Picture this: You’re watching the MTV Movie Awards and it’s finally time for the “best shirtless performance” category. The nominees are read off, the envelope opened, and the winner announced. Imagine Jennifer Anniston (2014’s only female nominee) climbing the stage to awkwardly accept the award, not sure how to respond to the many cat-calls and shouts of “Take it off!” Just when you think it can’t get more awkward, one of the award presenters lends a helping hand by ripping off the winner’s shirt. Appalling, right? Entirely inexcusable.

Now imagine the same scenario, but take out Jennifer Anniston and sub in Zac Efron. That’s what happened at Sunday night’s award show. Is it still appalling?

If anyone in the audience thought so, it was difficult to discern among the mass of screaming women. Though there were those who expressed their disapproval via twitter, they were lost in the sea of those reposting shirtless pictures and videos of Efron.

In a world where we fight tooth and nail to condemn the objectification of women, little is said about the wild popularity of movies like Magic Mike, the idolization of Channing Tatum’s abs, and even the existence of a category like “best shirtless performance.”

As a culture we are finally adding credence to movements that seek to end the exploitation of women’s bodies. We laud efforts to invent new Barbie dolls—dolls that offer a realistic depiction of the female body and will, hopefully, stem the outpouring of self-esteem issues that have ravaged young women of this generation.

And yet we cheer for the removal of Zac Efron’s shirt. We repost the ordeal like it’s comical. We study the video as if women are exempt from lust.

Psalm 139:13-14, which says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” makes it obvious that human life is something to be regarded with respect. Most Christians acknowledge this principle in the important ways, but miss the subtle manner it’s violated in the objectification of a human being—male or female.

Did Efron seem to mind the whole thing? Not really. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.


  1. what’s tricky about this is how easily we mistakenly conflate objectification with desire and even presenting oneself as–or noticing–an embodied person. removing someone’s clothes without their consent is not ok–it’s sexual assault. that he was wearing a snap-off shirt and nominated ahead of time for this award leads me to think it was expected and he may have consented to the shtick ahead of time, but the joke does make troubling light of something serious, that other people’s bodies do not exist for our comment, control, touch, or gratification.

    but i disagree strongly that we live in a world that fights tooth and nail to condemn the objectification of women. objectification rules the day in most media, and we’re far more likely (especially as christians) to condemn women for allegedly objectifying themselves with the mere suggestion that they are sexual or attractive *people* (not objects!). i agree that objectifying men won’t lead to any sort of gender parity, but i think we need to be careful how we parse lust from attraction from objectification, because they’re not one and the same.

    1. ^^I couldn’t disagree with you more. Lust and attraction (when referring to physical attraction) are very much one and the same (unless you are in a relationship with who you are attracted to). I would be very intrigued to hear how you think those differ in any way, Suzannah. Also, to disagree with the fact that we live in a world that fights tooth and nail to condemn the objectification of women is completely off the mark as well. Feminism is growing and one of their keystones is fighting the objectification of women. It has become very politically incorrect to objectify women and if one does it under any sort of spotlight they will be scrutinized for it. So to say that we don’t live in that sort of a culture shows that perhaps you are out of touch with culture. This was a very well written article and it hits the nail right on the head. Bravo!

    2. are you really saying that attraction is baptized within relationships and lustful everywhere else? that doesn’t even make any sense. attraction and desire are natural and normal and part of how God created most of us, whether married, single, or celibate. lust is the thing that’s harder to define, but i suppose it has elements of fantasy or possession. that’s something to work out in individual hearts and relationships, but mercy, we are not called to experience shame for appreciating beauty God has made.

      women are dehumanized and reduced to objects on nearly every screen and magazine. your failure to notice won’t negate the fact that there’s much work yet to do.

  2. **world should be replaced by *country*. The world does not fight this objectification all together but our nation does and I’m pretty sure that’s what she is getting at.

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