Much of today’s music by our sisters—Aaliyah, Tamia, Destiny’s Child, Fantasia—deals with the issue of heartbreak. This topic is one we have heard often, so many of us have become desensitized to it, viewing heartbreak as a normal aspect of life. However, the emotional pain that many our our sisters experience is still as real as ever before. Music, like any other form of art, often mirrors life and culture, and it is clear that heartbreak is an issue for many people.
Although it is acknowledged by many people that women are often victims of domestic violence, the resulting psychological trauma that women experience is often overlooked. Even women who have not been physically assaulted have to deal with society’s unfortunate assumption that they should be treated as sex objects.
Almost every little girl dreams of having a fairytale relationship, with a Prince Charming who sweeps them off their feet and treats them with kindness and respect. This is the type of relationship that our sisters deserve; however, it is not the typical relationship in real life. As these little girls grow up to become young women, they often start high school relationships with a boy whose relationship expectations are very different. While young women usually hope for a caring, loyal, sweet boyfriend who is good to them, young men tend to see these girls as sex objects.
One might blame the expectations of a guy in high school on the prevalence of sex in the media. Whether it’s a provocative Victoria’s Secret advertisement, a steamy sex scene in a movie, or even sexually driven billboard advertisements on the freeway, men are exposed to an astonishing amount of sexually themed media. Pornography is another aspect of the problem; many teens are curious about sex or are too embarrassed to ask their parents about it, but whether they initially turn to pornography for educational or recreational purposes, the result is a vastly skewed perception on what sex is like, how women should be treated, and what kind of a relationship (or lack thereof) is expected before a couple engages in intercourse. Pornography encourages men to see women as sex objects.
This, along with the misogynistic mindset that society still holds even now, in the 21st century, is a recipe for disaster. While a young lady is “falling in love” with her boyfriend, he is “falling in lust.” The young woman’s expectations for their relationship is that her boyfriend will be her knight in shining armor, there to protect her and love her and cherish her; in contrast, the young man’s expectations is that his girlfriend will let him get physical with her and, essentially, act like a slut so that he remains interested in her.
In this example of a typical high school relationship, the young couple starts to get more and more intimate as the days go by. First, they hold hands and hug, then kiss, then make out, and eventually, the boy expects his girlfriend to give up her virginity to him. If she refuses, he promptly dumps her and seeks another young woman; if she agrees to have sex with him, his expectations are shattered as he finds out that sex in real life is very different from sex in pornography, and her expectations are shattered as she feels the heartbreak and regret of getting physical way too fast. Often, even if the guy’s girlfriend has sex with him, he soon moves on to find another girlfriend, as he quickly gets tired of his girlfriend since their relationship is purely physical. This only adds to the young lady’s heartache, as not only does she feel like she gave up something precious when she had sex for the first time, but she also feels rejected and worthless because her boyfriend only wanted her for her body.
This song sums up the young woman’s experience quite well:
Have you ever been in love
Been in love so bad
You’d do anything to make them understand
Have you ever had someone steal your heart away
You’d give anything to make them feel the same
Have you ever searched for words to get you in their heart
But you don’t know what to say
And you don’t know where to start
Today’s “player” culture teaches men that the way to be cool and accepted by their peers is to “pull hoes,” as they call it. This means ignoring a woman’s feelings and using her only for sex. Often, these “players” brag to their friends about “hitting it,” which is slang for intercourse, diminishing a woman’s value to nothing more than that of a sex object. Aaliyah’s song, “How Could the One I Gave My Heart To,” addresses the consequences of being used and treated as a sex object:
How could the one I gave my heart to, break my heart so bad?
How could the one who made me happy, make me feel so sad?
Won’t somebody tell me? So I can understand.
If you love me, how could you hurt me like that?
The result of this heartbreak caused by a young man mistreating his girlfriend isn’t just a temporary state of sadness. A young woman’s self-esteem is often fragile as she is still not fully emotionally mature; as such, anything that damages her self-esteem has a much greater negative impact than it would if she were older and better able to cope with emotional problems. Getting dumped by her boyfriend right after they have sex for the first time can destroy that young woman’s self-esteem, leading her to wonder why she “wasn’t good enough” for him and encouraging her to question whether she is attractive, etc.
This emotional baggage is often carried over to subsequent relationships, as it is difficult to come to terms with being sexually used and then discarded. Even later in life, when she is a mature woman in a loving relationship with her husband, she may still be uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the way her body looks if she perceived that as the reason her boyfriend left her, or she may have difficulty with being intimate with her husband because her early experiences have taught her to feel vulnerable and afraid, or she may experience any number of other negative consequences of her short-lived high school relationship. Some women are able to recover from this psychological trauma, but others have had their hearts hurt so deeply that they remain too afraid to open up and trust another man. This emotional conflict is described in Tony Braxton’s song, “Unbreak My Heart”:
Un-break my heart
Say you’ll love me again
Undo this hurt you caused
When you walked out the door
And walked out of my life
Sometimes, a man and a woman start dating, only to discover that they are incompatible. This isn’t always something they realize immediately, but as long as they each have pure intentions and see each other as people, not sex objects, it isn’t such a bad thing for them to break up. There is still heartbreak in these situations, at times, but it is considerably easier to overcome in comparison to the heartbreak caused when a man uses a woman and then rejects her when he’s bored of being intimate with her.
However, all too often, men are intentionally attempting to make women fall for them by playing with their emotions and faking sincerity—with their real interest only being in having sex. Once they have what they want, they often leave that woman and pursue their next sexual conquest, because they are only interested in the thrill of the chase, not in having a real, loving relationship. Men should learn to treat women with enough respect to not play games or otherwise manipulate and control them, and instead, only start a relationship with a woman if they are genuinely interested in pursuing long-term commitment.
After a bad breakup, some women develop emotional barriers to entering another relationship because of the level of emotional trauma they have experienced; their previous relationship caused so much heartache that they simple don’t want to try again, for fear of going through the same emotional pain later on. Some women choose to avoid this emotional distress by having a no-strings-attached relationship with a guy, where neither of them are emotionally involved and they are together just for the sake of sexual pleasure.
Another problem is that some women find themselves in relationships that have devolved into a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. In these cases, it is often difficult to leave the relationship, even though the woman is fully aware that it is causing her undue emotional distress; this is because it is very easy for her to convince herself that her boyfriend will change, or that it isn’t as bad as she thinks, or even that she doesn’t deserve a better relationship in which she is treated with respect and love. Women in these types of relationships may develop low self-esteem, and are often manipulated by their boyfriend into believing that nobody else could ever possibly want them, so there’s no use in leaving. After being degraded and disrespected for so long, she may believe him; often, it is easy for men in these types of relationships to become masters at emotional manipulation. Fantasia sings of this from a woman’s perspective:
You always tried to make me feel small
And all I did was give you my all
Never felt pretty enough
Never felt sexy enough
Never felt good enough
This cycle of disrespecting and degrading women has to stop. It is creating a generation of men and women who can’t trust each other. A no-strings-attached sexual relationship, even if a women is consenting to this form of relationship, is still a form of objectifying women because neither person is interested in forming an emotional connection. Only by engaging in relationships that are started with the intentions of eventually growing to become long-term, committed relationships, will this cycle of misogynistic, degrading behavior stop. Only then can this skewed cultural standard be replaced with healthy, harmonious relationships in which both people love, trust, and respect one another.