Provocative Content: A Form of Self-Love or Self-Objectification?


In recent weeks, Gadgets hit the streets to ask for people’s opinions on posting explicit content online (and in some cases, even making money from it – just think of OnlyFans, Twitch, or Twitter). Often times, the reality is that the sexier the photo, the higher the like count and sometimes, the bigger the cash – but is provocative content a form of individual self-love and empowerment, or just another acceptable form of self-objectification?

Perspectives on online, provocative content ranged from “everyone should wear whatever they want” to “if you have no other talent, you do what you can do”, to “it’s a bit sad” and “I wouldn’t want it for my own kids, but I wouldn’t judge anyone for it”.

Clearly, not everyone has the same idea, and at the end of the day, no one will, but as Emily Galea, president of Young Progressive Beings highlighted: although men can be perceived as multi-faceted beings (in the sense that, they can at once be smart, sexy, and athletic), women are “reduced to the sexual being” as soon as they are placed in any explicit spotlight, like a bikini photo.

The issue isn’t about wearing sexy clothes or showing off our bodies.

As Galea explains it, it’s hard to measure the impact of the consumption of provocative content on society, especially when we are exposed to it from such a young age, and then having it normalised for a lifetime. We’re not oblivious to the consequences of hyper-sexualisation either, including anxiety about one’s appearance, feelings of shame, eating disorders, low self-esteem, etc.

Although sex workers and models undoubtedly deserve the rights to work in the least harming way possible, as Galea emphasised, it should not be glamorised to minors – nor should any other industries that expect you to make your body into a commodity, such as modelling or porn.

Sad reality is these industries have created and reinforced an ideal of women that we should all strive towards

Sad reality is these industries have created and reinforced an ideal of women that we should all strive towards, one that is entirely shaped for the pleasure of men: an ideal that is unfortunately sold to women to feel even empowered to pursue it. So, is it really “my body, my choice” when it’s posted to an online society that, like society itself, constantly imposes new gender stereotypes where a cultivation of the norm that a woman’s value lies in her youth, beauty, and sexuality – not in her brains or passions – is still ever-so-present?

We become encouraged to upload sexy selfies, show off our achievements, or anything else that might make us appear attractive or successful for more likes and followers. We might have complete freedom in choosing what we post, but the approval from others is what drives our motivations to post content.

As Galea remarks, in a utopian society free of gendered stereotypes and norms, explicit content would be individually empowering with no detrimental consequences. Yet, we live in a world where influencers can illustrate hypersexuality as a means of liberation and empowerment without thinking about its impacts on the more vulnerable groups of society, like children and teenagers.

The issue isn’t about wearing sexy clothes or showing off our bodies. The problem only arises when the body itself takes precedence over the qualities of a whole and complex person – like their talents, interests, achievements, and passions – or when we need to boost our self-esteem by looking at how other people see, and therefore validate, our body.

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