Exploring my role led me to think a great deal about female sexuality and how it is perceived in our culture. Certainly there are some women who are strippers or sex workers by choice. They feel empowered by using their sexuality to their advantage, and find it rewarding to provide that form of companionship or entertainment for a living. But they are the minority. For every woman who feels empowered by this chosen profession, how many more are sold into slavery via human trafficking, or coerced into this life out of desperation? I personally believe that sexuality is healthy and beautiful, in the context for which God created it, as an act of love and complete devotion between married adults; the sex industry (and our hyper-sexualized culture, more in that in a minute) distorts sex into a commodity, which cheapens it.
I've also been thinking about female sexuality in a broader context. In our society, it seems that the female body is always on display. Consider the countless overly sexualized models you’ve seen in advertisements, female movie characters without any traits other than their looks, or the commonplace occurrence of women harassed and cat-called on the street. In daily life, female sexuality is a double edged sword; women are criticized for being too sexy and women who have "let themselves go" are ridiculed for not being sexy enough. A women’s body is not simply her own, but is society’s to be consumed and judged. The everyday dangers are that women are seen, at least on a subtle level, as objects, or that none of us can live up to unrealistic standards. At its most destructive, objectification contributes to sexual assault.
In this piece, I portray a character caught in a situation and culture in which she is used and valued only for her body, which makes her feel that she has no value at all. I hope my performance will inspire consideration of how we as individuals and as a culture perceive and respond to female bodies and female sexuality.
"American Girl" collage by Kandice Grossman