A few days ago I posted this status: “When you continually flaunt photos of yourself half-naked (or always in revealing fitness gear/skimpy bikinis) you reinforce the message a woman’s best asset is her body, her beauty or her sexuality. There is nothing wrong with being healthy, fit and attractive, but surely women need to be encouraged that they are more than just their looks! I for one want to teach my daughter to receive affirmation and attention for far greater things than just her physical appearance”.
It attracted a fair amount of attention. Some in support, some against. I haven’t had time to reply to the majority of the comments and don’t intend on stirring more up. I guess I just wanted to touch on a few things that stood out to me. Again, this is my opinion and the angle at which I see this subject. Evidently I view the issue through a lens of my own beliefs and experiences. Yes, being a Christian has a lot to do with it. Yes, being a wife and mother influences my convictions. As much as possible I endeavour to respect the views of others but ultimately these are my core values and this is…well, my blog.. Feel free to post whatever you want on your online space.
Side note: The post was not directed at people that occasionally post photos in their bathers splashing around at the beach. I am so guilty of that (and have probably posted things I shouldn’t have in the past). I was simply adding commentary to a hot button issue: the over saturation and acceptance of overtly sexual images online (some blatantly explicit others under the guise of fitness/modelling etc).
Please remember this is a multifaceted issue with hundreds of threads running from one point to another. It is near impossible to offer an explanation on each in one short blog post. So, if I haven’t addressed every aspect of the issue, cut me some slack.
So why is posting revealing (overly sensual or sexual in nature) photos online not a great idea.
1) It fuels the message a woman’s worth is pre-dominantly determined by her outward appearance & rooted in her sexuality.
Everything in our society echoes this message. We elevate and esteem women of outward beauty and focus more on their sexuality above any other attribute. The pursuit of perfection and sexual prowess has become the highest goal (and perfection of the veneer, the package, the exterior, nothing deeper). We pay models millions, while other occupations such as nurses, teachers and retail workers fight for pay rises. We esteem Instagram celebrities over doctors and mothers, we pay more attention to bikini pics than noble causes and spend more time discussing high end brands and make up tutorials than world wide issues such as poverty, human trafficking or youth suicide. We worship sexy bodies and glorify contoured faces. Female consumers spend billions on clothes, cosmetics, fitness regimes, weight loss goods, and other beauty related products each year.
The underlying theme is always the same. “You are not enough, you could be better, Skinnier, Sexier. Well, I beg to differ!
I believe every woman is of worth. Regardless of her outward appearance, intellectual ability or social status. Every human being has value and that is simply because they are made in the image of God. I want to tell you today – you are loved for all that you are, and all that you aren’t. You have been created with unique passions and divine purpose. Love yourself, for your Father in heaven loves you so dearly.
So, go on, embrace your femininity, love your body, exercise and eat well, just know that you are so much more than just the skin you’re in, and yes, sex sells, but women are not meant to be mere products for marketing campaigns. They have brains behind their beauty, and passion, and drive, and kindness in their veins.
I read this quote a long time ago and it’s left a fire in my belly ever since. “I want to apologize to all the women I have called beautiful before I’ve called them intelligent or brave. I am sorry I made it sound as though something as simple as what you’re born with is all you have to be proud of when you have broken mountains with your wit. From now on I will say things like you are resilient, or you are extraordinary not because I don’t think you’re beautiful but because I need you to know you are more than that.” ― Rupi Kaur
2) It has the potential to perpetuate low self-esteem, body DISSATISFACTION and harmful eating habits.
Research has shown that just ten minutes of browsing Facebook or Instagram can cause us to be more discontent and negative about our bodies. Why? Because we naturally compare ourselves to the most consistent images we see. There is a generation of young girls literally scrolling through pics of perky boobs and sculpted booties from dusk until dawn. Have you ever spent a minute and searched beauty or fitness on Instagram? Go on I dare you? It took me less than 10 seconds to pull up these images. There are literally millions.
Now ask yourself: are these images really helping women to love themselves? Or are they setting them up to compete and compare, AND question what they have to do to look like her?
From all those that I have counselled it has almost always made them more dissatisfied with themselves. There is no single cause of body dissatisfaction or eating disorders. But, research is increasingly clear that mass media provides a significantly influential context for people to learn about body ideals and the value placed on being attractive, thin and these days ripped and toned. Of course we can’t simply blame low-self esteem on “sexy fitspo pics”. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own self-worth, my dilemma is the constant display of such images has made it that much more difficult to do so. Especially for those who are already biologically susceptible.
“Accept yourself as you are. And that is the most difficult thing in the world, because it goes against your training, education, your culture. From the very beginning you have been told how you should be; Nobody has every told you that are good as you are.” – Osho
3) it takes something private and puts it on display
Disclaimer: I have friends who are personal trainers, dieticians and even fitness models. Their physique is plastered on magazine covers across Australia. They are definitely not the target of this conversation! It’s their job (and often livelihood) to look a certain way and sell products. Their focus is predominantly on the health, strength and well being of the body. They work hard for the way they look and help so many others achieve outstanding fitness goals. Being health conscious and taking care of your body is a good thing, a great thing! I simply believe using parts of your body (you can guess which one ladies) to gain attention is not.
I go to the gym every single week, barre classes are my jam, but I just don’t post photos of myself in my short shorts and tank tops. Why?
Because my body is for my husband, not public consumption.
As a Christian I believe some things are not meant to be spread. My body being one of them. Yes I could post photos of myself in cut off jeans and triangle bikinis. I am completely confident in my own skin but why would I want other peoples husbands, boyfriends or strangers looking at me like that? Why would I want to take a gift meant for my husband and put it on the internet for all to see? I don’t. I want to be a woman that is confident in herself but doesn’t need to flaunt it. I want to be a woman that draws attention to God and not myself. I want to be a woman who is known for what’s in the package, not simply the package itself.
Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
4) It’s feeding into a culture where people constantly require social affirmation
Social validation has well and truly become an addiction for our generation. Now, that doesn’t just apply to posting raunchy/sexy photos on your Facebook page. We can seek out many forms of social affirmation. As a mum, I could post cute pics of my kids to gain positive comments. Someone else may post a photo of their new puppy to entice a response. Someone else may boast about their new job, new car or new boyfriend. Underlying the motivation is to receive social acceptance and attention. And lets be honest on some level we all crave it and if it’s kept in check it’s healthy and normal. But far too many have fallen into the trap where it becomes the master not the servant.
An obsession with posting things online to receive likes, comments, shares is a sign of insecurity, not confidence.
I read this great article the other day. “Experts say that, these days, more millennials than ever before are craving external validation. Blame it on the so-called “Generation Validation” effect, which is rooted in, what else, social media. The problem with wanting—needing—to be hearted all the time is that it leaves many of us feeling, well, disheartened. A University of Michigan study published in the Journal of Social Issues found that college students who base their own self-worth on external sources, like approval from others, reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, drug and alcohol use, and symptoms of eating disorders. And a June 2014 survey from the statistics company StatPro found that 68% of people share information on social media to define their identities. The issue is rooted in a phenomenon psychologists refer to as “contingent self-worth.” When you’re waiting for someone else to say you’re beautiful, attractive, talented, smart, you’re putting your self-esteem in the hands of others when really it needs to come from within yourself.
5) it adds to the onslaught of sexual images men (and minors) are exposed to every day.
Yes, it’s not like men can’t access hard core porn if they really wanted too, the problem is, lots of them don’t want to. Like my husband, or youth pastor, or friends finance. Call me naive, but I know some men who have never looked at pornography in their life. Again, call me naive because there is no way I can validate that, but I am certain there are many men who respect and value woman enough to simply not view them as sexual objects. Never the less, they are bombarded (unwillingly) with images of women in barely their work out gear, skimpy swim wear and sexy lingerie on various social media platforms daily,
The fact is, skin stimulates. Especially for men (but of course not exclusively). The structure of the male brain vs. the female brain is very different. As a result, men and women, do not react to, nor view sexuality and intimacy in the same ways. What seems harmless, uninteresting, or meaningless to a woman may be extremely powerful and addictive to a man or vice versa. In men, the dominant perceptual sense is vision. Many young men have shared with me how social media (and the continuous barrage of half naked selfies) has led them to more serious porn addictions. Some have deactivated their accounts all together. I’m not suggesting it’s all on us as woman and we need to cover everything up so men don’t lust. Men are the ones ultimately responsible for their actions and attitudes. In every situation they need to take full responsibility for how they act and behave. I just personally don’t want to contribute to the struggle by publicising my body on the world wide web. Anyhow, that’s another conversation for another time. I sincerely believe every woman deserves to be respected, protected and valued whoever they are, and however they dress.
May I close with this:
In a culture that is completely outwardly focused, I wonder if there is a group of women who refuse to buy into the lie that their greatest asset and most profound contribution to the world is their body, beauty or sexuality?
Instead, let their identity be found in Jesus and resonate with inner beauty, strength, passion, kindness and determination.
Sabrina Peters is a Christian writer, an avid Sex & Relationships blogger and part of the team at Kingdomcity. She is married to Ben and mother to Liberty & Lincoln. www.sabrinapeters.com.