A troubled household left Sherri Rosen with a sexually objectifying outlook, little promise for meaningful relationships, and a long road toward recovery.
When I was a little girl I was afraid of men, mainly because of what my sister, my mom, and my dad told me in casual conversation. Mom: “Your dad never listens to me, he always does what he damn well pleases. He’s weak.” My sister: “Don’t trust men. Don’t sleep with them until you know for sure they are going to stick around. They never tell you the truth.” Dad: “Mom says you need to lose weight.” I used to see dad’s photo in the newspapers with lots of shoe models he worked with.
I used to wonder to myself why I objectified men. I realized I never had any positive role models in my family. I was always told how amazing my dad was. And though my mom and sister were always admiring of others’ look, physique, or age, I never heard them speak kindly about other men or women.
I asked myself, “What is the difference between being attracted to a man and wanting to sleep with him, and wanting him as your friend?” I’ve had guys say to me, “I want to be your lover, but I don’t want to be your friend.” Hearing that, I had to make the decision of whether to stay or leave because I knew it was just about the sex, even if they said they loved me.
Guys were my friends growing up, but every time I would talk about them to my dad, he would make fun of them, saying, “You can do better than that. He’s an idiot. Why do you want to go out with him?” Slowly, I began to believe what he was saying. Plus, I had a feeling that my dad was screwing around with other women. Many years later, I found out this was true—and that he had a five-year liaison with a woman, and had a son with her that he sent away, never to be heard from again.
I saw my mother dress seductively and get loads of attention from men, but I also saw that she was scared of the attention and couldn’t handle it. She would turn around and get angry at men for making suggestive remarks to her. She once wore this amazing, shimmering blue dress that had fringes from top to bottom. She was curvaceous, had jet black hair, and white, white skin. She looked incredible, but I could see she wasn’t comfortable in her body.
That self-consciousness transferred onto me, and it took me years to realize that I was beautiful, that I had great breasts and attractive curves. So I began to objectify myself. I felt this was the only way: objectify me, and objectify men. I couldn’t see me and didn’t know them. It was just all about sex. I loved sex and wanted to have it all the time. I began to dress seductively, wear no bra, dye my hair bright red—and wonder why I was getting so much sexual attention in the streets.
Of course, my objectification was there because of fear. Because the objectification remained in my relationships, it didn’t allow me to be truly intimate and get to know my lover, even if we were married or living together. Objectification became a business deal in my relationships. You do for me; I’ll do for you. It was all about manipulation and control. There was no room for love and trust.
Many years later, in the mid 90’s, I went to live for two years at a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Center in Barnet, Vermont. My life was a mess. Therapy helped somewhat, but I still didn’t like who I was. I felt like I was only good for sex—and I thought the same about men.
But that changed. Malik befriended me when I first moved up there. We spoke daily. We began to develop a trust for one another that turned into a romance. It was the first time I had a relationship that was based upon friendship, love, and feeling safe. We even moved in together when we returned to New York City. But it was a troubling relationship. It was clear that he was so attached to his mother that there was no room for me. Consequently, relationships didn’t become any less confusing.
Today, I appreciate men’s bodies, and love to look at gorgeous men and their butts, hands, and eyes. It feels great when I am sexually attracted to them, but there is an appreciation—not an objectification. I love men of all colors, ages, nationalities, and I finally have the awareness and ability to see past the package and get to know the man.
And, to see if he’s a good man.