Sexuality and Self-Image Women in Term Paper

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Surprisingly, BDD, which is often a precursor to or comorbid symptom of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, is nearly as common among young men as women. This indicates that the onslaught and idolization of media images of "gorgeous" men in America is also having a negative effect on boys' sexual self-images. (da Costa, Nelson, Rudes, & Guterman, 2007)

Narrowing the focus down to American women and their obsession with breast size still yields significant startling data about damaged sexual self-images. Recent surveys indicate that nearly half of women would change their breast size if they could (Goodman & Walsh-Childers, 2004). Not surprisingly, 91% of women who choose to undergo breast augmentation surgery say their primary motivation is an improved self-image. Additionally, surveys reveal that 43% of women with poor sexual self-images compare themselves regularly with magazine models, and 47% of these women are preoccupied with studying those models' shapes. (Goodman & Walsh-Childers, 2004) in quantitative studies, researchers have found an association between low satisfaction with breast size and low self-esteem, as well as a link between higher social anxiety and a greater perceived discrepancy between ideal and actual breast size. (Goodman & Walsh-Childers, 2004)

This leads into a discussion of the effect of American media and culture on female immigrants from Asia and their female daughters. While Chinese and Japanase women are often stereotyped as being "flat-chested," it's interesting to ponder how their sexual self-image in America compares with that of their counterparts living in Asia where "big boobs" are not "expected." In one recent study involving high school and college aged Asian-American girls, a typical viewpoint expressed was that valued beauty was unattainable for them because "I have learned after years of pop culture messages about the ideal beauty, which is white, blond, big-breasted." These women feel that they must alter their appearance in order to be sexually attractive to the sought after white males. They look to fashion magazines, movies, and television for ways to become less Asian and more Americanized in order to feel sexually attractive. (Lee & Vaught, 2003)

In San Francisco, there is even an "East meets West" Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Beauty Pageant. This pageant, which originated in 1958 and continues to this day, has undergone changes and criticisms reflective of some underlying tensions stemming from Chinese-American discomfort with American culture and its obsession with female beauty. As Judy Tzu-Chun Wu states in her research article on the Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Beauty Pageant, "Ethnic beauty pageants, a subject rarely explored by scholars, provide an opportunity to examine how idealized versions of womanhood reflect broader concerns about power and culture." (Wu, 1997) Pageant supporters argue that although it is called a "beauty" pageant, it is more like a "matter of ethnic representation," a promotion of ethnic identity among Chinese-Americans, and a way to encourage community education about the Chinese culture (Wu, 1997). Critics argue that the main focus is beauty, as many of the hopefuls are sorely lacking in other talents. In addition, Chinese-American feminists and others criticize the pageant for objectifying Chinese

American women as inauthentic "East meets West" "China dolls." They note that the reality for a Chinese-American woman is far less glamourous -- long hours for low pay, followed by a second shift caring for home and children. Ironically, the founder of the pageant himself has very anti-feminist views. He says the goal of the event is to honor the ancient Chinese ideal woman, a woman who puts "father, brother, and son" first in her life. This is hardly a step in the right direction for a female population trying to rise above racial stereotypes that label them submissive, passive, hyper-sexualized exotic "slave girls." (Wu, 1997)

Women in both Eastern Asia and the United States still have a long way to go toward achieving realistic, positive sexual self-images. While Asian females are struggling to break free from ancient mores that ask them to be sexually passive and submissive to men, American women are trying to be accepted as sexually attractive without having to diet excessively or undergo cosmetic surgery. The power of the media in the United States is such that even men's sexual self-images are now being affected by portrayals of the "ideal" male, a symbol of hegemonic masculinity that makes them feel inadequate (da Costa, Nelson, Rudes, & Guterman, 2007).

In order for these unrealistic and unfair expectations to change, women everywhere need to stop being so passive. Asian women must demand the right to sexual satisfaction for their own health, well-being, and self-image as confident, sexual beings. American and Asian-American women must remain true to their genuine beauty and stop allowing the media to dictate their sexual self-image. Women may not be able to change the way men view the "ideal" woman, but they can stop buying into the hype and torturing themselves. The reality remains that if a woman takes care of her health, and is beautiful enough on the inside to recognize that she is beautiful physically -- no matter what the media says -- she will succeed in being attractive to the kind of man who deserves her love.


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