Can Someone Objectify You Based on Purity?

FlowerThroughout youth group and college chapels, the ideas of modesty and purity were drilled into my head. Even at a younger age, I was already being told what I shouldn’t do or wear or say. Being good was one of my main goals in life, so I took all of these lessons extremely seriously and still do.

However, one talk that no one in my youth group ever gave me was how to stay safe. No one spoke about abuse, assault, or manipulation at my university. If the concept of safety even came up, it was quickly glossed over as one of the pros of being modest or acting like a good girl. Thus, all I could discern about staying safe was the more innocent and pure I was, the safer I would stay.

Over the years, my method of staying safe has continued to backfire. I am left confused and bewildered, wondering how I am sending off the wrong signals. I dress fairly classy, never swear, never go on dates, turn bright red just at the mention of kissing or holding hands, never have seen an R-rated movie, go to church every Sunday, etc. In fact, sometimes I try to seem almost childish in my response to life.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped manipulation, lying, assault, and all of the fear that it has caused. I find myself on edge whenever men are around and lacking any interest in a serious relationship ever. None of the speeches I heard prepared me for how to cope when you are not in control of how others talk to, touch, or think of you.

Interestingly enough, my wanting to be innocent and pure has been used against me instead of keeping me safe. I don’t usually know what someone wants until he states it explicitly, so I fall for lies quickly. Also, I have come to realize that anyone can be objectified for anything, including being modest or pure.

Recently, I was acquainted with a man who quickly started acting obsessive towards me. He followed me around, continuously asked me about my faith, and told me terrifying tales about what my future in China would entail. Numerous times, he would comment on how I was “a good girl” or “pure.” Although his words were things I hope to project, the manner in which he said them and his actions made me feel as if snakes were crawling all over me.

I could maybe have moved on from his words if not for his final actions. On the last day I saw him, I came into the room to find him screaming at several men about me. He was mad at the way that they were looking at me and began describing what they were thinking. Threats of violence filled his words as he grew even louder and kept pointing to me. Everyone saw me standing there, but no one addressed me personally. The men defended themselves, and he went on to try to talk to me normally after he calmed down.

However, I was shaken. He kept treating me like some kind of doll, telling me how good I was. His compliments were as repulsive as the men who tried to get me to come over at night. I was not a person in his eyes; I was just an object. Maybe that was a pure, good object in his head, but it was still just a thing. The way he looked at me, touched the back of my head when I wasn’t paying attention, talked to my friend about me – all of it makes me feel sick.

What also makes me sick is that no one did anything. None of those men, who saw me listening, talked to me. No one said that I was safe, that they weren’t going to try to hurt me. In fact, the only person who said he wouldn’t hurt me was the man. “Come on, sit with me. I won’t hurt you,” those were his first words. I should have trusted my initial fear and run away immediately.

However, I have to keep trying to trust people. I just don’t know how to do that and be safe. I wish someone would have taught me instead of just filling my head with the same ideas about modesty and such. Now I realize that no matter what I do, no matter how I dress, someone will objectify me. There will always be people who try to take advantage of me. It is time to find out how to stay safe while staying kind and loving.

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15 thoughts on “Can Someone Objectify You Based on Purity?

  1. MEM says:

    Dear Miss Rose,
    I affirm you for recognizing that you need to stay safe, but that you also want to remain kind and loving. That takes a special person. You are wise. You will find the answers. Some people will suggest that you learn what the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness is. Hold your head up and be confident. You are obviously a wonderful woman.

  2. Jean E Fairgrieve says:

    Dear Rose,
    I’m so sorry you are going through this! Somehow you were taught lessons regarding modesty and purity that are not necessarily grounded in reality. Safety, in my opinion, comes from inside yourself and involves knowing who you are and learning to put strong boundaries around yourself.

    I appreciate modesty and, like you, I dress modestly so as not to draw the wrong sort of attention to myself. I was never taught to be “pure,” but I believe in living a life that is pleasing to God, and for that reason, I try to avoid behavior that could offend God or my fellow humans.

    Now, having said that, neither you nor I can control what other people do; we can only control ourselves. There are a lot of wicked people in this world who will take advantage of you if you are not in touch with your intuition and take measures to protect yourself. God gave us our intuition, and it’s up to us to use it to help keep us safe. If you get bad vibes from another person, pay attention and give that person a wide berth until you really know one way or another whether that person is safe to be around.

    I’ve been abused as a child and as a wife, and part of the reason this has happened to me is that I was taught that children and women were objects to be used by adults, parents, and men. Until I learned that the above is a lie, I was gullible and let other people mistreat me. Once I learned, however, that I am a precious child of God in my own right and that God does not want me or any other of his children harmed, then I was able to learn to set boundaries to protect myself/ I am pretty good now at sending out the nonverbal messages necessary to keep myself safe. Taking a self-defense class might be a good idea, too, for a woman your age.

    As I said, you can’t control what others do or think, but you can control to a certain extent how others treat you if you learn to put up your boundaries and let others know what is okay and what is not okay. Also, don’t assume that everyone you encounter has good intentions toward you. Some people see others just as something they want and not as human beings in their own right. Work at being aware of your intuition and listen to what that little voice says. Often your intuition will pick up on messages that your “head” misses. Modesty and Purity are fine, but in themselves they do not keep you safe in an unsafe world. People with evil or wicked intentions don’t care whether you are modest and pure. All they care about is the drive to meet their own needs.

    • You are so wise! Thank you for all of your words and advice. You have been through some very difficult things and are such a strong woman. I truly appreciate what you said about not being able to control what others do and listening to our intuition. Too often I forget to do that. I want to be better at trusting myself.

      • Jean E Fairgrieve says:

        Yes, trust yourself, Anna Rose! You are a wonderful person with good, solid values, and you are trustworthy. Others are trustworthy, too, but sometimes it takes a while to know who is and who isn’t. I want you to be safe in this world and find joy in your life. I’m certainly no expert on God, but I believe God wants us to enjoy the life we have been given and to protect ourselves from people with evil intentions.

  3. Oh, so true. I went to a Catholic school and yes that’s exactly what they teach. I was always an outcast. I don’t know how I made it through. I always took things slowly. I was friends at school with some boys and that’s all it was. I was a late bloomer and while I’m not marrying in white I’ve always set standards to get to know men in a friendly social setting before allowing them into my home as friends or into my personal space. When ever a guy made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe I allowed myself to believe in myself enough to say no. I think we should be teaching the kids about consequences and that ‘no means no!’ And that if someone is not interested in them they should respect us enough to give us the space we deserve. I’m sorry you experienced this mans horrible attentions. Be safe.

    • Those are great standards and boundaries that you set up. I wish that I knew how to do that sooner. I try to be careful but usually am fairly naive and don’t understand what someone else’s intentions are until it is too late. Teaching people how to respect someone saying “No” and how to have the courage to say “No” is so important.

  4. 80smetalman says:

    Anna Rose, like you, I have suffered many similar things in my early life. However, I didn’t possess the insight which you have when I was your age. If I did, I wouldn’t have had so many mental or emotional scars. You are obviously wise beyond your years.

  5. Robert Pierce says:

    “All things in moderation” that applies to modesty as well. Beware of ascribing motives to others words and actions. I had a wonderfull wife for 59 years. After her passing on I found I wanted female companionship, not for sexual reasons at my age but just companionship. I believe that God wanted us to share our lives with those of the opposite sex as well as with those of the same sex. This occurs in safe ways. The key is getting to know someone before sharing a relationship. AND you don’t have to agree on all things but on the important values you have. I agree with MEM.

    • That is certainly true. I have lots of great friends who are men. I even am friends with some men who I turned down after they tried to date me. I wouldn’t want just women or just men as friends. Have diversity is always wonderful.

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