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Naked truth

Melissa Cechota

 Amid the throws of sexualized media and temptation, God’s Word states firmly that we should remain pure at heart and trust God to care for all of our needs, including our appearance. Check out these awesome verses:

• 1 Peter 3:3, 4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (NIV).
• John 7:24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (NIV).
• Isaiah 61:10: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (NIV).
• Matthew 6:25-33: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (NIV).

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Polka Dots and Big Guns

by Melissa Cechota

Not sure if you’re being affected by our sex-saturated media? Find out here.

 My silky-black high heels clicked on the sidewalk as I walked to class. I heard a whistle from behind. The black-and-white polka-dot dress I wore aroused the attention of passing students, including my curious friends who wondered why I was dressed up and wearing bright-red lipstick.

“I am my own prop,” I told my friend Ashley. “I am doing a presentation today about the impact of the media on female sexuality.” 
“Oh,” she said. “Well, you look nice.”
“Thanks,” I said, smiling, realizing that not only was my intended prop already working, but the compliment felt nice too. And, minutes later, when several male classmates checked me out and quickly turned away in embarrassment, that also felt good.
Humbled in heels 
I made the last presentation, and I could tell early on that my topic captured the students’ and professor’s attention in my college class. I started by explaining that I am a girly-girl, and that I’d bought the polka-dot dress because it made me feel “sexy.” This comment, along with several others, resulted in giggles from my attentive audience.
Then I shared startling statistics of how many young girls are negatively impacted by viewing large amounts of media. When I said that the media is partly responsible for girls developing into promiscuous women, the room grew silent. The relevance of my dress and red lipstick became clear. In fact, my presentation sparked numerous questions and related topics for later discussion.
My professor commended me for tackling a   difficult subject that many people struggle with; he has two young daughters and one insists on changing her clothes several times a day just for fun. He said he wonders how he, as a dad, should respond to this. I certainly appreciated his interest in my topic, and I could relate to his adolescent girls’ desire for a daily fashion show. 
I set out to research the topic of media influences on girls because I wanted to know what impact the media was having on me—and my friends, and my sister, and maybe a baby girl who will someday call me Mommy.
I chose my topic after thinking about how I make decisions about whether or not to buy a dress based largely on how the dress makes me feel. I wondered how conditioned I’d become in our overtly sexual culture. As a young woman who’s had a marriage already end in divorce due to a husband addicted to pornography, I’m admittedly curious about female sexuality. Let’s be honest, who isn’t?
Reflected in media
Have you ever noticed how many commercials, music videos, and advertisements market women as sexual objects? As part of my research for my class presentation, I flipped through a Teen Vogue magazine. I found that 25 out of 57 ads portrayed young women in suggestive clothing. While only half of the ads exposed skin—that is, showed more skin than arms or legs below the knee—more than half of the ads implied a sexual connotation simply by the model’s pose! 
What kind of impact do these particular forms of media have on us? From my class discussion I learned that females and males feel the effects.
Even though my study directly focused on female sexuality, the question arose as to whether or not males ever feel sexualized in the media. And if so, how do they react?
One male student braved up and said, “Yeah, actually I do feel affected.” He explained that when he watches a movie with Will Smith in it and his character works out bare-chested, he feels inadequate, especially if he’s watching the movie with his girlfriend. He also admitted that it motivates him to go home and work out in order to be buff like Will.
We all laughed at this in class, but he’s right. As humans, we readily compare ourselves to others—the girl in the advertisement or the guy in the gym. We end up starving ourselves, overexercising,  focusing way too much on our body image. We may not like to admit it, just as I had a hard time coming to terms with it in my research, but what we see in the mirror largely reflects the media we expose ourselves to—it shows how we internalize what we see and hear.
If we are constantly bombarded with sexuality in the media, is it a surprise that many of us are tempted to be more sexually provocative in dress and behavior?
Beautiful in God
Before I concluded my class presentation, I shared my decision to become more aware of the types of media I expose myself to. Even more important, I decided to reflect more on God, more on how He sees me. If I should ever try and model anyone, who better to model my life on than God? I should be seeking acceptance from God, not the world or its standards. God loves me when I’m  plain-faced and in my sweats. The beauty in that surpasses any type of worldly sexiness.
So, girls, have fun being girls, but keep it all in perspective. Don’t dress up to get a guy’s attention or to compete with other girls for a guy’s attention. You’re too beautiful for that.
Guys, appreciate a pretty girl without objectifying her. Try complimenting her personality as well as her style. And when you see yourself in the mirror, let the reflection be a man of God staring back, regardless of how big your “guns” are.
The cold hard facts
In a fascinating, highly-detailed report released in 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls strongly supported the idea that media content tends to objectify females. The report noted, “Exposure to sexualized content has been shown to affect how women actually behave and how men treat and respond to real women in subsequent interactions. . . . After men are exposed to sexualized content, their behavior toward women is more sexualized, and they treat women like sexual objects.”1
This excerpt from the APA study is unfortunate, but I believe these types of conclusions are needed to awaken reform. My friends often see me as modest and perhaps too sensitive. Yet the outcry for decency is bigger than my perceptions alone. The report also stated that most girls exposed to media that portrayed females as objects experience body dissatisfaction, depression, lower self-esteem, shame, and a diminishment in learning ability. The report also mentioned that girls’ relationships with other girls may be affected on the basis of competition for male attention or judgment according to a “narrow beauty ideal.”2
The APA study brings to light alarming details. The Bible has always been a strong source of warning against focusing on outward appearance and idolatry. Men are cautioned about wayward women who flutter their eyelashes, and women are challenged to be modest. It calls us to be pure, dressed as a bride waiting for her husband, rather than that of the woman decked out in purple, scarlet, and jewels (Revelation 17:4; 21:1-3). In fact, God has asked us to be ready to serve Him on earth and to be ready for His return like “men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him” (Luke 12:35, 36 NIV).3
If we experience so much of the world that it lowers our self-esteem to the point that we become dissatisfied, depressed, and ashamed of ourselves, and we display a diminishment in learning ability, we won’t be ready for Jesus. Our focus will continually be on ourselves, not on the one who truly matters.
1Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, p. 32.
2Ibid., p. 35.
3Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
 Melissa Cechota is a freelance writer who enjoys scrapbooking, decoupaging, reading, music, photography, and spending time with family and friends.

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