Being a Mother in a World that Sexualizes Female Bodies

Last night, I was undressing my infant daughter to get her ready for her bath. This is a nightly ritual where I nibble on her feet, play “This Little Piggie Went to Market,” blow raspberries on her tummy, tickle her ribs, and, yes, pinch her teeny, tiny bare booty.

That last part shocked my sister. She said that it was “gross” and that I was “molesting” her. Nevermind that my daughter actually giggled extensively in response to my playful pinching. She is at the impressionable and self-absorbed age of 14. I couldn’t believe what I had heard her say about me playing with my baby girl. Especially coming from a teenager that had frequently worn shorts that had less fabric than some of my underwear and exposed her budding breasts almost to the nipples.

Molestation is defined as “forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another” who is under the age of 18. To be accused by my own sister of something so heinous was mind-blowing and heart-wrenching. She obviously didn’t fully understand what she was saying, but it hurt all the same.

What really got my attention, though, was the fact that she had absolutely no qualms about displaying her own flesh for sexual consumption. My babe can run around naked all she wants and I will only see her as innocent, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before they learned what it was to be naked. But my sister sees flesh as something only to be sexualized.

The way she stands (with her hip cocked just so and her chest thrust out), the way she behaves and talks (using a childish voice to seem meek and alluring), and the fact that her only topic of conversation is her boyfriend of the week, shows me that she defines herself by the perception of the male gaze.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, the male gaze “describes the tendency in visual culture to depict the world and women from a masculine point of view and in terms of men’s attitudes.” She only approves of herself if she is attractive to someone. She has even dabbled in dating other girls, despite the fact that she is not actually sexually drawn to them because she has to be in a relationship at all times. Not to say that there is anything wrong with same-sex relationships, but my sister is straight and misleading girls who aren’t because of her need for the male gaze.

This attitude, though, is not surprising in a culture where waitresses at Hooters (a family restaurant and not a strip club) dress in skin-tight, thigh-bearing, breast-bearing outfits, but shun breastfeeding mothers for not wanting to resort to a dirty bathroom stall.

Because women’s bodies, if not shown or used in a sexual way, are obscene.

For more thought-provoking, anger-inducing discussion, I suggest you read up on the issue here.

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As seen here on Odyssey

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