Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romance and the Objectification of Men

I read a book recently that talked about sexual objectification. The writer said that, in our contemporary culture, there are two wrong statements that many of us believe in. These were that (1) all sexual desire is good, and (2) all sexual desire is evil.

In our present culture, the church, particularly the Catholic Church in our case, seems to imply that sexual desire is evil. Some would even go as far as to say that sexual relations should not be enjoyed, and should only be done for the purpose of reproduction. But in contrast to that, the rest of the world seems to think that there's nothing wrong with it, that it, in fact, should be done because it feels good. Because it's a natural thing.

Realistically speaking, I don't think even the devout Catholic couples would go out of their way to kill the pleasure in the act. But at the same time, I think sex does hold a sacredness, a spirituality in the joining, which is why I think it shouldn't be treated so casually, either. The writer of the book goes on to say that the problem comes from, not the sexual desire per se, but the objectification of the other person to fulfill a desire in one.

Now, this discussion of lust and objectification usually talks about porn and is usually addressed to men. But the writer mentioned that, if it was porn for men (and some women), it's romance novels for women.

I stopped. I loved romance novels. A woman's first reaction would be, of course not! How could you group porn and romance novels in one? We don't stare lustily at men parts. What we're reading is just a story. But after you calm down and think about it, the writer has a point.

When we read romances, sometimes (or many times) we get to a point where the story is no longer the main thing we're after. We're in it to feel good. That's why formula romances still work. Because the innovation in the story no longer matters. What matters is that there's a hunky handsome man on a white horse who will save us and whisk us away to his castle to live happily ever after. Just like porn, it fulfills a desire in our hearts. But for us, women, that desire is to be taken care of physically, emotionally and financially. Now, there's nothing wrong with that desire. What's wrong is when we allow our minds to be fixated on the idea of the knight in shining armor, that when we look for a man, we don't actually look for a man, but a collection of attributes. We look at them and don't see "John," we see "Vice President of This-and-this Company, fair complexion, lives in Ayala Alabang." (that's just an example)

I'm guilty of this. And I didn't even realize it until one time recently, I met an old business acquaintance. I told my mother I met him. And mom asked, "Is he cute?" I didn't remember. Because I had labeled him by the name of his company. And when I looked at him, it was his company logo that flashes in my mind. Objectifying a man. Sorry. Now I feel awful.

It's not just romance readers. A friend of mine had asked me what kind of guy I liked. And I made a blog entry of the attributes I was looking for in a man. I felt uneasy after writing it, though. Like something about the list didn't quite add up to the actual. I thought maybe it was just because I've always thrown the list out of the window anyway. But then now, I realize, it was because if I looked for the attributes first, I'll never have a real relationship with a person. They'll never get past the checklist.

Which brought me to the thought that maybe the reason why so many girls are single nowadays is because of this. We objectify men. We see them as a collection of attributes, thinking ourselves merely practical for thinking so, but never really seeing them. I seem to have come to this disturbing conclusion that we, women, may be worse than our porn-loving male counterparts when it comes to objectification. Gasp!

Anyway, the above is merely the thoughts of a woman, and the thinking need not be mutual. But it's something I give you to think about this week and shake the mindset a little.

I'm not about to suddenly stop reading love stories. But it is good to stop and reflect where what you do takes you. Words are, after all, powerful things that have the ability to change minds, and thus, worlds. But we must always be alert to see how they're changing our worlds. I still believe that Romance will change the world, and more than ever now, I think, some worlds need changing.

Have a great week!

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