Yesterday, the owner of my favorite local Japanese restaurant gave me a calendar as a gift. As he handed it to me, he whispered “a pretty young actress” and smiled with male camaraderie. It was a very sweet gesture and if you’ve ever spent any time in Asian restaurants, you’ll know exactly what the image looks like. It’s an airbrushed portrait, not very revealing, and I’m sure he got a box of them from his food supplier. This style of image is very common and I saw plenty of them in China.
My first thought was that I had no place to hang it, even as a piece of kitsch. But my second thought was about how different the world outside of my work is. As a college professor, my office must be completely void of anything that sexualizes women, and when sexuality is discussed in class, it must be depersonalized. I would never ask a group of students about their sexual lives or suggest that I found any of them, male or female, attractive. If I gave that calendar to a student, as tame as it might be, I would be risking my job.