It's a little difficult to explain some things to people. Those who get it know without the words, but most people never even think about some things. Some feelings. Some states of being. It isn't that they're careless or thoughtless or cold, it's just that they have no reason to think about these things.
I'm talking here, of course, about the psychological repercussions of abuse.
There is one thing that I specifically wish to address here. Several things have brought this to the forefront of my mind over the last few days--One of which was a post by BecomingSuperMommy about the oversexualization of young girls.
Women are generally raised to think that our sexuality--sometimes less controversially referred to as "beauty"--is the most important weapon we have to fight for a good life. We use it to get ahead at work, we use it to secure a financial future through a husband, we use it to secure our husbands, we base our confidence and worth on it. Even media that romanticises intelligence, drive, and creativity in women does it through -beautiful- women. A woman who reads is amazing, but only if she's got perfect hair, a professional make-up-artist, and a figure that belongs in underwear catalogues, which is dressed to advantage in expensive, tailored clothes designed to look like they came from a thrift store.
Some of us manage to break through this mindset that we are only as worthwhile as our sexuality makes us. Some of us never do. Most of us wind up struggling with it on a daily basis.
It's difficult for any woman. Any or every normal, every-day woman will struggle with seeing herself as a sexual object. If she doesn't dress nicely to work, if she doesn't do her hair and makeup, she'll generally be seen as less professional, less able to do her job. If she dresses too nicely, if she does her hair and makeup too well, she'll be seen as the woman who is using her looks rather than her skillset to progress professionally. It's a delicate line for any woman to walk, and it wreaks havoc with self-esteem and self-worth.
Now imagine this everyday woman who struggles with the balance--Between being confident in herself as a sexual object, as a beautiful woman, and in being confident that she is worth more than that by a lot.
Then imagine her as a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault. Put her in a position where she made to feel like she is worth nothing as a human being. All of the worth that she has is in her existence as a sex object. Her intellect does not matter. Her drive does not matter. Her relationships to not matter. The only thing that matters is her sex.
In a prolonged sexual abuse relationship, a woman is made to feel that sex is her currency and her weapon. If she does not provide sex, she is doing something horribly wrong. She is not living up to her end of the bargain. She is expected and required to provide this service, and if she does not, she is not worth the trouble.
In the instance of sexual assault, then a woman is nothing but a sex object. She has no choice, she has no mind, no thought, no desire of her own that matters. Nothing of her mind or heart or will matters. The things she wants are simply not important, because she is a sex object, created to be used. That's it.
This compounds on the struggles that any woman goes through on a daily basis. Sometimes she simply can't shake the idea that if she is not appropriately sexual, or sexually satisfying, that she is no longer a worthwhile woman.
As a victim of both sexual assault and sexual abuse, these are daily struggles for me. Powerful forces tearing at me from all sides. My inner feminist, boldly proclaiming that I am intelligent, driven, kind, funny, and awesome. My vanity demanding that my face and hair and body be shown to their advantage as often as possible. My Ethical Slut, who unabashedly flaunts my sexuality, because there is no shame in being a sexual creature--which is different from being a sexual object. My desperate insecurity begging for validation, to be reminded that my feminist is right, that I am more than my sexuality. And last, the part of me--a part that I can't even find an appropriate name for--that still feels like a sex object. Perhaps the victim in me, who finds validation through sex because...well, what else is a woman good for, according to men?
That last part, I am aware, is -wildly- unfair to a vast, vast majority of men. Not the least of whom is my own lover, who has never, ever made me feel like I was only worth my sexuality. I would apologise for the unfairness, Men, but I refuse to accept responsbility for the way I have been treated by those among you who are incapable of seeing the true value of another human.
But these are the perspectives that I own. Each of them is a different voice, a different perspectve, a different response. All of them meld seamlessly into my personality, showing themselves in moments that most people can never discern. They are all a part of me, and will never go away. Like most women, I will always have that insecurity. And like a shockingly and disturbingly high percentage of women, somewhere inside me will always be a terrified victim, who will always feel that she can't possibly be worth more than a sex object, because of the trauma involved in being treated that way.
Somewhere, hovering around me, is a vague sense of failure because so much of my identity does revolve around sex--Mostly around having to deliberately think of myself as "not-just-a-sex-object." However, that Feminist voice is telling me that I wouldn't have to work so hard at NOT being a sex object if society as a whole were not focusing so hard on making me feel that way.
This is not a failing on my part. This is not a failing on the part of women. This is not a failing on the part of men. This is a failing on the part of society that still focuses so hard on female sexuality. Being sexy is fine and good, but eventually we, as a society, will have to get the hell over it and stop making it a requirement for being worthwhile.