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Sexualization


TatzelwurmMilk
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content warning: talking about sexualization but not describing it

Was unsure where to put this super long rant/conversation so it's going in off topic. 

I think this is a really interesting conversation where both sides have some good points. This was all way too long to put in a Pinterest comment so I decided to post it here.

This started on a Pinterest post of a meme saying "sick of allosexuals sexualizing everything." 

The two main sides of this argument is 1. sexualization is unhelpful and should be stopped, and 2. sexualization can't be helped and people should not have their expressions suppressed. 

From my perspective, where the disconnect seems to lie between the two arguments is their definitions of sexualization. Is anyone expressing their sexual interest in something automatically sexualizing it? Or is it when people try to argue that something is inherently sexual? Or is it a combination or something completely different? 

My first assumption of what the post was trying to say was that sexualization is when non-sexual things are made to be considered inherently sexual. It would be better for society to not have to worry about whether their mundane actions are being twisted to be seen as sexual to everyone else. I think this was the most accurate interpretation I had.

What made me think deeper about the motives behind the post were the comments. 

One comment came from a person who said they're aroallo and will sexualize whatever they want. The commenter seemed to disagree with the post and be using "sexualize" to mean to express their sexuality. 

A person from another side of the argument replied, "just don't shove it in our faces then <3." This commenter seemed to agree with the post and was fine with sexuality being expressed but as long as it isn't being "shoved in their face." What does "shoved in their face" mean in this context? 

The first commenter replies to the second, "now I will, just out of spite <333," which implies that they weren't intending on shoving it in anyone's face before. 

I think everyone should be able to express their wants, whether those wants are sexual or non-sexual. So, if simply expression of sexuality is sexualization, does that mean we should ban erotic content? Does the sexualization of something even deserve to be banned? Of course there's a time and place for everything and such content shouldn't be shown in public spaces, unless that public space is borrowed and the public is notified, but I don't think anything I've heard so far is justification for that level of censorship. (I don't actually think anyone on that post wanted to outright ban sexual content.*)

I decided to look up the textbook definition of "sexualize," which is, "make sexual; attribute sex or a sex role to." This definition is broader than what I was guessing people's definitions might have been but I'm still not positive that was the definition everyone was using.

I also saw an argument about how sexualized content triggers some people's trauma and that leads into a whole other argument about censorship and trigger warnings. 

Trigger warnings are a very useful tool to prevent people who may come across triggering content to avoid it. There are also personalized options in most social media which filter out whatever content is needed to be. None of these options will be 100% effective because not everyone uses trigger warnings and Ai filtering systems aren't perfect. So, is this then a problem with censoring content and not the sexualization itself? 

If anyone is willing to share more on trauma and how it affects social media interaction, I'd love to learn more! 

Let me know your thoughts on this and how it all relates to the aro and/or ace communities. Feel free to critique my reasoning. I love having these types of conversations. 

 

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I don't think sexualisation is expressing your sexuality. For me, sexualisation is taking someone's creation, body or whatever, and see it only in a sexual way. Everyone has the right to experience sexual attraction toward something. It's not like you could help it. However, the problem with sexualisation is that the action then comes back to the original person through your actions, and that can hurt a lot.

For example, an author's work can often be sexualised, through fanfiction or fanart. The characters are less than 18, the author never said they were okay with their characters being sexualised, but people are still making that content. We can think that trigger warning can prevent that, but, like you said, it isn't always working.

I'm being quite severe with the people that are sexualising things, but I did it too so I can't really say anything.

Eventually I would say that sexualisation is acceptable as soon as :

- people are respected, someone that said that they didn't want to be sexualised shouldn't be sexualised 

- it is morally acceptable (no pedophilia or anything like that)

- the people that get to know about the sexualized content actually wanted to know about it

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1 hour ago, Atypique said:

I don't think sexualisation is expressing your sexuality. For me, sexualisation is taking someone's creation, body or whatever, and see it only in a sexual way. Everyone has the right to experience sexual attraction toward something. It's not like you could help it. However, the problem with sexualisation is that the action then comes back to the original person through your actions, and that can hurt a lot.

For example, an author's work can often be sexualised, through fanfiction or fanart. The characters are less than 18, the author never said they were okay with their characters being sexualised, but people are still making that content. We can think that trigger warning can prevent that, but, like you said, it isn't always working.

I'm being quite severe with the people that are sexualising things, but I did it too so I can't really say anything.

Eventually I would say that sexualisation is acceptable as soon as :

- people are respected, someone that said that they didn't want to be sexualised shouldn't be sexualised 

- it is morally acceptable (no pedophilia or anything like that)

- the people that get to know about the sexualized content actually wanted to know about it

That was really well said, thanks for your reply! I think your definition of sexualization makes a lot of sense, I'll keep it in mind and use it for future reference. 

I also agree with your requirements for when sexualization is acceptable. 

What you said about it coming back to the origional person is very true and reminds me of how there is so much shipping fanart of real people who never asked for it. I hope more people start speaking against it.

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2 hours ago, TatzelwurmMilk said:

From my perspective, where the disconnect seems to lie between the two arguments is their definitions of sexualization.

I agree with this, and am basing my response off it so figured I should acknowledge you said it.

2 hours ago, TatzelwurmMilk said:

I decided to look up the textbook definition of "sexualize," which is, "make sexual; attribute sex or a sex role to." This definition is broader than what I was guessing people's definitions might have been but I'm still not positive that was the definition everyone was using.

"Sexualize" is most often used to describe when humans just living their lives are stripped of their humanity in favor of the sexual pleasure they (with any intention to do so) provide others. It's often used in conjunction with discussions around fetishes for of people of a specific race. A specific example would be seeing a toddler and remarking "watch out ladies."

While sexual attraction is involuntary, sexualization is a purposeful action. By only seeing what people can offer sexually, you make it clear you do not see them as people.

I do think there is a bit of a blurry distinction between sexualization and expressing sexual attraction, but I think it comes down to intent and consent.

Intent would be why you are making a comment. Is it to flirt, to share a harmless joke among friends, to genuinely point out something you admire? Or is it to laugh at someone, to value them only for your sexual attraction to them, to make people uncomfortable? Both lists go on.

Consent would be if the people you are making the comment to are okay with the comment, and (when applicable, because it isn't always) if the person you are making the comment about is okay with it.

2 hours ago, TatzelwurmMilk said:

I also saw an argument about how sexualized content triggers some people's trauma and that leads into a whole other argument about censorship and trigger warnings. 

A example of this is asking someone beforehand if they are okay with watching a horror movie. I think we can all agree that tricking someone into watching, forcing someone to watch, coercing someone to watch, or just putting on a horror movie without permission is kind of messed up. And if someone says they don't want to watch a horror movie, no one would argue that the horror genre is being censored.

Trigger warnings are a way of asking someone if they want to see a specific kind of content. They are a basic courtesy.

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4 hours ago, Neon said:

I do think there is a bit of a blurry distinction between sexualization and expressing sexual attraction, but I think it comes down to intent and consent.

Thank you for sharing! I agree with everything you said in your comment. Consent is definitely the main deciding factor for whether something is considered sexualization. I feel more equipped to spot when sexualization is happening now. 

4 hours ago, Neon said:

Trigger warnings are a way of asking someone if they want to see a specific kind of content. They are a basic courtesy.

I agree! Sexual content would not be being suppressed as a whole if some people don't want to see it. More people should definitely use trigger warnings more often. I always do my best to let my friends know about content that may trigger them if there is no warning. 

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On 1/1/2023 at 11:45 PM, TatzelwurmMilk said:

I decided to look up the textbook definition of "sexualize," which is, "make sexual; attribute sex or a sex role to." This definition is broader than what I was guessing people's definitions might have been but I'm still not positive that was the definition everyone was using.

IMHO this definition gets it right, that's how the word is used. But the emphasis should be on "make" and "attribute". What is sexualized lacks agency and so the word has a negative connotation.

But why is sexualization an issue?

  1. You need consent for real persons anyway. So here it seems clear-cut.
  2. There are fictional or stereotypical characters (e. g. nurses). Alice from Alice in Wonderland is a seven year old child. If you wear a sexy Alice costume on Halloween, you're sexualizing the character. But fictional characters don't feel anything. No harm done. Aside from respect for someone's creations, which is a general issue.
    (Though the license gives you the permission, do not even think of sexualizing the aro frogs :frog:, how dare you!)

So sexualization resides in a very murky area:

  1. Consent was given, but something makes it questionable.
  2. People push harmful social norms and attitudes, for example by sexualizing fictional characters or using sexualized stock characters.

And you can argue about this all day long. Because my sensibilities may be different than yours.

(Disclaimer: some of the linked material is mildly NSFW)

Some people see indefensible sexualization in Cuties (Mignonnes), others in chainmail bikinis. Some reject Ivy from Soul Calibur as over-sexualized but are totally fine with Mad Moxxi from Borderlands.

All this is heavily embroiled with the culture wars, so I can't really take it that seriously.

On 1/2/2023 at 2:28 AM, Neon said:

While sexual attraction is involuntary, sexualization is a purposeful action. By only seeing what people can offer sexually, you make it clear you do not see them as people.

This sounds bad. But it's still quite vague.

If I go shopping in the supermarket I sometimes wonder if using self-checkout is going to be faster than lining up in the manual cashier lane. In this moment do I not only see what those real humans can offer for me in efficiency? Do I still see them as people? I compare them with lifeless automatons!

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On 1/1/2023 at 10:45 PM, TatzelwurmMilk said:

content warning: talking about sexualization but not describing it

Was unsure where to put this super long rant/conversation so it's going in off topic. 

I think this is a really interesting conversation where both sides have some good points. This was all way too long to put in a Pinterest comment so I decided to post it here.

This started on a Pinterest post of a meme saying "sick of allosexuals sexualizing everything." 

The two main sides of this argument is 1. sexualization is unhelpful and should be stopped, and 2. sexualization can't be helped and people should not have their expressions suppressed. 

From my perspective, where the disconnect seems to lie between the two arguments is their definitions of sexualization. Is anyone expressing their sexual interest in something automatically sexualizing it? Or is it when people try to argue that something is inherently sexual? Or is it a combination or something completely different? 

My first assumption of what the post was trying to say was that sexualization is when non-sexual things are made to be considered inherently sexual. It would be better for society to not have to worry about whether their mundane actions are being twisted to be seen as sexual to everyone else. I think this was the most accurate interpretation I had.

What made me think deeper about the motives behind the post were the comments. 

One comment came from a person who said they're aroallo and will sexualize whatever they want. The commenter seemed to disagree with the post and be using "sexualize" to mean to express their sexuality. 

A person from another side of the argument replied, "just don't shove it in our faces then <3." This commenter seemed to agree with the post and was fine with sexuality being expressed but as long as it isn't being "shoved in their face." What does "shoved in their face" mean in this context? 

The first commenter replies to the second, "now I will, just out of spite <333," which implies that they weren't intending on shoving it in anyone's face before. 

I think everyone should be able to express their wants, whether those wants are sexual or non-sexual. So, if simply expression of sexuality is sexualization, does that mean we should ban erotic content? Does the sexualization of something even deserve to be banned? Of course there's a time and place for everything and such content shouldn't be shown in public spaces, unless that public space is borrowed and the public is notified, but I don't think anything I've heard so far is justification for that level of censorship. (I don't actually think anyone on that post wanted to outright ban sexual content.*)

I decided to look up the textbook definition of "sexualize," which is, "make sexual; attribute sex or a sex role to." This definition is broader than what I was guessing people's definitions might have been but I'm still not positive that was the definition everyone was using.

I also saw an argument about how sexualized content triggers some people's trauma and that leads into a whole other argument about censorship and trigger warnings. 

Trigger warnings are a very useful tool to prevent people who may come across triggering content to avoid it. There are also personalized options in most social media which filter out whatever content is needed to be. None of these options will be 100% effective because not everyone uses trigger warnings and Ai filtering systems aren't perfect. So, is this then a problem with censoring content and not the sexualization itself? 

If anyone is willing to share more on trauma and how it affects social media interaction, I'd love to learn more! 

Let me know your thoughts on this and how it all relates to the aro and/or ace communities. Feel free to critique my reasoning. I love having these types of conversations. 

 

Ok, this is something I've never really considered as an aroace, but I'll try to explain my reasoning as best as I can. 

In my opinion, as a complete asexual: I'd rather there wasn't any sexualisation. But what I'd rather doesn't mean it's the best thing. In my opinion, if someone sexualises something, they take something that isn't intended to be sexual and make it sexual. Whether it is an object, or a human that hasn't shown the desire to be seen in a sexual light (eg, a schoolgirl, a child etc). 

Now I am all in for people expressing themselves as much as they want however, but it needs to reside in the realms of morality (eg, not sexualising children or child's objects, not telling children about their sexualising fantasies of characters, sexualising with consent etc,) because there is this key element to my definition that is you 'take something that isn't intended to be sexual'. So someone who has expressed a desire to be seen as sexual, they've already sexualised themselves. Of course, you must always ask consent before sexualising, even if the person themselves has sexualised themselves, however, it is key to separate the two. Someone who dresses in a certain revealing way does not mean that they wish to be sexualised. It simply means that they wish to dress that way, and should they wish to be sexualised, they will imply it with their words and actions. In all of this reasoning, the term sexualised is being used in the same way as my definition: taking something, and making it sexual when it could have not been seen as sexual. 

But sometimes this happens involuntarily. Again, personally I've never experienced any sort of sexual attraction so the extent to what I can speak on this subject is near none, however I presume that you cannot control what your brain finds sexually appeasing, and what it doesn't, in the same way you cannot control sexuality. However, it is imperative to then take the necessary steps and make sure your actions remain respectful. You talk to the person in question (should it be a person), and ask for their permission. Should it be immoral, you seek immediate help. 

But as long as consent is given and there's no immorality integrated within the sexualisation, I'd say it's perfectly acceptable. It's part of the sexual community, and it can lead to people exploring their sexuality, and sexual attraction. I can't see once certain boundaries are implemented, and as long as it remains completely moral and respectful, why it should be seen as a bad thing. 

Now, from what I know, there are certain kinks within the allosexual community that have been frequently shamed in the past, and are now using pride as a way to break from the shameful stereotype. Again, I'd argue that's completely separate from sexualisation: sexualisation is taking something which ISN'T INTENDED TO BE sexual. A kink usually stems from trying it out sexually beforehand, and then seeing that it makes sexual activity more arousing. So if it does stem from trying it out sexually beforehand, I'd presume that 9/10, it is with a partner (or multiple) and that it has been communicated through. Communication is important, to establish if something is morally correct, and to establish boundaries. 

This was really interesting to consider, especially as someone whose sexual attraction is in the negative part of the scale😭

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I’m all for people expressing themselves in creative ways, even if what they make is not something I would like to see. Sexualised art of fictional characters is not something I actively look for, but I do stumble upon it whenever I try to look for art of videogames. Especially if that videogame has a female character in it. Recent example: Metroid. Trying to find art of Samus Aran in which she is just being a badass bounty hunter instead of a pin-up model is very, very difficult. It sort of feels like I am sifting through a lot of sand to find a bit of gold, so to speak. But I wouldn’t say it is being shoved into my face, because I’m the one browsing Tumblr. Of course there is the option to filter but as you said, not everyone tags their work appropriately. That is a problem and I’m not sure how that should be handled…

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11 hours ago, Arden said:

But as long as consent is given and there's no immorality integrated within the sexualisation, I'd say it's perfectly acceptable. It's part of the sexual community, and it can lead to people exploring their sexuality, and sexual attraction. I can't see once certain boundaries are implemented, and as long as it remains completely moral and respectful, why it should be seen as a bad thing. 

It is supposed to be a bad thing even then, because sexualization pushes harmful gender norms and stereotypes. And the notion that one's (or rather a woman's) value derives from sex appeal or physical appearance.

Of course this does not apply to Tumblr amateur artists or absurd niche commercial products. They aren't effective in shaping our culture.

This is about sexualization in media with some mainstream appeal, like movies or video games.

Importantly, not just media you cannot avoid like commercials or billboards. Dead or Alive was strongly criticized for its sexualized content. But you won't see the skimpy girls if you don't actively play the game.

That's the issue. Do I see some merit in it? Yes... but mostly not. I don't think there can even in principle be a solution. Freedom of expression (where I include freedom from pressure of non-state actors) with the disclaimer "but only as long as you are not successful" isn't worth anything.

The biggest paradox is that people get ever more worked up about assumed indirect harm, often forgetting about concrete, direct harm.

Take Cuties again: the movie is a critique of premature sexualization. But the 11-year-old girls starring in Cuties are still real 11-year-old girls. And I don't understand why it is simply assumed with absolute certainty that filming those short, yet disturbing scenes (think: Nicki Minaj performance) was not harmful to them. Maybe not, I hope so. But it wouldn't surprise me.

9 hours ago, Nix said:

I’m all for people expressing themselves in creative ways, even if what they make is not something I would like to see.

There is also morbid fascination and that's like "I want to see it and I don't want to see it".

I remember this feeling when I stumbled upon vorarephiliac art by an actual paleoartist.

Edited by DeltaAro
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1 hour ago, DeltaAro said:

I remember this feeling when I stumbled upon vorarephiliac art by an actual paleoartist.

Yeah… I’m not going to google that 😅 

But maybe not knowing what to expect is part of the issue? I mean, teenage me would have absolutely googled that, or heard some vague rumors about a movie like Cuties and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Now that I’m older and know what I want and don’t want to see, I can make a choice. But those choices are shaped by young me interacting with media out of that morbid facination you mentioned. And realising I REALLY didn’t want to see that. But what if you like what you see? If it effects how you see and treat others in real life then that is a problem.

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