Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Being a Wife, Being a Sex Slave?

Pornification Nation (Warning: Explicit Descriptions)

This article beautifully illustrates the effect that pornography has on women from a non-LDS Christian. By definition, pornography objectifies women and increasingly degrades them.

And that is an effect that happens regardless of whether or not a man is married, or a couple consumes pornography together.

How can we not see this?

And how can we not see how this is affecting women within the LDS church? I have experienced many conversations with LDS women about lingerie and how it is our responsibility to turn ourselves into visual objects in order to attract our husbands post-marriage. Is it really true that men are only attracted to visual stimuli?

Is it really true that being a wife means being a sexual slave?

Why is it so wrong for a woman to want to attract her husband on virtue of who she is instead of how "sexy" she is? Or to want to engage in intimacy only when she is feeling intimate?

Is there any way to have a healthy romantic relationship with a man without objectifying oneself?


  1. I don’t know, but to be completely honest, I don’t get the whole lingerie thing. My wife’s beautiful, no matter what she’s wearing.

  2. I think it is becoming more apperant that this is a problem not just for men in the church. I was quite surprised when I learned some years ago from my Bishop that he works with 1 woman for every 5 men dealing with pornography. Psycologically, we've built it up as a "boys thing", and now we are seeing how the boys are dragging the women down with them.

    This is a direct result of our cultural addiction to sex. And, just like any other addiction, it going to always want more, no matter what the cost.

  3. Why is it so wrong for a woman to want to attract her husband on virtue of who she is? It isn't wrong. What's wrong with her attracting him sexually?

  4. It's a vicious circle. Someone thought that the ideal in pornography was what all guys wanted, so girls started following and guys started expecting it. With the focus on sex in the world and the focus of marriage in the LDS church, some guys don't take the time to find the beauty of the virtuous spirit, and some girls don't take time to cultivate it.

  5. Jeff—Why is she beautiful no matter what she's wearing? (I'm not trying to probe into personal realm, but just trying to quantify attraction.)

    Frank—I don't know if it is really the boys "dragging down the girls" or what. I'm uncomfortable with that because it assumes something that I'm hoping is false: that men naturally objectify women. I think this problem crosses genders. Many of us see people as objects. It's almost as if sociopathy is normalizing.

    Howard—Nothing is wrong with sexual attraction. It's sexual attraction as an object that is wrong. And unfortunately, I think attraction without objectification is becoming inconceivable to many people.

    Laura—I think you're touching on something worth exploring. Is a perception of beauty learned or inherited? Is it even possible to redefine how people perceive beauty? Is this something that could be taught in a gospel framework without coming across as short-selling?

  6. SilverRain - Indeed it crosses genders. The problem is that it is percieved as a boys thing that women are now "enjoying as much as the men".

    I don't think it was ever just a boys issue, no matter what the perception. And, no matter who is involved, it has always made having a healthy, romantic relationship harder.

  7. I'm not convinced that sexual objectification in the form of lingerie or sex play for instance is always wrong I think is unhealthy when the one doing it is unaware of what they are doing or wrong when the other partner objects and they persist but it can be great fun between consenting autonomous adults.

  8. I believe that objectifying another person is ALWAYS wrong. I believe that now because I used to believe as you do, Howard, ignorant of the damage it would cause.

    Turning another person into an object of any kind strips them of their humanity and damages relationships. It might seem to be "fun" for the short term, but is insidious.

  9. ALWAYS? That's absolute. We're not discussing persistent abuse rather occasional play please explain how that can strip consenting *autonomous* adults of their humanity and damage their relationships I don't buy it.

  10. Howard, it's part of the definition of objectifying. If you'll try to re-read it, I'm not saying what you think I'm saying about lingerie. My beef isn't with the use of lingerie, it's with the sense of responsibility to make oneself into a sexual object by using lingerie and other things.

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  12. SilverRain, I guess I never considered the “why” before, but I think there’s a very important aspect to our relationship that comes into play: we didn’t have the chance to objectify each other, at first.

    My wife and I met online in 1990. In those days, the web didn’t exist yet; the internet was basically just text. Because of this, we got to know each other as people, before we knew what each other looked like (beyond a general description, of course). We had been dating exclusively for 6½ weeks before I ever saw her, 6½ months before we met in person, and 6½ years before we lived within 100 miles of each other (after we were engaged, she moved in with some friends from my singles branch).

    The bottom line is that I love my wife, and I always have. She’s beautiful on the outside, to be sure, but I didn’t know that until long after I knew how beautiful she is, on the inside.

  13. SR I don't think you should have a "sense of responsibility to make yourself into a sexual object" or be coerced into it. But if you are self aware and enjoy sex play it isn't damaging at all it's just play.

  14. Aren't you worried about defining "objectifying" too broadly? To me to objectify something is to treat it purely in terms of certain properties for a certain task. However I have a hard time seeing working out or dressing nice or the like as being self-objectifying nor is enjoying them in someone else as objectifying. It's only objectifying if I forget about the rest of who they are.

    I think your comments here and at M* today might be coming off a bit too broadly. At least I'm having a hard time seeing what you mean by objectifying. For instance in my young single days I most certainly did choose dates based upon appearance (and I'm sure vice versa when women would hit on me). However that was a first step rather than a last step. I'd hope women who look at men because they are athletes, musicians, or have a good job also look beyond those characteristics (and don't overvalue them). Now when someone focuses in on those characteristics to the detriment of the rest of their qualities that's bad and may be objectifying.

    To dress up sexy or the like needn't be objectifying (which is Howard's point). It might be but I think we err if we think projecting one particular quality at a particular time is objectifying. It's when that is projected and nothing else matters that is the problem.

    When my wife is sick and just needs help with the house she may just be thinking of my job (good or bad) as a cleaner. One quality is held above all others. That doesn't mean it's all she cares about. Heavens, even when I have a carpet cleaner over that's all I worry about but it doesn't mean I'm objectifying the carpet cleaner and forgetting about them as a human being.

    I think if we consider objectification in other contexts than sex it is perhaps more illuminating. For whatever reason sex tends to make the debate a bit more difficult. I think we have to first discover the principle and then move back into figuring out when something is or isn't objectifying. (Unless people think sex is just a special category of objectification - in which case I just disagree)

  15. SR Men need to learn to not objectify. However I can intentionally or unintentionally sexually objectify you but if you are aware of it and in control of yourself you can choose to not be objectified by it this is what women need to learn.

    What's the difference between make up and lingerie?

  16. Howard— *sigh* You're focusing on WHAT and not WHY.

    Clark—I'm going to have to think a bit more about what you said. But, my first thought is that one example of objectification is when who I am doesn't matter until and unless I first meet the requirements for a tolerable sex object.

  17. Silver Rain, isn't that a circular definition?

  18. "Or to want to engage in intimacy only when she is feeling intimate?"

    Are you saying that the women, soley, should decide the frequency of sex? I think this should be discussed between husband and wife.

    My guess is that most men want more sex than their wives want. There should probably be a compromise where the man doesn't get as much sex as he wants and the woman gets more sex than she wants, but not as much as the man wants.

  19. I think some people are missing the point - should women have to make themselves "sexy" just to please their husbands?

    Certainly not. I think there should be absolutely no need for a women to feel like she has to compete with the world for the affections of her husband. Women were sexy long, long before the 20th and 21st century norms insisting that women have to do more to tantalize and attract their spouse, or risk losing them.

    And yes, of course the frequency of sex should be between husband and wife, but both parties should be ok with being told "no". Doing otherwise is the definition of objectification.

  20. THANK you, Frank. Thank you.

    Because, Dave, what you are essentially saying is that yes, wives are sex slaves. The only thing is to determine how often fulfills the terms of the ownership contract.

    And yes. I'm saying that a woman, married or not, should not have sex unless she wants to.

  21. I don't think Dave is saying she should have sex even when she doesn't want to rather that sometimes there are things we do for our spouses that we might not wish to do at the time but do because we love them. For instance my wife just IMed me that when I get home I get to clean the bathrooms. I certainly don't like to clean bathrooms and don't want to clean bathrooms but will do it because my wife wants me to clean the bathrooms. If I felt strongly enough about it (say I was very tired or not feeling well) I'd tell my wife no, explain why and I'm sure she'd be completely understanding about it.

    Not to make a comparison between cleaning bathrooms and sex, mind you. That's furthest from my mind. (grin) Just a point about "wants."

  22. I have no problem with wanting to do something for one reason that you may not want to do for another. But I have a huge problem with sex being couched in terms of having an obligation to fulfill someone's needs.

  23. Sex therapists will tell you that frequency will eventually fall to the lower desire partner's rate or the marriage will suffer so buyer beware adult adult relationships are conditional it is incumbent on both parties to know themselves sexually to the extent possible (good luck if you're Mormon) discuss this issue in advance of marriage and have mature coping skills for working it out or consider more compatible partner. To Clark's point a healthy relationship will include some give and take, the relationship will experience elasticity in willingness even when the "mood" is absent and flexibility in pleasing sexually without intercourse but positions become intrenched on both sides in unhealthy relationships and this is the beginning of the end.

  24. But, Dave, on second reading I see that this was perhaps not what you meant. I read more into what you said because I think the rhetoric that men want more and women want less stems a great deal from the reality that men and women tend to ignore what makes a woman WANT it.

    And, the "discussion" about how often it should happen was one of the ways I was manipulated and guilted in my marriage, so it's a trigger for me. I'm sorry about that.

  25. SR I really appreciate this post and support your position. It has taken 18 years of marriage for my relationship with my husband to get to a point where our sex life is great. It has everything to do with turning our backs on the world's definition of a good sex life, nurturing our relationship, and being comfortable with ourselves. Trying to meet the world's expectations only frustrated the process.

    I don't want to get in the middle of the back and forth going on here, but I will say that many of the arguments against SR's position are cultural cliches. Take a step back from American cultural stereotypes. A marriage isn't about meeting norms, or listening to the advice of a sex therapist (who largely get their data from people who are willing to discuss the most intimate details of their lives with strangers, which indicates abnormalcy!) it is about the entire relationship between a man and a woman.
    Objectifying in the slightest degree gets in the way of appreciating the individual and building a unique relationship to meet the needs of two unique individuals. A good sex life is more about the relationship than it is ever about physicality. It seems to be the greatest example of a soul functioning as body and spirit united, with another soul.

  26. Clark, getting back to your concern about my definition of "objectify" being too broad. I don't think that you have to utterly forget all other aspects of a woman to objectify her. I think you simply have to make one aspect of a person of utmost importance, so the rest of her is subject to that aspect.

    In other words, being a good wife means being sexually available, regardless of whatever else she does.

    I don't see how it's circular reasoning.

    jen—Thank you!

    Howard—"enlighten" you as to what? I don't understand what you are asking for.

  27. SR in the your prior comment to me you wrote; You're focusing on WHAT and not WHY.

    Jendoop So it took 18 years? Maybe that's because you discount sex therapy.

  28. On a slight side note, these things do work the other way as well. Men should not have to wear thongs just to attract their wives. There are also cases where the wife wants sex more than her husband. It might be less usual (then again, it might not be as men seem more prone to not talk about it with others if they aren't always available for sex when their wife is.)

    Marriage should be a dual relationship, neither having to make themselves less for the desires of the other in any way, phiscal, spiritual, or intellectual.

  29. Howard—Meaning that objectification is not found in WHAT you do, it is found in WHY you do it.

    Your comment to Jendoop is completely out of line.

    Frank—I think that sex and intimacy should be seen as a bonding thing, not as a fulfilling-of-needs thing. Thinking of it like the latter automatically leads to objectification because you are seeing the other person as something that is there to fulfill a need. If you view it as the former, I think the tendency automatically becomes to focus on one's partner rather than oneself.

  30. SR From which perspective the objectifier's, the objectified or a impartial observer's? There are three different perspectives here. The objectifier's why is either subconscious bias or a variety of conscious manipulations shall we delve into the subconscious or list and analyze the manipulations to what end? Does it matter? If so how does it matter? The objectified doesn't generally have access to the objectifier's why so do you mean why did this happen to me or what might I have done do to cause it or the greater why of why does society allow or condone it? Both the objectified and the impartial observer can identify WHAT but rarely WHY. Please explain what you mean.

  31. SilverRain,

    I agree with almost everything I've ever read of your writing. However, I think that it's unfair, and a bit naive maybe, to think that once a man loves his wife for who she is he should stop caring at all about what she looks like. And, regarding being physically intimate only when you feel like it, do you think it's fair for a man to only be emotionally intimate and communicate with his wife when he feels like it? I think that focusing exclusively on self-centered wants instead of a spouse's needs doesn't seem like a good way to look at marriage. Just my thought.

  32. Actually, Ryan, yes. I don't think a man should be forced to open up emotionally when he isn't ready. Just like with physical intimacy, that doesn't mean the buck stops there. The couple should try to find out what is making him unready.

    He CERTAINLY shouldn't be made to feel less valuable as a husband because he's not emotionally open on demand. And he shouldn't feel that he has an obligation to emotionally perform whenever his wife wants to connect emotionally.

    Do you see?

    Communication is another issue, because it is essential to working through problems. That is not the same thing as emotional intimacy.

    Howard—There is not nearly the ambiguity in being objectified you are trying to place there. It is painfully clear when someone is seeing another person as an object. Read up on Arbinger training. That's objectification in a business sense and might help you understand.

  33. Yes, I see. I think I would only object to the self-centeredness of putting one's own needs above those of the spouse. I think ideally each spouse should be able to be confident that they are doing the best they can to meet the other spouse's needs, and that the other spouse is doing their best to meet their own needs.

  34. But that is what I object to about the false notion that a wife owes it to her husband to have sex with him. There are a myriad reasons why a woman might not want to have sex. Only one of them is selfishness.

    I don't deny that some women do that. But I suspect that many withhold sex because that is the only way they know to demonstrate that they are being neglected. I think those who are truly doing it out of selfishness are few and far between. I would like to think that the same thing is true of men who selfishly believe that their wives should be available for sex whenever they demand it, but my experience fights with my idealism.

  35. OK, I understand what you're saying and agree that a wife shouldn't feel forced into anything just to please her husband. But what I'm saying is that I think you're creating sort of a false dilemma: never doing anything you don't feel like doing or always doing something you don't feel like doing. I think there is a third, better option - for both spouses to adopt the attitude that 'I will meet my spouse's needs if it is at all possible to do so without compromising my own well being,' i.e., "I just don't feel like it" is not an excuse. However, in the case where one spouse honestly can't fulfill the other spouse's needs without going crazy, then the needy spouse would understand and not force the issue, knowing that the other spouse is doing his or her absolute best. Make sense?

  36. I agree that it's a false dichotomy. But I disagree that I am the one who created it.

    I think perhaps a non-reactionary reading of what I've been saying will support my disagreement.

  37. Ok, I can't tell if you're getting upset, which was not my intent, but either way this will be my last comment. I was only basing my comments on this statement:

    >>Or to want to engage in intimacy only when she is feeling intimate?<<

    To me it suggested that "I don't feel like it" is a valid excuse for a self-focused response in such situations in marriage, and my point was that I don't think it is, probably ever.

    And I do think the original problems you addressed in your post are very real.

  38. I'm not getting upset at all. Don't worry about that! :D

    Thanks for the conversation. I appreciate it.

    I was intending to address the myth that a wife owes sex in marriage. At all. I don't think people realize that by perpetuating that idea, they are in effect saying that marriage is, at best, indentured servitude. A contract for a woman to give up her body in return for a few types of security. I reject that idea of marriage altogether.

    I believe a woman's body should ALWAYS be her own. I think that if a husband can acknowledge that his WIFE has a right to her own body which takes precedence over his right to her body, it allows a less reactionary approach to sexual differences in marriage. That doesn't mean that a wife has a right to use sex to emotionally abuse her husband. And I feel that using sex to coerce a man to do what she wants is abuse. But I also don't think that most women resist frequent sex because they want something in return. (Although I have met a few who do.)

    I think most women resist for many reasons. It's possible her sexuality is at a low ebb in her cycle. It is possible that at certain times of her cycle, she feels unattractive. It's possible that after being poked, prodded, pulled on and distracted all day she just needs a good night's rest. It's possible that sex has been about filling a man's immediate needs rather than about bonding, so she has little incentive. It's possible that she feels emotionally unconnected from her spouse, so she feels like nothing more than a convenient tissue. It's possibly physically painful for her.

    I could go on.

    But when there is a sense of obligation, it is expected that she always ignores these needs in favor of her husband's physical satisfaction.

    I don't argue that sometimes she should be willing to do that. But I think it should come from HER desire to show her husband love, not from her feeling like she has to in order to be a valid person. And I think that men who do not objectify their women sexually, who recognize their wives as whole people who are fundamentally and sexually different from men, rather than as contractual sex slaves with benefits, are more than willing to recognize that SOMETIMES their own sexual needs are not the only important thing. And that a woman's primary value as a wife is in her person, in her companionship, not in her sexual function.

    And I think that men who do that will find that their wives just might give them sex MORE frequently and happily.

  39. SR What's with the guessing game? You brought this issue up with a *sigh* as criticism of my comments I have twice asked you to clarify instead you have stepped around it and given me a reading assignment. Arbinger training deals with self-deception which is what I have been addressing. Then you write "It is painfully clear when someone is seeing another person as an object." painfully clear to who? Was it painfully clear to you that your ex was seeing you this way or did you recognize it after your consciousness had been raised? Was it painfully clear to him as he was doing it? Or was it painfully clear to impartial observer? So I respectfully ask you again to explain what YOU mean by WHY not WHAT in relation to my comments.

  40. SilverRain, I am not naive enough to think that there are not marriages or relationships with these types of extremes where one or both partners objectify the other for sexual or perhaps for other purposes.

    But is it naive of me to think that these situations are in the minority and that the majority of us strive for more healthy relationships where we value one another for who we are?

    Still, even in these situations, I think that motivation is complex. One might desire sex for many reasons simultaneously, with some of these being more pure motives and others being less pure.

    Unless communication is very open and clear between partners, it can be very easy to mis-interpret one another's motives.

    Is it wrong to expect that marriage will be the most intimate relationship for both spouses, and that the relationship will include a mutually agreed upon level of sexuality?

  41. I think "level of sexuality" implies a standard of measurement and judgmentalism if it's not reached.

    And I hope it's a minority, but based on cultural expectations and popular discourse, I suspect it is not.

  42. Here's my take on porn. Not all porn objectifies. Just like not all lingerie objectifies. A person is objectified based on the person doing the objectifying.

    I didn't read all of the back and forth, so I'm sorry if this has already been said.

    Women were objectified long before pornography became so readily available.

    Porn isn't the problem. It's not what is causing the problem. The problem is objectification and it has been a problem for a very long time. All through the Bible women and children are referred to as property. Until 1999, there was no such thing as marital rape in the state of Utah, because a woman's JOB was to have sex.

    In my mind, things are getting better, not worse.

  43. I can't think of any possibility for porn to not objectify. Seeing as how its purpose is to create a sexual object upon which to perform fantasies. Non-objectifying use of lingerie has a real, attainable person inside of it.

    And what is "the problem" you think porn doesn't cause? I think the argument wasn't that porn causes objectification, but that it glorifies it and makes it acceptable.

    But I agree that things are getting better legally for married women.

  44. I have not looked at a lot of porn... Mostly what I have seen is what friends have done. Nude and sometimes sexy pictures people have had taken of themselves - sometimes with a partner, sometimes alone.

    So, I guess I'd have to define porn. The way my parents defined porn, my friends pictures would have been defined as such... These pictures are beautiful. Seeing them has helped me to heal, to become more comfortable in my own skin.

    In my mind, there are different kinds of porn. Some that objectifies, some that are beautiful pictures of nudity and sex. Some people would use beautiful pictures to objectify, but that doesn't change that they are beautiful.

    I agree with your first point, I would hope a husband would love his wife for who she is, and if SHE enjoys getting dressed up and trying to be sexy, that is very different than him expecting her to be his sex slave.

    Finally, you're right, although I read the article, I was jaded by some of the things I've heard from others. She didn't say porn causes objectification, I just took it that way.

    I guess I'd like to see more acceptance of the body and of sex, and that (at least in my mind) would eliminate the need for porn. (I am very aware I am very naive. It just makes sense to me.)

  45. For any of you who commented here, I want to clarify something.

    I discussed this topic with friend of mine and came to realize that saying what I have comes across as saying that a couple has no obligations to each other in marriage. This is far from the truth. I believe that a husband and wife owe it to each other to develop a relationship of trust and love. In such a relationship, there are things that should be done for each other, even when one isn't in the mood.

    However, I believe that these obligations should come from the relationship of trust and love, NOT from the marriage contract.

    So perhaps that will clear up a few things that became very confusing in this discussion.


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