Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Object

Main Entry: ob·jec·ti·fy
Function: transitive verb
Pronunciation: ob-'jek-tuh-fī
Inflected Form(s): -fied ; -fy·ing
1 : to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality

A recent glitch in the Inked-In photo roll brought my "Writer's Gone Wild" group's pictures up on the front page of the site. No matter how many times I clicked those lovely "for my friends only" boxes, those images of, ahem...scantily clad men...kept popping up on the home page.

Nobody seemed to mind much, so I forgot about it.

Oops. Pardon me while I wipe the egg off my face!

Now granted, I agree that some images aren't for all sets of eyes. While I don't condone censorship of any kind, we are first a society of personal choice. I won't deny anyone their choice *not* to read my work, or to choose *not to view* the images that inspire myself, and my colleagues, to create steamy romance novels.

For this reason alone, I agree that my group's images belonged under "genre specific" wraps. I believe that the site's offending glitch is now repaired, so it's back to business as usual at Writer's Gone Wild.

If you are a member of Inked In, and you're on my friend's list, and you don't want to see my personal photos, you can choose to unfriend me. I'll miss you, and I'll hate to see you go, but I'm not going to change who I am because the work I do might offend.

I have to admit, I bristled inwardly at the suggestion that the images we celebrated on our group might sexually objectify men, or women, for that matter.

Now, a few days have passed, and I am calm. Kinda. :)

With my Irish temper under control, I'm going to bristle outwardly, but with the dignity that my colleagues deserve. :) This is just too delicious an argument to pass up!

If my publisher chooses to put a half-naked, male cover model on my book's jacket, and I, in turn, use that cover in my promotions--am I then guilty of sexual objectification?

What if the cover celebrates a half-naked woman? Am I still guilty?

What if it portrays both a man and a woman? Would such a vivid portrayal of heaving bosoms and washboard abs then make me...a double perpetrator?

I don't think so.

I have a problem with the presumption that romance novelists--and the cover models employed by their publishers--manage to objectify anyone. Even within our genre, publishers have certain published taboos, and work that condones sexual victimization of any kind is one of the more universal ones.

"Objectify" is a verb. To objectify another person requires an action, performed by a perpetrator. Objectification also requires a victim. In order to be sexually objectified, a victim must have been denied their right to say "no".

A minor who is forced to perform in a peep show in exchange for food and shelter is a *victim* of objectification. The young men who were coerced into sexual acts under the mantle of presumed power within the Catholic Church were both victimized, and objectified. A young boy I know, autistic and at the time nonverbal, was molested at the age of ten by a documented, same sex, sexual predator.

Nobody cared much when it happened, save the people who loved him.

This child was victimized. He was also traumatized. He was, indeed, objectified, both by his perpetrator, and by the caregivers who chose to diminish his plight in order to remove themselves from the finger of accusation. They knew this child couldn't effectively testify. Their actions told him that it's ok to suffer molestation if you're not intellectually perfect.

None of these scenarios allowed their victims the luxury of choice.

Romance novel cover models are not victims. Nor have they been objectified. They have trained for, auditioned for, and prepared for their careers empowered by personal choice. In return, they have been well compensated for the delightful work that they do.

To presume that they are victims of objectification demeans the very real horrors faced by real victims of sexual objectification.

End of rant.

Fire away! :D

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