Women as Sexual Objects - Both in Biblical and Modern Society

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Introduction

Modern day media is everywhere, making it impossible to avoid. It is present in every part of our daily lives, influencing both our behaviour and our mind-set. Advertising has become one of the most important and widely used methods of media in today’s marketplace, a way for companies to communicate with potential customers. It affects our perception, thoughts and preferences, and our cultural values become almost defined by it.

Although modern society may have seen an increase in the number of women now achieving both high powered and high ranking jobs in areas such as commerce, politics, and industry, thereby becoming role models for girls everywhere, unfortunately the media, it seems, is still intent on portraying women as sexual objects, i.e. page three girls, scantily clad video game heroines, and the ever visible cleavage of many female actresses, both on cinema and television.

The continuing development and expansion of the internet and mobile phone industries have proved only to aid this sexual portrayal, with young girls performing sexual acts, whilst being recorded, and then posting them to the web, or sending revealing photographs of themselves via messages on their phones to anyone who wants them. Aggressive advertising campaigns, new fashion trends, and the increase in both alcohol and drug consumption have all led to many young women fully embracing this role of sexual object and plaything.

And it seems from what we read in certain Biblical passages, for example Genesis 34 and 38, and 2 Samuel 13,that women have throughout time always been used and abused by men, and then in the main been cast aside when their usefulness sexually has ended.

Is there any justification for the actions of men who treat women merely as sexual objects, who are the real victims, and is it their nature or society which has led them to be the way they are?

The Old Testament Patriarchal System

The patriarchal system of the Old Testament society seems to have regarded women as being insignificant, viewed merely as equivalent to any other piece of property (Exodus 20:17). The term ‘patriarchy’ refers to the system, derived from Greek and Roman law, which allowed for male domination within society, whereby they had absolute legal and economic power over their female dependants. As Marsh (2000:95) describes it - “It encapsulates the mechanisms, ideologies and social structures which have enabled men historically to gain and maintain their dominance and control over women.” It was a system which presented the idea of male superiority, giving them complete control over women.

Genesis 34 – Shechem and Dinah

Genesis 34 details the rape of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, by Shechem the Hivite prince, and the subsequent disproportionate revenge her brothers take.

As Parry (2000:1) states many feminist critics have interpreted the Biblical texts with suspicion, considering them as both patriarchal and androcentric, and thereby harmful to women. It appears from this narrative that they may well be right as very little emphasis was put on the actual crime with only one verse used to describe it (34:2), while the remaining twenty nine verses describe how, after Shechem asked Dinah to marry him, her brothers plotted their revenge.

Rape was not viewed in the same way in Biblical times as it is now, however Dinah had been defiled, and therefore her options became very limited. Under the laws set out in Deuteronomy 22 relating to sexual relationships, verses 28-29 clearly protect the woman from destitution – with the man’s punishment being that he must marry the woman who he has had sexual relations with, and that he could never divorce her, thereby at least providing for her material needs.

This story, which undoubtedly appears to be written from a male perspective, does not however hold Dinah responsible for these events. Although some have tried to interpret the words ‘went out to visit’ in...
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