A Discussion About Objectification

1972 playboy

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since publishing Steve Coruzzi’s post, there has been a response to his points about objectification and sexual empowerment. We decided to run both the post and the response, because we believe the discussion to be important.

 Steve Coruzzi: “I Would Not Be Proud if My Daughter Posed for Playboy.”

My son is 9 and my daughter is 7. They’re getting to the ages where I’m starting to get concerned about how the choices they make will affect their lives, my daughter in particular. Not because I see something wrong in anything with her, but because I remember all the dumb ass things I did and if fathers knew what their daughters might be doing…let’s just say there is not enough wine in the Napa Valley to help me cope.

And it’s a daunting responsibility to teach my daughter to be the best woman she can be based on her intelligence and not on how she looks (she’s gorgeous by the way and I’m not just saying that because I’m her father!)

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work; a particular morning team based in Philly that I have been listening to for years. And although I love 90% of what they do, there’s the 10% of the show that focuses on strip clubs/hot women/boobs etc. that I’m not all that fond of. In my twenties that kind of stuff piqued my interest but now, it just makes me feel creepy. And as I get older it amazes me more and more that women in this day and age would subject themselves to being strippers or posing nude in Playboy, which was the subject of this morning’s radio show: an interview with a local Philly girl who appears in next month’s issue as Playmate of the Month.

The interview was of course extremely juvenile, peppered with questions about the current state of her pubic hair, the authenticity of her breasts, and what actors she was dating now that she’s “famous”. She, of course, had the prerequisite “helium-pitched voice” (What is it with that anyway? Does that just automatically develop once you have a naked photo taken of you or is it faked because that is what women are taught men want? I doubt Marie Curie sounded like Alvin the Chipmunk.) She had a non-surprising work history: the flirty bartender, the country club cart girl who danced in the sand traps—she basically sounded like someone who lived off her looks her whole life. And how did she end up in Playboy? Her regular bar customers encouraged her. No doubt concerned that bartending was a dead end career path and for the security of her future she should explore something more suited to her talents. I wonder why they weren’t encouraging her to go back to school?  

The interview left me feeling sorry for her. She’s probably making more money than I’ll ever see, but I felt sorry for her. And that’s my problem. Is this young woman a product of male sexual dominance or is she empowered? Is she being victimized or has she truly taken the reins of her life with confidence and strength and I’m just projecting my own issues onto her?

♦◊♦

I’m no angel by any means. I look at beautiful women (hell, I look at beautiful men! Beauty is beauty!). I’ve watched porn, I’ve gone to strip clubs, and I’ve had my share of romantic indiscretions based purely on physicality.  But I like to think I’ve grown and evolved to the point where I appreciate women on a more mature level. Don’t get me wrong, if the doorbell rang and Diane Lane stood before me my eyes would probably pop out of my skull like a Looney Tunes character! But I find there is a line I won’t cross anymore out of respect for my wife, my kids, women in general and for myself. (And that line seems to get more prude-ish the older I get!).

One thing that Miss August mentioned was how proud her dad was of her. Really? Is her dad a Lohan? I’d like to think I’d love my daughter regardless of what she does, but choosing to appear naked in a magazine that is purchased for the sole purpose of ogling women (and the other stuff that is done while looking at those  kind of pictures). I want to be able to ask the questions. I want her to be empowered by her mind, not her body.

Here’s what I think. Any empowerment a woman (or a man for that matter) gains from a purely sexual pursuit is misguided. True self-respect cannot be attained by being used. Let’s face it, if you take off your clothes to pose for Playboy or do porn or even work at Hooters you are being put in a subservient position under men. I don’t care how much you cry out that you’re in control and it’s your choice and you’re just free with your body and sexuality and you’re financially secure, you’re being used. To me, sexual empowerment exists only by not being used for your sexuality.

But that is just my opinion. If a young woman is happy and healthy and secure then who am I to say that she’s wrong in how she gets that way? Well, I’ll tell you who I am:

I’m a father.

Steve Coruzzi, 43 years old, is married with two kids, 8 and 6, and lives in Newark, DE. He is on a continuing journey to discover the true nature of humankind through satire, sincerity, and sarcasm.

—————————–

Here is the response:

Caitlin McGuire “Welcome to the life of a woman.”

In the wake of Scarlett Johansson’s nudity scandal, a male friend once asked me if I could imagine myself posing nude. I wasn’t sure at the time. This shocked him: how could I consider putting myself in a situation in which I was near-guaranteed sexualization, objectification, exploitation?

My answer: Welcome to the life of a woman.

In Steve Coruzzi’s essay, “I Would Not Be Proud if My Daughter Posed for Playboy,” Coruzzi talks about wanting to raise his daughter with a sense of self-worth, and then moves on to dehumanize every woman he’s ever objectified. Every stripper he’s watched in a strip club, every porn star he’s done “the other stuff” to – a charming euphemism for masturbation – and the women with whom he’s shared “romantic indiscretions based purely on physicality.”

The logic behind his argument is that a woman who chooses to benefit from her sexuality, whether that be financially, professionally, or even, simply, sexually, has traded their sexual empowerment for a position of inferiority to men. To make good use of the objectification and sexualization inherent in the lives of women is to show your hand to the misogynists. Here is my body: here is my value.

The essential issue is not one of nudity or pride, but of a woman’s right to the sexualization of her body. No one goes into a Playboy photoshoot expecting sensual prints she can frame and hang in the foyer. Does the same trade-off of power exist when a woman poses nude for an art class? Would Coruzzi be proud of his daughter if she inspired artwork? If her face, which Coruzzi himself calls beautiful, or her body had value independent of everything that lay underneath? If she enjoyed the expression of her body, artistically or sexually?

Let me clue you in on a little secret: objectification is an inevitable element of the female experience. You could close your eyes and picture me naked. The extrapolation of what body parts follow from my neck and then below would be inexact. But the fact remains that humans are born with imagination, and clothed or unclothed, male or female, no one owns every usage of their body.

The most concerning part of Coruzzi’s argument takes place at the end of his essay, in which he asks, “who am I to say [that a woman] is wrong” in how she comes by happiness, healthiness, and security? He answers: “I’m a father.”

The same flawed logic behind well-meaning slogans fighting violence against women – “She’s someone’s mother/sister/daughter/wife” – applies here. To assert that a woman should be treated with respect because “she’s someone’s daughter” implies that a woman deserves respect because of her relationship with a man. That a woman, on her own, isn’t capable of making the “right” choice in how she constructs her sexuality or the way she wears her body. That a woman has to depend on the most obvious of patriarchal society’s figureheads, the literal father, for the construction of her own value.

Coruzzi claims that being a father makes him uniquely qualified to pass judgment on how a woman chooses to use her body. Being a father no more qualifies you to judge the usage of bodies of women you’ve never met than does being a rhinoceros or a book spine or a coffee mug or the tail of a dog.

In a few years, Coruzzi’s daughter will be no more inoculated against the naughty thoughts of her pubescent classmates than any other girl is. And when she grows up, nothing changes. Playboy model, bank teller, doctor, gas station clerk, mother; when it comes to objectification, it’s all the same. The only thing that changes is existence of the living document.

If Coruzzi wants to ensure that his daughter is never exploited by the eyes of men, he can go the way of old fairy tales and build the tallest tower for her, install her in its highest room. But if we learn anything from the stories we tell young women before bedtime, we should learn this: no one ever stays in that tower forever. And since Coruzzi can’t put blinders on every man who might ever meet his daughter without marriage in mind, better not to teach her that to be sexualized is to be devalued.

Coruzzi’s pride for his daughter is, of course, his own prerogative, and the relationship he has with her as a consequence is business of his own. But for his daughter’s benefit, I sincerely hope that he reconsiders his view on how the value of a woman is constructed. A woman’s “rightness” is not determined by the minds of men, not by future partners or bosses or men who buy nudie mags in brown paper bags, and not by her father.

And if he doesn’t, I want to tell Miss Coruzzi: the only person with the right to judge the way you use your body, or the way your body is used, is you. And when you judge that value, remember to be kind.

Caitlin McGuire is a James Dickey Fellow at the University of South Carolina, co-managing editor of Cartagena Journal and fiction editor for Yemassee. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Whiskeypaper, Booth, and Paper Nautilus. She is a daughter, a sister, a partner, and a person; tell her what you are @cemiggy.

 

photo of 1972 Playboy magazine by kaspar roelle / flickr

Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Steve Coruzzi

Steve Coruzzi, 43 years old, is married with two kids, 8 and 6, and lives in Newark, DE. He is on a continuing journey to discover the true nature of humankind through satire, sincerity, and sarcasm.

Comments

  1. As a younger man, I found Playboy and its ilk interesting, and regardless of what anyone says, it wasn’t for the articles. I never understood the expression “that girl is somebody’s daughter” then.

    Now that I have a young daughter of my own, I no longer find those publications appealing. While I would still love my daughter unconditionally, support and protect her if that was the path she chose to travel, I would not be a proud father if she appeared in a magazine nude.

    The litmus test for me is whether I would place any magazine she appeared in on a mantle beside photos of her as a baby and her academic, soccer and music achievements. I would proudly display copies of any scientific or literary journal she was published in as a contributor, but magazines in which she appeared nude would not make the cut.

    Chris

  2. All I can really say about this is I’m glad you’re not my father, because it sounds like it would be hard to figure out exactly what I could and could not do to meet your “approval.”

    • Steve Coruzzi says:

      On the one hand I completely agree with you. I wouldn’t want to be the child of a parent who set narrow definitions of what would meet with their approval. However, I think I’m being quite specific that in the interest of my daughter’s well being, I could not be proud of any endeavor where she is treated as a sexual object. I can’t imagine any parent being pleased with that sort of life choice.

  3. If my options were

    1) Minimum wage bar job – $12,000 per year.
    2) Nude model with no penetration. – $100,000 per year (You can earn $100,000 if you have a look that will get you into playboy)

    It’s a no-brainer.

  4. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I think we need to not lose sight of the fact that many women who are in Playboy and other pornography are very actively engaged in their choices to participate.

    I would hope you’d be proud of your daughter even if she did choose to pose for Playboy. I posed topless for an album cover in my 20s and I’d hope my parents would be proud of my ability to make that choice. I was informed and wasn’t just trying for attention or even for money.

    I think it’s great you’re seeing objectification like this, but it isn’t your job to determine for your daughter how her sexuality should be expressed. Your job is to give her the tools to look critically at the media (including Playboy and Hooters etc) and to understand objectification. It’s your job to make her feel loved, unconditionally. It’s your job to help her have success in life so that she has a lot of options at her disposal.

    Then, no matter what she chooses to do, you can be proud of the job you did raising her.

    • I think it’s important to understand what the writer is saying here. He is not saying that he wouldn’t love her. He is saying he wouldn’t be proud of her. And more specifically “HE wouldn’t be proud of her”.

      Every parent is required to love their children (actually all people have an obligation to love everyone). But no parent has an obligation to be proud of their children.

      Loving someone and being proud are two vastly different things. Nelson Mandela showed love and compassion by forgiving all those who oppressed him and his people during Apartheid. So much so that he was even willing to work with them as part of a new government. But was he proud of those who oppressed him? Was he proud of Apartheid? Of course not!

      Every human being has values and no-one can be proud of another person who lives contrary to their values…and indeed no one should expect them to. Being proud of something is a form of taking ownership, a willingness to have ones name associated with an activity or entity or person because of a belief that it resonates with ones own beliefs and goals. No parent therefore has to be proud of their child when they grow up and live contrary to those values they hold and have taught their children to hold.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Joanna,
      I don’t believe you. You’ll have to provide the name of the album as evidence….. : – )

  5. The “I realized this when I had a daughter” (or got married or befriended a woman or etc.) sentiment might seem warm & fuzzy at first, but it’s SO loaded. Sure, it makes it sound like the speaker has learned to humanize women because of his daughter/wife/friend. And sure, it might appeal to a reader’s sense of pathos & get the argument across more strongly.

    But these sentiments are deeply troubling because what they say is, in fact, that a woman–of any age–is only valuable in her relation to a man. Whether that man is her father, her partner, anything, it doesn’t matter. What it does is says, “You are important because you are a daughter.” It does not say, “You are important because you are a human being.”

    Furthermore, the number of assumptions made in the original article are striking. How can one writer assume to know the circumstances (emotional, financial, physical, anything) of EVERY woman (or man)? But here it is–“ANY empowerment a woman [...] gains from a purely sexual pursuit is misguided.” But as many commenters have noted above, how can one assume that the choice to participate in nude modeling or pornography is “a purely sexual pursuit?” It may not seem like it would be an empowering decision for this one man–& that’s totally fine! But that doesn’t mean that NO woman (or man) who makes the decision to participate finds it empowering. It doesn’t mean that every woman (or man) who makes the decision feels “used.”

    The “let’s face it, you’re being used” sentiment was, frankly, shocking to me–& not in a good way. A woman who poses nude or shoots pornography or works at Hooters (to use the article’s examples) IS ONLY BEING USED IF MEN USE HER. It boils it down to the tired “poor men, we can’t control ourselves with all these slutty women around” argument. It places the blame for any potential exploitation on the woman–if she didn’t want to be used by men, she shouldn’t have worn those short shorts at Hooters!! You know what that is? THAT IS RAPE CULTURE.

    Just because Mr. Coruzzi is a father, that does not give him the right to judge anyone–including his own daughter. “If a young woman is happy and healthy and secure, then who am I to say that she’s wrong?” Answer: you’re no one to say that. As Ms. McGuire points out, only his daughter can choose. Just because he is a father to one girl, that absolutely does not give him the right to judge ALL girls, which is exactly what he’s doing here by making such generalizations throughout this article.

  6. I’m confused by all the people who want Steve to be proud of his daughter posing for playboy. Really guys? Why would any man, knowing how he looked at those women and what he thought and did as he looked at them, be proud of his daughter for willfully subjecting herself to that. Coruzzi does not say he would stop loving her, he doesn’t even say that he would try and stop her, he says that he would not be proud of her. That her choice of sexual expression would not correspond to the values that he is trying to instill in her. Now the question we need to ask ourselves is: are the reasons for his shame valid? Does it make sense for a father to be saddened by his daughter’s willful choice to express her sexuality in this specific manner?
    Also, what does it say about us as women if we are defending an act that men are telling you is degrading. Playboy is for MEN! MEN read it! A man is telling you that when he looks at this magazine the last feeling he has for the women in it is respect! How is it that we feel that purposefully putting yourself in it is taking charge of your sexuality? It would be nice if this were true but I’m not buying it.

  7. Stefani Marroquin says:

    I like McGuire’s article and agree with some of the viewpoints, but I think the message can be accomplished with less hostility towards Steve Coruzzi. Regardless of what his essay says, the bottom line is he’s concerned for his daughter (which is a good thing, remember). I think Coruzzi’s line of reasoning is off, esp. the last paragraph, but I think the people who do make money from selling vulnerable young women and not promoting their formal education are the people we should be attacking, as he points out. Maybe modeling for Playboy can lead to a good life, but if your daughter (or son) was giving hand jobs in a cocaine infested strip club or doing pee shots for hard core porn publications, all your reasoning and proclamations of freedom would go out the window. For a few young people that kind of work might be by choice and empowering, but for most they do it because of lack of options. They should not be judged for this work, but we should as a society work to give them more options. Also, if the essay was written by a woman and ended with “I’m a mother,” we could not attack it in the same way. We cannot condemn Coruzzi’s essay for what is between his legs; his last statement does not validate his argument because he is a man but because he is a parent.

    • Caitlin McGuire says:

      I don’t take issue with Coruzzi’s personal viewpoint that he wouldn’t feel proud of his daughter if she was to model naked. That’s his business. What I take issue with is the ideology behind his statements regarding sexuality (and they’re not just his – this is an entire culture that chooses to denigrate and punish women for having sexuality, and particularly those who make use of it).

      To go directly into the text, so as not to put words in Coruzzi’s mouth: “Let’s face it, if you take off your clothes to pose for Playboy or do porn or even work at Hooters you are being put in a subservient position under men. I don’t care how much you cry out that you’re in control and it’s your choice and you’re just free with your body and sexuality and you’re financially secure, you’re being used. To me, sexual empowerment exists only by not being used for your sexuality. But that is just my opinion. If a young woman is happy and healthy and secure then who am I to say that she’s wrong in how she gets that way? Well, I’ll tell you who I am: I’m a father.”

      In this essay in particular, Coruzzi’s argument isn’t being made solely on what he wants for his daughter. He’s not outlining a parenting style that emphasizes how he’s raising his daughter to have self-esteem based on her intelligence. He’s judging, not his daughter, but “young wom[e]n” because he is “a father,” not because he is *her* father. That’s the issue.

      • I think the problem is men have been told for decade now that they should stop objectifying women.
        Now if women don’t want to be objectified then they should stop objectifying themselves.
        For example let’s say some men are complaining that women are objectifying them as success objects. Then some women respond by saying, maybe if you stopped wearing gold chains, bragging about your account balance or the size of your house; maybe then we might be able to forget a bit about you have and start concentrating on who you are.

        The point is objectifying people isn’t something that just happens. There are triggers. And this article was about a man telling women one of the things that triggers him to objectify. He doesn’t feel any respect for a woman who is taking his clothes off to him when she doesn’t even know him. All he feels is lust. No respect, no admiration. He doesn’t get the feeling that she is somehow contributing to the building up of a better society. All he can think about is how her body could satisfy his body’s appetites. And that is why he wouldn’t be proud of his daughter if she went down that road.
        Of course for those men who do look at a women taking off her clothes with admiration. Who are filled with a deep sense of respect for the great service she is offering society; obviously such men will probably be proud of their daughters going down that road. Such men would probably encourage their daughters. Such men, we might expect, would even picket outside their daughter’s school demanding that they include sex work as one of the professions they promote during career day.

        I have one question for you Caitlin: How would you have responded if Steve had written a post about how he hopes his Daughter will one day be a sex worker?

  8. wellokaythen says:

    However one feels about objectification, posing, choosing to act in porn, etc., I think it’s perfectly fair as a parent or as a good friend to suggest a “back-up plan” in terms of career. It’s fair to say that if posing Playboy is a stepping stone to greater and greater fulfillment in life that it’s a rare occurrence. Your options over the course of your life will be higher in number when your options are not so much based on your appearance, perkiness, skin elasticity, or lack of wrinkles.

    Think about a career where gravity doesn’t undermine your ability to pay the bills.

    I do think it’s perfectly fair to ask reasonable questions about long-term career prospects, or ask in pragmatic ways how doing job X contributes towards your long-term life goals. If your daughter has a good answer, then good for her, let her see where it takes her. If she doesn’t have a good answer, then perhaps she would benefit from giving it more thought? You sure as hell as a parent have a right, even a duty maybe, to let her know when you have concerns about her health and safety.

  9. I liked your article.

    I think that people take some of your statements and blow them out of proportion. I get the idea that having a daughter has changed your perspective and made you rethink some of your behaviours, and see other women in a different light.

    I hope you are successful in teaching her about valuing herself.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Coruzzi poses an interesting question on the Good Men Project site in his article ‘I Would Not Be Proud if My Daughter Posed for Playboy‘. In the article, he describes listening to a radio show in Philly that featured a girl who [...]

  2. [...] Now that Steve Coruzzi has a daughter, he finds himself looking at beauty, objectification, sexual empowerment quite differently than he used to.  [...]

Speak Your Mind

*