As I was walking around campus this afternoon, my eye was caught by the latest edition of City on a Hill Press. The cover is of an incredibly thin white woman with her manicured hand suggestively moving down into her underwear. While the article that was attached to this image was very good at describing women’s agency, sexual freedom, and self-determination, the picture both on the cover and in the article were nothing but degrading objectifications of the woman’s sexuality. These pictures present women as passive sex objects whose sexuality is only for the pleasure of her partner (which, given the nature of the audience who a woman is usually objectified for, is presumably a man). By showing a disembodied pelvis of some white model-sized beauty with fake acrylic nails, women are reminded that not only are they supposed to live up to unrealistic racist beauty standards, but also that their sexuality is always an object to be consumed. Additionally, the picture that was presented in the article does not look like a woman who is sexually empowered, but instead she looks scared, her shoulders hunched forward and her arms covering her private areas almost out of defense. This picture looks more like a woman being sexually abused rather than a woman reclaiming her sexuality.
Because this article was great at presenting sex-positive and empowering discussions about women’s sexuality, it is particularly disappointing that such degrading images were chosen to represent it. The move to dismantle sexist structures and to eliminate the objectification of women’s sexuality doesn’t just take place in written discourse, it must also be altered in the images put forth by the media. In the future, don’t objectify women’s bodies for the purpose of having people read your newspaper. Try something different and be creative about how to visually represent what women’s sexual freedom would look like.
Fourth-year, Feminist Studies and Sociology major