Sexual Objectification in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips



Sexual Objectification in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips

Vianey Paramitha

English Literature

Faculty of Languages and Arts

State University of Surabaya

Dr. Ali Mustofa, SS., M.Pd.

English Department

Faculty of Languages and Arts

State University of Surabaya


Penelitian ini memfokuskan pada penggambaran objektifikasi seksual yang dialami oleh tokoh utama dan apa efek yang timbul sebagai akibat dari objektifikasi seksual. Fitur objektifikasi seksual ditampilkan untuk memberikan pemahaman tentang klasifikasi objektifikasi seksual. Untuk menjawab masalah pertama, penelitian ini menggunakan teori objektifikasi seksual oleh Fredrickson dan Roberts dan didukung oleh beberapa filsuf dan fitur objektifikasi seksual yang dikemukakan oleh Martha Nussbaum dan Rae Langton. Masalah kedua dijawab dengan menggunakan konsep dari Fredrickson dan Roberts dan filsuf lainnya tentang efek objektifikasi seksual. Data ini menyajikan objektifikasi seksual yang dialami oleh Shangguan Lu dan apa efek dari pengalaman objektifikasi seksual tersebut. Analisis ini mengungkapkan objektifikasi seksual yang dialami Shangguan Lu dan faktor-faktor yang menyebabkan objektifikasi seksual. Fitur dari objektifikasi seksual digunakan untuk menggambarkan bentuk objektifikasi seksual yang dialami Shangguan Lu. Selanjutnya, pengalaman objektifikasi seksual membawa efek di dalam hidupnya. Shangguan Lu mengalami kecemasan terhadap penampilan, disfungsi seksual, kemarahan, depresi, keinginan untuk bunuh diri, kepemilikan terhadap anak-anak, dan sikap seksual. Efek tersebut muncul karena pengalaman objektifikasi seksual.

Kata Kunci: objektifikasi seksual, objektifikasi diri.



This study focuses on depicting sexual objectification performed by the main character and what the effect arising as result of sexual objectification. Features of sexual objectification occur to give understanding about classification of sexual objectification. To answer the first problem, this study uses the theory of sexual objectification by Fredrickson and Roberts and supported by several philosophers and the features of sexual objectification offered by Martha Nussbaum and Rae Langton. The second problem is answered by using the concept from Fredrickson and Roberts and other philosopher about the effects of sexual objectification. The data presents Shangguan Lu’s sexual objectification and what the effect of her sexual objectification experiences. The analysis reveals Shangguna Lu’s sexual objectification and factors which causes sexual objectification. The features of sexual objectification are used to describe the shape of sexual objectification in Shangguan Lu. Furthermore, her sexual objectification experiences bring effect in her life. Shangguan Lu experiences appearance anxiety, sexual dysfunction, anger, depression, willing for suicide, property of children, and sexual attitude. Those effects arise because of her sexual objectification experiences.

Keywords: sexual objectification, self objectification. 






Mo Yan is known as great Chinese writer. Many of his works are approved in the world. He is regarded as the winner of Noble Prize in Literature in 2012. The one of his novels which brings him gets the prize is Big Breasts and Wide Hips. This epic novel story is first and foremost about women, with the female body serving as the object for man sexual desire. The story is about the protagonist, Mother, is born in 1900 and married at seventeen into the Shangguan family. She has nine children, only one of whom is a boy. The boy becomes the narrator of the novel. A spoiled and ineffectual child, he stands in stark contrast to his eight strong and forceful female siblings (Mo Yan, 1996).

The story begins when she was child, she called as Xuan’er, survives meanwhile her parents are die. She brought up by her aunt and uncle. She grows up, bound feet frowned upon, and so the blacksmith dares to propose marriage between Xuan’er and his son, Shangguan Shouxi. Her name becomes Shangguan Lu. This is reluctantly accepted and Shangguan Lu has to go and live with her despotic mother-in-law and her husband. Her mother-in-law starts becoming even more despotic when Shangguan Lu does not produce any children. However, she and her family eventually realize that it is her husband who is infertile, not her (Mo Yan, 1996: 48-54).

Shangguan Lu has sex with other men to get a baby boy. First, she is fertilized by her uncle and gets two daughters. Further, she has sex with duck peddler, monk, dog butcher, even worse, rape by four men. Every time the result is a girl. Finally, Pastor Malory, the local priest who claims to be Swedish, though he speaks the local dialect perfectly, falls in love with her. From Pastor Malory, she manages to deliver another girl and then, immediately after, a son, Jintong (Mo Yan, 1996: 58-75).

In 1900s, women in China are still exploited and follow the custom tightly. They have to follow the rules. Shangguan Lu lives between dynasty changing, the glory and collapse of dynasty Qing. When she still five years old, she must binding her feet. Binding feet is shape feet smaller. The smaller the size of their feet, they are considered more beautiful. In marriage, women usually betrothed to increase their level, as requirement, they must look beautiful in front of public. Shangguan Lu shapes her feet tiny in order to make people look her as beautiful woman and the scholar will marry her. Unfortunately, when she is seventeen years old, Qing dynasty is collapse. Binding feet becomes prohibited and tiny feet don’t become benchmark of beauty. Her aunt accepts Shangguan family’s marriage proposal because she is afraid of no man purpose Shangguan Lu who has tiny feet (Mo Yan, 1996: 48-50).

Sexual objectification through Shangguan Lu begin when her mother in law, Shangguan Lü suppress her to have a baby boy. When Shangguan Lu doesn’t give any child yet, Shangguan Lü starts to blame her and treat her rude. She concludes that her daughter in law is barren. The objectification between Shangguan Lu and her mother-in-law represents Sarah Gervais’s words. Women also objectify woman as more of a comparison with themselves (Sarah Gervais’s research article, 2012). Her aunt and uncle are disappointed with Shangguan family and check Shangguan Lu up in doctor. The result is nothing wrong with Shangguan Lu, so that actually Shangguan Shaoxi who is barren. They keep that fact secret in order not to make conflict with Shangguan family (Mo Yan, 1996: 58).

 Her aunt helps her. She makes Shangguan Lu unconscious and makes her husband have sex with Shangguan Lu. From her uncle, Shangguan Lu gets two daughters, but it can’t make Shangguan Lü satisfied (Mo Yan, 1996: 58). Having a son moreover he is the first child in family in China is very important, it gives you pride because in China, men control is very strong. Heir of family is in the son’s hand. A daughter is considered as a disgrace. So, Shangguan Lu begins to have sex with other men who is she meet with. She makes her body become an instrument as sex machine in order to fulfill her mother in law will. Objectification theory by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997: 173) postulates that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others.

Her action has effects especially in her psychology. She must bear the burden alone. She keeps her husband disgrace, having sex with other men secretly, and takes care of her children alone. Her husband is not helping at all; he is too submissive with his mother and often treated Shangguan Lu rude. Women, in the other hand according to Evangelia Papadaki, who studies Mackinnon and Dworkin (2007: 344), may have the desire to change reality, but they certainly do not have the power required for such changes. In this case, Shangguan Lu can’t rebel and denied Shangguan family’s treatments. She wants to get respect from Shangguan family, in contrast, she does not get it even sacrifice her self-regard to other men in order to get baby boy (Mo Yan, 1996: 66).

Discussing about woman often followed by stereotype that woman is a sexual object. The study about sexual objectification posted by Frederickson and Roberts is related to explore more about woman as sexual object. The theory of sexual objectification by Fredrickson and Roberts in Psychology of Women Quarterly will also support with other feminists theory likes, Kant in Lectures on Ethics, Dworkin in Pornography: Men Possessing Women, Sandra Bartky in Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression, Herman in Could It Be Worth Thinking About Kant on Sex and Marriage?, etc. Also this thesis contain of features of sexual objectification and the factor to make the reader understand more about sexual objectification. The psychology effects of sexual objectification will explain with theory by Fredrickson and Roberts Psychology of Women Quarterly, Harry Mills’s article, Locke from Reason Paper no. 18, etc.

Sexual objectification according Fredrickson and Roberts defined as the seeing and/or treating a person as an object. In this entry, the focus is primarily on sexual objectification. Sexual objectification theory suggests both direct and indirect consequences of objectification to women. Sexual objectification theory provides a useful model for understanding how socio cultural factors may give effects for women who experience sexual objectification (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997: 174). Based on those perceptions it can be conclude that sexual objectification theory are the proper approaches to analyze the sexual objectification and its effects in the character Shangguan Lu in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips.



This thesis uses the novel as object of  research. The novel reads many times for properly understanding. The next step is finding appropriate theory for the novel and collecting the data through noting the quotation related with the theory. It is include in words, sentences, and discourse that can represent sexual objectification and its effect in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips. Classification data is important to answer the statement of problems. To make it easier, tabling the data occurs to simplify reading the analysis.



According to Richard A. Posner in Sex and Reason, sexuality is term social attitudes that make sex problematic, self-conscious, rather than just “natural” or biological. Sexual power is something special and comes with its own strings attached. In famous stereotype, men have been the experts in sex. They become the teacher of inexperienced female partners. It means men have sexual power through their female partners (Richard A. Posner, 1994: 13).



According to Richard A. Posner in Sex and Reason, woman who lives in sexual abstinence usually has depressions which are same with organic sexual tension. They are manifestation not from a physical urge, but of erotic yearning, narcissistic willing to be loved, and masochistic struggling to give. Even in wives of impotent husbands, the typical irritability and aggressive mood express disappointment, injury, vexation, and contempt rather than a state of somatic excitability. Once the pleasure has been enjoyed, the wish for repetition is naturally intensified (1994: 92). In many women, bourgeois morality or their mother malicious frigidity has created the idea that coitus is a sacrifice they must fulfill dirty needs of men. They must dutifully let it happen to them (Richard A. Posner, 1994: 95).



According to Fredrickson and Roberts in Psychology of Women Quarterly, objectification theory provides a framework for understanding the experience of being female in a socio cultural context that sexually objectifies the female body. Objectification theory postulates that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others (1997: 173). Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s body or body parts are separated from her as human being and then she is viewed primarily as a physical object for satisfy male sexual desire (Kant, 1963: 165).

Sexuality is not an inclination which one human being has for another. It is an inclination for the sex of another. It becomes a principle of degradation of human nature. It gives rise to the preference of one sex to the other, and to the dishonouring of that sex through the satisfaction of desire. A man has desire for woman is not directed towards her because she is human being, but it’s because she is woman. The man has no concern because she is human being, only her sex is the object of man sexual desire (Kant, 1963: 164).

According to Fredrickson and Roberts in Psychology of Women Quarterly, many woman experience more extreme forms of sexual objectification. It is sexual victimization such as rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. With these forms of victimization, a woman’s body is literally treated as not more than instrument or thing by her perpetrator (1997: 186). Sexual objectification that forms sexual victimization and harassment experiences women at much higher rates than men (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997: 189).

Bartky says the psychological oppression of women consists of women being stereotyped, culturally dominated, and sexually objectified (1990: 23). According to Bartky, there are those practices that aim to produce a body of a certain size and shape: women must conform to the body ideal of their time (1990: 65–67). The very contours a woman’s body takes on as she matures -the fuller breasts and rounded hips- have become distasteful (Bartky, 1990: 101). K. Martin also says within pubertal changes, a girl becomes more fully started enter to the culture of sexual objectification (1996: 31).

Evangelia Papadaki, who studies MacKinnon and Dworkin, in Sexual Objectification: From Kant to Contemporary Feminism concludes women, on the other hand, may have the desire to change reality, but they certainly do not have the power required for such changes. This means that women are fifty-fifty to act in order to fight sexual objectification. It can be conclude that women are not fully responsible for their objectified fate. Women represent of powerless and victimized person. (2007: 344).

Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that people can’t just appoint to the men. Women see other women this way too. This happen related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they're interested in potential mates. Meanwhile women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves.

In marriage, a woman is nothing more than an object for her husband’s use and abuse. Dworkin posts his pessimistic language. Wife beating and marital rape are belief as a man’s ownership of his wife licenses whatever he wishes to do to her. Her body belongs to him to use for his own impingement, to beat, her body belongs to him to use for his own release, to beat, to impregnate” (Dworkin, 1989: 34).

According to Dawn M. Syzmanski et al in Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research, drawing from feminist, vocational, and organizational psychology, the cores criteria for sexual objectification environment are ones in which: a) Traditional gender roles exist, b) a high probability of male contact exists (physically speaking, a male dominated environment), c) women typically hold less power than men in environment, d) high degree of attention is drawn to sexual/physical attributes of women’s bodies, e) there is approval and acknowledgement of male gaze (2011: 20). Dawn M. Syzmanski, reading Worell and Remer, says that traditional gender role socialization encourages many men to be powerful, controlling, and dominant; see women as sex objects, view sex as a conquest; and believe that women are their property (2011: 21).

Martha Nussbaum in Objectification (1995: 257) has identified seven features that are involved in the idea of treating a person as an object: 1) instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifiers purposes; 2) denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination; 3) inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity; 4) fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects; 5) violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity; 6) ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold); 7) denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton in Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification (2009: 228–229) has added three more features to Nussbaum's list: 8) reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts; 9) reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses; 10) silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.



Appearance anxiety, according to medical dictionary, is social anxiety surrounding overall appearance, including body shape, and fear of negative evaluation by others. It likes the environment only looked someone by physical appearance. Commonly, it happens to woman who always worries with physical appearance. Fredrickson and Roberts posts in Psychology of Women Quarterly that self-objectification can increase women’s anxiety about physical appearance, fear about when and how woman will be looked or evaluated, and reduce opportunities for gain position in states. It also diminishes awareness of internal bodily sensations and increase women’s opportunities for body shame. Woman has emotion that results because of measure standard with other women. This self-objectification can increase women’s physical safety in which can lead to depression and sexual dysfunction (1997: 180-181).

Fredrickson and Roberts in Psychology of Women Quarterly also say that sexual dysfunction or sexual malfunction refers to a difficulty experienced by an individual or a couple during any stage of a normal sexual activity, including desire, preference, arousal or orgasm. There are many factors which may result in a person experiencing a sexual dysfunction. These may result from emotional or physical causes. Emotional factors include in interpersonal or psychological problems. Emotional factors can be the result of depression, sexual fears or guilt, past sexual trauma, and sexual disorders. Sexual dysfunction is especially common among people who have anxiety disorders (1997: 190).

Anger can occur when people don't feel well, feel rejected, feel threatened, or experience some loss. Pain alone is not enough to cause anger. Anger occurs when pain is combined with some anger-triggering thought. Thought that can trigger anger is personal assessment, assumptions, evaluations, or interpretations of situations that makes people think that someone else is attempting, consciously or not, to hurt them. In this sense, anger is a social emotion. Sometimes people make themselves angry so that they don't have to feel pain. People change their feelings of pain into anger because it feels better to be angry than it does to be in pain (Harry Mills’s article Psychology of Anger, 2005).

According to Mental Health Foundation, depression can happen suddenly as a result of physical illness, experiences dating back to childhood, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life-changing events. Having a female body, according to Fredrickson and Roberts in Psychology of Women Quarterly, gives girls and women plenty worry about and little to control. A woman’s body generates feeling of helplessness. It can also result of depression (1997: 188). Dawn M. Szymanski, reading Clark et al, adds that individuals who deal with oppressive events may have feelings of anger and depression. It continues to other negative substances to manage these feelings (2011: 18).

Suicide, according to Oxford dictionary, is the action of killing oneself intentionally. Suicide is often committed out of despair, the cause of which is frequently attributed to a mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse (Keith Hawton’s article Suicide, 2009). Common methods include: hanging, pesticide poisoning, and firearms. According to suicide case data from 1978–2008, China has one of the highest female suicide rates in the world and is the only country where it is higher than that of men (World Health Organization, 2011). Xu Rong, head of the Suicide Prevention Project at the Beijing Cultural Development Centre for Rural Women, explains this emotionally taxing situation so many Chinese women encounter: “They have their father-in-law to deal with, their mother-in-law, various uncles, sisters-in-law and so on. She’s got to gain everyone’s acceptance. When there are conflicts, she’s the weakest."

There are places in the world today where children are regarded more or less as property, and the results are not pretty. In some places parents do sell children, and especially daughters, into slavery, or otherwise exploit them for the parents' advantage. Mothers own their children (Reason Papers no. 18, 1993: 191). Okin in Justice, Gender, and the Family says that a woman presumably would be entitled to use her children in any way she wishes, to keep it in a cage to amuse her. It looks like as some people keep bird. She feels free to eat it or kill it if she were so inclined (1989: 84). Women have babies, and babies come into the world dependent and incomplete. They require years of parental nurturing, a huge investment of resources. The effect is women offer in return. It is legal contract as the return of parental nurturing (Reason Papers no. 18 Who Owns the Children? Libertarianism, Feminism, and Property, 1993).

According to Greg R. Foster, we do not inherit sexual attitude. Rather than inherit, our attitudes evolve from social, economic, and political necessity. Often they evolve out of fear, guilt, or shame (1968: 317). The mothers are reluctant to talk about sexuality to their daughters as they find it embarrassing to discuss these issues even daughters want to discuss about  such issues with their mothers but feel hesitant to ask fearing their curiosity may be rebuffed as  ‘too much interest’. In the absence of a cultural framework of communication both mothers and daughters are faced with a dilemma – whereas the culture and traditions advice against it, the time demands it. The adolescent girls do not get information from their mothers due to this. The social taboos surrounding sexuality are so great that young adolescent girls usually do not share their sexuality views with their mothers and they are misguided and hence indulge in pre- marital sex (from, posted in 2008).



Binding feet in order to make women looked beautiful is one of the example sexual objectification. Because of her gender and position, Xuan’er (childhood name of Shangguan Lu) who is innocent follows the old tradition and start to binding her feet. Her aunt utilizes her innocence to create Xuan’er future, marrying with rich or high social class man. Her aunt uses Xuan’er as an asset which can be exchange with another material. Xuan’er produces a feminine body which learn to see themselves as objects for gaining scholar men (based on Bartky, 1990: 65-67). By looking Xuan’er from her body shape and makes her body adorable as the society accept, her aunt and uncle do sexual objectification indirectly to her. According to K. Martin (1996: 31), with her pubertal changes, Xuan’er becomes more fully initiated into the culture of sexual objectification.

Her mother-in-law also the person who makes Shangguan Lu experiences sexual objectification. As the theory women who objectify woman by Sarah Gervais’s research article in 2012, women are perceiving women this way, too. It could be related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they're interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. Shangguan Lü can give a son to her family, so she compares her own pride to her daughter-in-law. Shangguan Lü feels valuable than Shangguan Lu because she can produce a son.

Shangguan Shouxi only looks Shangguan Lu as the object of his desire. He has no role as husband who supposed to protect and take care of his wife. He exploits Shangguan Lu to fulfil his sexual desire. It means Shangguan Lu humanity is not respected. Shangguan Shouxi has no concern about Shangguan Lu’s feeling. All he cares is whenever he wants to do sex, she must serving him, whether she wants or not. Sexual objectification puts wife as the object of husband. There is no protection to wife. Shangguan Shouxi makes Shangguan Lu not only as object for his sexual desire but also object to beat whenever he wants. Her body belongs to him, so Shangguan Shouxi feels free to do whatever he wants including beat his wife’s body. Shangguan Lu is powerless person, Shangguan Shouxi can do anything rude to her freely. As Evangelia Papadaki’s conclusion (reading MacKinnon and Dworkin), Shangguan Lu presented as completely powerless and victimized (2007: 344).

Shangguan Lu experiences extreme forms of sexual objectification. She Lu is being rape by four men Four men have objectified Shangguan Lu. She becomes sexual victim. Shangguan Lu has less power, so she can’t rebel or out from that situation. She never wants to be raped although she utilizes herself for sex (based on Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997: 186).

There are factors why she is objectified by the men. Shangguan Lu portrays as the exotic women with big breasts and wide hips. Men bring high degree of attention by their body. Also, Shangguan Lu typically holds less power than the men in environment. Shouxi and other men become the ones who are powerful, controlling, and dominant (2011: 20-21).

One of seven features idea of treating a person as an object by Martha Nussbaum (1995, 257) implies in Big Paw Yu attitude toward Xuan’er. It is ownership which is the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold). Matchmaking is one of the methods in selling human. Xuan’er’s owner is her aunt and uncle.Big Paw Yu likes to exchange Xuan’er beauty with appropriate price for grown up Xuan’er. Big Paw Yu feels dominate Xuan’er as his own treasure because he deserves for raising Xuan’er.

The way Pastor Malory describes Shangguan Lu’s body also can be the example of Rae Langton (2009: 228-229) about the features of sexual objectification. It is reduction to body which is the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts. Pastor Milory’s description about Shangguan Lu waist and breasts means that Shangguan Lu identified through her sexual parts of her body.



Shangguan Lu gets appearance anxiety as the effect of her sexual objectification. She anxiety about how society, especially men, value and pay attention in her. Shangguan Lu compares her feet with her aunt. In that time, a woman looks beautiful from the size of her feet. Woman with tinier feet values as the most beautiful women. Based on that stereotype, Shangguan Lu feels anxiety about her feet size. She wants to value as beautiful woman.

Shangguan Lu does not enjoy at all doing sex with Dabiao. It may happen because Dabiao has no appeal, he describes as ugly man. Shangguan Lu who describes as beautiful woman with big breasts and wide hips is worth for better man than Dabiao. It influences her sexual activity, she does sex with no attractive and desire.

Shangguan Lu keeps her anger inside to make her feel better. Even it is not move out, it can decrease her pain. Her anger occurs because she feels threatened to have baby boy, her efforts to become appropriate wife and daughter-in-law are not appreciated by Shangguan family, and the pain for what they do. Mostly, she keeps her anger inside because she doesn’t want worse condition. If she disapprove, Shangguan family treatments to her will be getting worse.

Cry is one of Shangguan Lu’s emotions to decrease her depression. In fact, she cannot handle all of her disappointment, burden, and pain as a result of sexual objectification. Sexual objectification experiences make her weak, not only physically but also mentally. Dawn M. Szymanski, reading Clark et al, adds that individuals who deal with oppressive events may have feelings of anger and depression, which may then lead to coping via use of alcohol or other substances to manage these feelings (2011: 18). Passed out is one of the substances to manage her feeling. Shangguan Lu keeps many problems by herself. It makes her helplessness.

Fredrickson and Roberts (1997: 188) also say that sexual objectification may result of depression. Shangguan Lu experiences sexual objectification, even sexual rape which also the shape of sexual objectification. Shangguan Lu has depression inside her. It leads to a will of suicide. According to Xu Rong’s explanation, Shangguan Lu represents a Chinese woman with many problems. When Shangguan Lu is in conflict, she is the weakest. The biggest problem is the difficulties in producing son. Her willing for suicide is because of marital conflict.

A woman, according Okin, presumably would be entitled to use her children in any way she wishes (1989: 84).  Shangguan Lu who becomes a mother, entitled to use her daughter in any way she wishes for, including sell them. The reason of sell her child is because she is not capable for raising nine children and one granddaughter. The only way to survive this condition is sell her children so her daughter will raise appropriate with adoptive mother.

Daughters of Shangguan Lu do not inherit Shangguan Lu’s sexual attitude. Likes Greg R. Foster, their attitude evolve from social and fear (1968: 317). Her daughters don’t know how sexual objectification experiences in their mother. Xiangdi knows her mother and sisters live poorly. They often have no food for eat. She is afraid if her family increasingly displaced. Her fear encourages to self objectify. She sold herself to give money for her mother and sister so they can live well. She sacrifices herself by objectify herself. She feels that she meritorious to her family. Greg R. Foster’s theory implies that Xiangdi’s fear about her family financial condition leads her to experience sexual objectification (1968: 37).



Sexual objectification is treating or seeing person as sexual object to fulfill one’s sexual desire. This person also evaluates only by her physical appearance. Based on Sarah Gervais’s statement, sexual objectification commonly happens in woman’s life. Woman and man have probability to objectify woman, but they will not objectify man. This study describes about sexual objectification experiences and the effects to Shangguan Lu in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips. Her mother-in-law’s attitude toward her implies Sarah Gervais’s statement about woman who objectify woman as comparison for herself. Shangguan Lu also experiences the extreme form of sexual objectification as Fredrickson and Roberts’s theory such as rape and sexual harassment. The factors encourage sexual objectification experiences is Shangguan Lu are based on Dworkin and Syzmanski. Those are because men are human centre of the world and he is powerful, controlling, and dominant. Woman, likes Shangguan Lu, is typically hold less power. Based on Martha Nussbaum and Rae Langton’s theory about features of sexual objectification, Shangguan Lu includes in instrumentality, ownership, and reduction to body.

The sexual objectification in Shangguan Lu brings effects in her life and personality. They are appearance anxiety, sexual dysfunction, anger, depression, willing for suicide, property of children, and sexual attitude. Appearance anxiety is fear about how her body be evaluated with another. Appearance anxiety happens when Shangguan Lu makes decision to binding her feet. She does it to evaluate as beautiful woman. Sexual dysfunction occurs when she has no desire in sexual activity with Gao Dabiao. Anger appears because Shangguan Lu has pain of sexual objectified combined with disappointment. She mostly keeps her anger inside herself. Shangguan Lu who feels helpless because of sexual objectification often gets depression. Her depression expresses by surrender to condition and cry. The worse of her depression is when she passed out. Also, the extreme way of Shangguan Lu’s sexual objectification experiences is takes shortcuts to suicide in order to free from her suffer. The other effects are her attitude towards her daughters. Okin gives thought that woman presumably would be entitled to use her children in any way she wishes, even if Shangguan Lu wishes her daughter to be sold. Shangguan Lu has full will in property her children. The last is her daughter sexual attitude. Daughters of Shangguan Lu do not inherit her sexual attitude. Xiangdi, who is afraid if her family displaced, sells her body to get money for her family. Shangguan Lu who experiences sexual objectification also hides her sexual activity from her daughter. Even though she is sexually objectify, she does not want her daughters get same experiences.

This study gives contribution in sexual and gender study. Big Breasts and Wide Hips gives portrait of woman who looks by physical, sexual, and gender. Shangguan Lu’s life story gives description how Chinese woman who has no social class treats unfair by the society especially men in that era. This novel brings knowledge about how hard to born as a woman in China at that time. The story in Big Breasts and Wide Hips also has other aspects beside sexual and gender study. In future, this novel worth to discuss in other issues viewpoints.



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How to Cite
PARAMITHA, V. (2014). Sexual Objectification in Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips. LANGUAGE HORIZON, 2(1). Retrieved from
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