The censored beauty of the female anatomy
While I was reading about the UCD naked photo sharing scandal and “revenge porn” this morning, I started to think about sex – or more specifically, society’s double standards between the sexes. (For those of you that haven’t heard, about 200 of UCD’s finest male students had the clever idea of setting up a Facebook forum to share photos of girls and rate them in the sack….. Classy.) I looked at my own cover photo (see Facebook) and wondered what if it was me in the picture instead, naked except for a bag or two of crisps? Suddenly the “haha brilliant, so funny” turns into Whatsapp groups feverishly buzzing with conversation like “oh my God did you see that as well? who does she think she is, state of her.. her boyfriend must be snappin’, tramp.”
I remember when my Mam sat me down almost apologetically to explain what a period was. I remember at school the visible embarrassment when girls forgot a pad or tampon, and the humiliation of asking at the office. Female masturbation arguably remains one of the most taboo subjects in Western, “liberal” society, while it is simultaneously viewed as a humorous, harmless activity that all men are automatically assumed to engage in. There are countless near-naked images of boys circulating every day all over social media, but the second a woman’s anatomy is involved it becomes dirty, degrading and lacking in self-respect. Top shelf magazine stuff. Why are we so offended by our own bodies? Why does society instil such a negative perception of female sexuality in us as children? Girls are subconsciously educated in a way that tells them to hide their natural attributes, while boys grow up in a world that says it’s okay to joke and speak about their biological make up. Before 1936, it was illegal for men to go topless on beaches in America because the male torso was still perceived as an object of sexual desire. That’s less than 100 years ago, but people forget this. Women’s bodies are no more “sexual” than men’s are – that doesn’t even make sense, but it’s what the media, society and the law tell us every day.
What is equally nonsensical is the reality that a girl posing suggestively in swimwear is one of the most common sights on Instagram (often captioned #goals or #bodygoals), while at the same time the platform censors imagery of exposed female nipples on the grounds that it constitutes pornography. Exposed breasts are automatically equated with porn, but which paints the more provocative picture – an oiled up, tousled Kardashian straddling a chair in lingerie, or a mother breast feeding her child?
It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on sending naked photos. What really matters is the double standards that society creates between boys and girls from the time we are born. The aspiration should not be a world of feminist supremacy, but of true equal status for men and women. No matter what your skin colour, where you come from or what language you speak, every human on this planet has one thing in common. We all got here through sex, and I’d hazard a guess that 99.9% of us will enjoy sex at least once in our lifetime. Maybe if we all stopped being afraid of talking about it in a healthy way, we’d have a very different society than the one we have today.