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Too Many Men Still See Women as Sex Objects

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This op ed (written by yours truly) was published in the Herald a little while ago (Oct 20 last year to be exact), but it’s still relevant as ever so I’m giving it another run.


A 12-year-old Thai girl is held as a sex slave in a brothel catering to Western tourists. A Kurdish teenager is buried alive by her father because she talked to boys. A middle-aged mother in Iran is awaiting execution for adultery. An American porn actress is slapped and spat on by her co-stars.

Despite a World Economic Forum report claiming the gender gap is narrowing, these true stories suggest a different scenario.

Forty years after the publication of The Female Eunuch, it seems the global rights of women are in as perilous a state as ever. And though this erosion of rights manifests itself in different ways, its underlying cause is the same.

The US Department of State says human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, second only to the drug trade. Although it includes forced male labour, the primary targets are women bound for sexual servitude. Of the estimated 820,000 people trafficked each year, 80 per cent are women and girls.

Meanwhile, a 10-month investigation into honour killings by Robert Fisk of The Independent in Britain uncovered a minimum of 5000 such murders each year, and some women’s groups put the figure closer to 20,000. And they are on the rise. Once confined to the Middle East and the subcontinent, these crimes have spread to Europe, Russia and North America.

In Saudi Arabia, the muttawa, or religious police, search the streets for women to beat in public. The women’s crimes? A naked ankle or a wisp of hair that has escaped from beneath their veils.

In nearby Iran, despite an international outcry, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still awaiting execution for adultery. She is also serving time for killing her husband. That crime got her 10 years.

In the US, the internet has given rise to brutal, hardcore ”gonzo” pornography, which the academic and author of Pornland, Gail Dines, says systematically “degrades and debases women”.

The young female ”stars” are routinely slapped, choked and verbally abused. She warns that these popular films, easily accessed by boys as young as 11, are raising our young men to hate women.

And in the lucky country, Collingwood’s grand final celebrations were marred by yet another accusation of sexual assault. As usual, the pundits were out to lay blame . . . on the victim.

With everyone gleefully pointing the finger, it seems this girl committed the unforgivable crime of behaving as though she were free. Does simply going out for a night on the town forfeit a woman’s right to say no?

Apparently it does. In July, an American female college student lost a court case against the makers of a trashy reality show, Girls Gone Wild. She was videotaped dancing in a bar and when asked to remove her top, she repeatedly refused. So someone else removed it for her. Despite clearly saying ”no” on camera, the jury decided the fact that she was at the bar meant she gave “implied consent”.

What is causing this erosion of women’s rights is no mystery. It is, in fact, blatantly obvious. The cause is the way men view women – specifically, their abject and widespread failure to separate women from sex.

Women are told to cover up to avoid the gaze of men. Warned that the mere sight of their skin can cause uncontrollable desire, for which the man cannot be blamed, they are not to walk alone at night, not drink too much, not stay out too late, not be in the company of men to whom they are not related.

The message is clear: should you fail to heed these warnings, whatever happens to you is your fault. And the punishment is severe.

Women’s freedom is constricted, they are denied education, jobs, respect, and even killed because far too many men view them primarily as sexual objects.

Whether that object is concealed beneath a burqa or exposed before a camera, the reason is the same – she is the physical embodiment of sex and, as such, is not worthy of a life independent of it.

And herein lies the ultimate paradox: having reduced women to mere sex objects, these same men then despise women for having sex. Will this merry-go-round never end?



Written by Ruby

January 30, 2011 at 5:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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