link to them because I’d love to see what you’re talking about; I even asked some random students who live on campus if they had seen any posters like the ones you describe and none of them had seen anything similar…. which leads me to believe that you’re making up facts to fit the story you want to tell/complain about.

    The only poster I saw with a woman on it for sex week was the one with a picture of Tristan Taormino… who wasn’t some sexy skinny white woman they chose to sell the event- that’s the presenter. Yes, she’s white… um… sorry? She’s a very healthy weight, both in person and in her picture- you can see she has real arms an calves; and she wasn’t bent over anything.

    I don’t recall if this is the exact picture that was used but I think it was from the same photoshoot- I seem to recall it being similar. This was probably the “sexiest” poster used for advertising… I didn’t see any other posters with pictures on them but I did hear there were some posters with pictures of Dr. Judy…. the other presenter.

    So, Gabe, please back up your complaints by posting a link where people can see for themselves what it is you found so offensive… because I don’t think it looks at all like what you described. You ruin your own credibility and Stud Life’s with these blatant lies.

  • jc

    Mr ananymous…I think you have missed the point of this article..the posters makes women look as if they are only good for one thing…women are more than sex objects…as are men. Posters such as these degrade all of us. Women for years have worked to be seen as people and not objects. When we love someone or something it should be treated with respect. You should take the corn cob out of your pants and read the article for what it really says. I know you have a mother and maybe a sister..switch places with them and read this article and then maybe you will understand what point it is trying to get across

  • Ananymous

    You have objections to these posters? you are a guy, right? Would you be more satisfied if revealing posters of skinny, multi racial men be hung around campus?…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593555791 Jerome Bauer

    Check out the Tantric Sex Workshop, to be sure, but then check out my Yoga Traditions class, in which we learn about American pop culture stereotypes, misunderstandings, and misappropriations of Tantra. It’s not just sex, and neither is it Kama Sutra, and that is not just sex either. This course was taught for credit at WashU, Autumn 00, 02, 04, 06, and is now a Cervantes Free University exclusive. Real College Courses for Yoga Center rates, with a money back guarantee, and absolutely free to the unemployed.

    Please see the recent TV news story, KSDK Channel 5, “Students rally to save professor’s co-op house,” http://origin.ksdk.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=194877&catid=3

    Please remember also, St Valentine’s Day is to celebrate all kinds of love, not just sex. This should be Love Week, not Sex Week. Or perhaps Love and Sex Week.

  • Anonymous

    Amen, brotha! Great article with great points.