Graphic by Haley Morkert.
CAITLIN SEGRAVES | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Content warning: References to sexual acts are included in this article.
The other day I was scrolling through TikTok, simply wasting time I don’t have. I suddenly came across — I’ll be honest — a very attractive girl doing one of the many TikTok dances that involve butt shaking. As one does, I peeked at the comments. It had a lot of positive comments lifting her up and supporting her choice to be provocative, but one comment really stuck with me.
It was something along the lines of, “girls do stuff like this and complain about being objectified.” I saw this comment and nearly dropped my phone, thoroughly pissed off; if random comments have anything, it’s the audacity. Rage bubbled up inside me, burning a hole in my stomach.
My rage came from the fact that as a woman, I know that being sexual for my own pleasure is a personal decision that does not give strangers the right to sexualize me. There is a difference between being sexual and being sexualized, and Jules Arthur-Grable, Butler University’s sexual assault response and prevention specialist, explained this difference.
“Being sexual is such an internal emotion,” Arthur-Grable said. “It’s what I feel, how I feel about my partner, how I feel about myself. Versus being sexualized is something that’s being put on you. It’s not your choice anymore. It’s no longer what I feel, what I think, it’s what someone else feels, what someone else thinks about me and my body.”
Consent is the basic idea that someone has power, choice and autonomy over their own body. If you’ve read my column before, you should know that consent is key. Even on social media, being sexualized is taking away that consent, that autonomy and choice that you are supposed to have over your own body.
Being sexual can mean different things to different people. Wearing specific outfits, doing butt-shaking TikTok dances or playing out your sexual fantasies isn’t for everyone, but for some it can be empowering. Most importantly, being sexual should be fun! Arthur-Grable went into depth about how being sexual can be a good thing.
“It’s making your own choice and having your own autonomy definitely is empowering,” Arthur-Grable said. “And being able to feel comfortable in your body and yourself in your relationship, to engage in an intimate act with somebody is great.”
Women are discouraged from being sexual. There is so much pressure to stay “pure” and to cherish your virginity as if it’s the only valuable thing about being a woman. We must fight constant external sexualization of our bodies because society says that’s our only value — not our intelligence or passion, but the way our hips are shaped, our bra size and our purity.
But screw that — we as women need to own our bodies.
Sexualization that happens without our consent can make us feel scared, threatened and defeated. However, being sexualized can be fun and empowering. How so?
“With consent,” Arthur-Grable said.
You can give your partner consent to sexualize you; maybe you’re feeling extra good and sexy, your partner can affirm that! They should want you to feel good and they know you look good, because you always do. That affirmation can be really empowering and validating — especially to come from someone you trust.
A stranger does not have that trust. Nor do they have any form of consent. If you feel compelled to comment on another person’s body, don’t. Even if you believe your comment to be positive and affirming, you can’t positively sexualize someone if you don’t have an established consensual relationship.
Don’t get me wrong — I love it when people tell me they like my outfit or my hair. These kinds of compliments make me feel great. But when a stranger compliments how my butt looks in a pair of shorts or comments on my exposed cleavage, that’s a step too far.
“It’s dehumanizing, so being overtly sexualized can be really demeaning to a person and really tear down how they feel about themselves, how they perceive themselves, how they engage with other people,” Arthur-Grable said.
So keep your opinions to yourself. If someone is shaking their butt on TikTok or just owning their sexuality in general, let them be. Your need to comment on their body only shows your blatant misogyny and need to control women. Do us all a favor, and get off the Internet!