Content warning: This post makes reference to sexual assault, sexual assault of minors
Men sexualize everything. It’s hard to know where to start listing the ways. I have been exhausted by the effort of not seeming sexual to a group of humans intent on sexualizing every aspect of my identity since I was ten years old. It is the hostile work environment of sexual harassment lawsuits on a societal scale, and we are subjected to it from childhood.
Because men sexualize girlhood, from ruffled underwear to grade school uniforms, pigtails to teddy bears. They sexualize virginity, and innocence, and being the first man to touch a woman or a girl. They sexualize youth, age gaps and power imbalances: teachers and students, bosses and employees, old men and “barely legal” young women.
Men sexualize puberty, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. They sexualize fertility and markers of it, even while abandoning their children. They sexualize young girls “blossoming into womanhood” and blame their leering gaze on the children they lust after. They street harass more minor girls than adult women, and proposition children for sex, either seriously or as a threatening joke at the girl’s expense.
Men sexualize our bodies: our hair, our lips, our mouths, our wrists, our hands, our waists, our hips, our asses, our legs, our feet. They sexualize modesty and coverage as much as nudity, leaving us no safe harbor from their onslaught. They sexualize both body styles and sizes they like and those they hate, and their insults often include sexual threats.
Men sexualize our movements and the ways we use our bodies: how we walk, how we run, how we bend and stretch. They sexualize us when we bend over to pick something up, and they leave most of that work to us. They sexualize our walking down the street. They sexualize our fitness, our speed and endurance, our strength. They sexualize and diminish athletics women have excelled in: cheer leading, volleyball, gymnastics, ballet. They make yoga feel dirty and perverse.
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