I’m deeply disturbed by a television commercial I just saw. The spot opens with a man sitting on a double bed. He’s handsome, even features, a bit rugged, fully clothed. Enter his wife/girlfriend. She’s blonde, blue-eyed, wearing a robe. She speaks in a voice simultaneously childlike and seductive, “Do you think I’m pretty?” From a feminist perspective, not a good start. But more disturbing, in fact chilling: she’s a puppet manipulated by strings.
She sheds her robe, and underneath is red lingerie trimmed in black lace. She has a weirdly thin body, with absolutely no fat content. She asks for her man’s approval as she shows him several positions she can get into, by manipulation of the strings. She’s a sexual marionette.
And no, I was not watching a porn channel; I was with my 17-year-old daughter, lounging in our family room, watching the Food Network. And no, the commercial was not for edible underwear or lick-it-off-your-body chocolate sauce; it was for Direct TV.
A short while ago, Time Magazine’s cover story took on the issue of rape on college campuses. The article stated that 20% of female students are being sexually assaulted during their college years. Clearly, a problem of this magnitude does not begin on campus. The stage has been set, and a dangerous mindset is deeply engrained in our cultural values. If a commercial on a major network – viewed by children, adolescents and adults — casually portrays a woman as a sexual puppet, the groundwork for rape is in place.
Nobody, female or male, should be viewed as another person’s marionette. Nobody should be treated as a sexual toy. As long as anyone can be viewed as a sexualized doll attached to strings, we are accepting a culturally endorsed value of sexual objectification. This is the foundation for sexual assault – one person in a position of power, forcing another person to be their sexual marionette.
It’s time to cut the strings.
Novels by Amy Kaufman Burk
Sexual assault and hurtful sexual experiences are so prevalent that I decided to include these issues in both of my novels. I tried to treat the issues, emotional and physical, with the respect they deserve. Having worked as a therapist for 25 years before becoming a novelist, I also hold boundless respect for the human capacity to heal.
Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable
Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay students bullied in high school, as a voice against bullying, stereotyping and sexual assault.
Caroline Black, a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, healing from sexual assault, same-sex parents, and as a voice against the stigma of therapy.