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Sex Week posters were poorly considered

Posted By Joan Steffen On February 9, 2011 @ 12:00 am In op-ed Submission | 3 Comments

Walking around campus, it’s hard to miss the bright, blaring posters advertising “Sexual Responsibility Week” here at Wash. U. On one appears the silhouette of a woman wearing nothing but heels, her clearly visible nipples up at attention and her back arched to accentuate her rounded buttocks. Another poster shows the outline of a naked woman kneeling on the ground, her legs splayed wide. Each poster features a naked (or near-naked) woman in a provocative, sexual pose accompanied by a one-word headline: “Sex.”

The suggestions are clear: a woman’s body (and maybe even a woman herself, since there are no male images or couples anywhere to be found on these distasteful posters) is nothing more than a sex symbol.

This association, beyond being offensive, is also demeaning and backwards. The images are intended for the visual pleasure (in most cases) of the heterosexual man, suggesting that the female body is little more than a tool for male pleasure. The absence of equivalent male images in these posters further underlines societal tendencies to paint the female body as an object of male pleasure.

Such thinking lends towards a dangerous line of thought: Women who dress provocatively or who highlight the more sexualized aspects of female anatomy are asking for sex, whether they verbalize this desire or not. Despite the subtle pervasiveness of this line of thought in American culture, one would expect that such a destructive idea would be confronted in a progressive college environment, not plastered across the campus in promotion of a week which professes to support “sexual responsibility.”

In writing this criticism of SHAC’s advertising campaign, I don’t mean to attack the group’s mission to raise awareness for sexual responsibility on campus, which is a worthy one by all accounts. I aim to express my disappointment that an otherwise well-meaning group has become so distracted with attempts to draw the largest crowds possible to their events that they have sacrificed their integrity. Just as during the “Bristol Palin Scandal,” SHAC has again made a poor choice with the intent of drawing student attention at all costs; a choice which insults the intellect, integrity, and progressiveness of our campus.

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