NSFW: Not Suitable For What...?

This piece comes with a warning – NSFW or Not Suitable For Work. Handy modern code indicating that an innocent click could see you setting off alarms in the IT department followed by a swift march off the premises. NSFW warnings usually hide images or film of human bodies, often naked, probably doing something sexual. Assuming clicks are happening in office environments on equipment provided for company business, NSFW could translate as either 'Wait till you get home where nobody will know' or 'Your time is owned, minion-pawn of the capitalist hegemony; back to your spreadsheets NOW'. For the purposes of this piece, we'll concentrate on the former.

The recent dismissals of three serving judges for watching pornographic films while working, and the discovery of MP Simon Danczuk's similar activities at Parliament, have caused... shrugs. Who cares, wrote journalist Owen Jones of the Danczuk revelation, as long as the work gets done. He suggested all men watch porn, adding the judges may have needed "a quick bit of relief" to aid concentration between cases. Danzcuk himself said "I am a man of the world", which explained everything. In at least some of these cases, the bodies looked at, lusted over and used for personal stimulation were female bodies. Yes, agreed Jones, this use of women's bodies might be misogynist and disempowering to women - but hey, a man's gotta do, amirite? Restraint could lead to anarchy and miscarriages of justice and society can't risk that. Some research suggests Christian men agree that use of women's bodies in this way cannot be avoided – in actions if not in words.

The internet allows women's bodies not only to be looked at from every possible angle in all kinds of positions – usually in return for credit card payments to kindly male pornographers generously giving up their time to rake in the cash – but also allows men who pay for women's real-life bodies to create online systems to rate them. This not-really-SFW site collates negative reviews of women paid for sex. The focus is on value for money and quality of services provided, the tone deeply dismissive of those women as human beings. Women's bodies are a commodity here, the entitlement to buy as a product apparent. From their early years, women hear how their bodies are useful, or not, to men. They will be told they are the cause of anger, frustration, lust, danger, and confusion. That they are responsible for avoiding assaults by men, which one writer recently compared to women's bodies being seen as "laptops... unlocked doors... open wallets... property that anyone might take unless we're locked safely away." In church women's pesky bodies have been stumbling blocks, Delilah-esque destroyers, Biblical seducers, property of husbands, that could be tested and cursed according to his whims, and an undermining presence for men's spirituality and even identity, feminising men away from the church with our jiggly bits, and even from belief in God. Who knew hips really could lie?

Somewhere in the midst of this women as regular humans exist. Jesus saw women exactly as that. Not less than men, not different from, not other. In being God on earth, Jesus understood more than anyone the importance of the physical body. It was a woman who first saw his body on Easter morning. The value of his tangible, solid, flesh-and-blood presence was life- and world-changing. And while responding to the physical humanity of everyone he encountered – feeding and healing them – Jesus valued women for their personhood not their bodies.

Culture tells women their value is in their appearance while setting a standard impossible to reach or maintain. Being beautiful is winning. Toiletry brand Dove's #ChooseBeautiful campaign asks women if they see themselves as 'Beautiful' or 'Average' by choosing a signed door to walk through. The 'Beautiful' / 'Average' signs in the advert are put up by men. Dove's first steps into linking women's self-esteem and body paranoia with a business plan were overseen by Dave Lewis, the man next to run Tesco, that all-heart retail behemoth. Their soft-focus, faux-empowering messages are all about profit and they depend on women continuing believe their bodies matter more than anything else about them. One participant's claim that she felt "triumphant" because she walked through the 'Beautiful' door reflects how women have internalised the obsessive value society places on their exterior while telling them they don't qualify as good enough.

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That women may either already like themselves and their appearance, or more radically not gauge their value by their bodies or faces, seems shocking. World-adored female celebs criticise their own breasts, legs, arms and faces as a way of gaining acceptance. It filters down. Girls of primary school age see their value is in their appearance – an appearance they're told it's empowering to 'learn' to love. Their focus becomes internal, their inner voice self-critical, instead of on the impact they could make on the world through achievements. Free online games offer girls opportunities to perform plastic surgery on 'ugly' female bodies to 'fix' them. The games are intended for girls over 13 (13-year-old girls being absolutely secure in their identities and able to filter all cultural messages and dismiss unhealthy ones, of course) but are easily accessed by younger girls.

Girls and women were not made for this. Never mind NSFW, these are Not Suitable For Humans. Even good old Proverbs 31 woman isn't lauded for her excellent boobs or hot-stuff sparrow face but for her abilities, character, business sense and achievements. Jesus modelled a counter-cultural relationship to women and their bodies in a healthy, wholehearted, humanising way. He didn't define women by their sexuality, didn't condemn them for acts men were equally a part of, demanded their equality in relationships, forbidding women to be thrown out of their homes by men who'd had enough of them. He didn't use their bodies for his own satisfaction. He died for them. Sacrificed himself for their lives and their humanity. Valued them as his creation. We have a better model than anything the world or most of the church has bought into. When will we start living it?

Vicky Walker is a writer, among other things. Her book 'Do I have to be good all the time?' about the meaning of life, love and awkward moments is available now. Follow her on Twitter.

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