Casually flipping through the store ads in a newspaper one summer, one advertisement especially caught my eye. Next to the department store’s logo, in bright, bold letters, were the words: “Everything is on Sale!” And, next to these words, were three scantily clad women posing to display as much skin as possible. The “sale” may have just been on dishes, clothes, and utilities, but what was I being told? “Everything is on sale—just look at the bodies of these women!” A few weeks later, I saw a man walking down the street, who was wearing a t-shirt that had a huge “For Sale” tag printed on it. What did the tag also say? “Make Offer.” Are we just objects for sale and consumption by others? And do we view others like that?
When I think about “consumerism of the body,” prostitution comes to mind. I typically think, Well, I’m not involved in that, so I don’t ever hold a consumer attitude towards others, right? Unfortunately, I—and I’m guessing others—fall into a consumer attitude. How many times have I shied away from people because they were unattractive or unpopular, and instead exclusively talk with the “popular” crowd? How often have people bought into the media’s lies that only the “hot guy” or “sexy girl” finds intimacy in a relationship? And you only need to walk down the Barbie aisle to see how young girls are being taught that sex appeal is a key element in life.
In the midst of our consumer culture, what can we do?
We can put sexual values in their proper place. Sexual values the impressions made by people of the other sex, are very important. However, we can’t place these values over the value of the person, the unique individual with immense value and worth. Each person is more than his or her sexual attributes, and we need to act with this in mind. This isn’t easy, and I know that people can argue, “We’re only human, how can we not put sexual values first?” However, it is precisely because we are human that we can make a choice to prioritize a person over his or her sexual values alone. This isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world, but chastity isn’t for wimps, either. We need to keep trying to overcome a consumer attitude, and seek to treat others better each day.
Here are some ways that I have tried to overcome a “consumer attitude” in my own life:
Be present to others. Not just talking with whoever’s attractive or really nice, but being fully present and encountering each person you come into contact with. Every single person is a great gift (even when he or she may not seem like it) and needs to be treated as such!
Base your relationships on more than the physical elements. Instead of focusing merely on the physical aspect of a relationship, emphasize common values and goals. This will help you to focus on who the other person actually is—and I’m willing to bet that you will become better friends in the process. Step out of the dark TV room, and find some creative dates, where you both can communicate and work together!
Community Service. Talking with and serving people in less-than-stellar conditions takes your mind away from the externals and helps you to see each person’s deep value.
Have multiple friends of the opposite sex. It’s a great way to naturally interact with people, choosing to love them for themselves, not just for their “sexual values.”
AnneMarie Miller is a geeky, weird, and fun-loving woman who enjoys the epic adventures of life in the Midwest with her husband. When she’s not reading, writing, or playing board games, AnneMarie avoids housework and reflects on life’s randomness on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).