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Not a laughing matter

Published June 22. 2013 09:02AM

Want to hear a joke? Ask a young man to crack you one and you're likely to get something that includes sexual assault and female degradation.

Well boys, knock knock this is your wake-up call. No one is laughing but you.

It's far too easy to joke about sexual assault. When you view a female as an object the butt of a joke you detach yourself from feelings of empathy and the ownership of any possible negative impact. Objects don't bruise.

The 2012 study on sexual objectification conducted under the direction of Phillipe Bernad defined objectification as the viewing or treatment of an individual as a sexualized body available for satisfying the desire's of others.

Emphasis on the phrase, "sexualized body" instead of sexualized person.

Results from this study found that while men in a sexualized state were perceived as persons, women were viewed as objects.

So what happens when women become objects instead of people?

American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum explains the seven resulting features of objectification in her book, "Sex and Social Justice." A few of the features include: instrumentality, fungibility, ownership and denial of subjectivity

In explanation:

Instrumentality a woman is an instrument used to execute a punch line.

Fungibility (Meaning: to be interchangeable with other objects.) Nussbaum uses the example of a ball-point pen. Do you feel bad if you break a pen? Not really, it's an object. Do you feel bad if you joke about sexual assault to an assault victim (and note that one in four women are victims of sexual assault)? Not really, it's an object.

Ownership the idea that you can do with your property what you please.

Denial of subjectivity a joke can't hurt someone's feelings if they do not have any feelings to begin with.

The rising amount of sexual objectification I see in our youth perhaps stems from the encouragement of sexual objectification from pop culture. Hollywood is a money-show of objects bragged about in raps and songs. Lyrics from Rick Ross's recent rap, "U.O.E.N.O.," flaunt date rape as the artist brags about putting the drug "Molly" in a woman's drink and having sexual intercourse with her while she is unconscious.

What a hit.

Obviously, we cannot change the music industry. Yet, we can change how we educate our area's youth to handle sexual assault. Looking back on my own schooling, I can't remember a time where sexual assault was mentioned other than a "good touch, bad touch" video shown to us in our elementary school library that used hand puppets to explain sexual assault.

We can do better.

I have listened to plenty of motivational speakers in high school telling me "You can do it!" and seminars on bullying asking me to think about the consequences of my actions. Where are the seminars in schools about gender and sexual assault? When we outgrow the hand puppets, do we somehow outgrow the problem, also?

I think not. Just last Monday at Pocono Mountain West high school, a male student was found sexually assaulting a female student in a rest room.

This isn't a "kids these days" tirade. This is an examination of first-hand experiences coming from someone who has been on the not-amused receiving end of such jokes. At age 19, I am one of the youth being raised in a world that tolerates this blatant, misogynistic lack of respect for women and in my eyes:

The joke's over.

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