I Objectify Men

I know this doesn’t sound terribly progressive of me, but I think some objectification is healthy, whether one is male or female. I believe that both male and female desire should have a place in our discourse – which is why so much of my professional work is dedicated to football and footballers and footballers’ legs. It is all quite serious. Stop smirking.

I do think that because of power differentials, objectification of women more readily becomes a springboard for abuse, and worse. But I do think that there is a genuinely OK way of expressing one’s appreciation for someone else’s physical body and/or persona (and hell, a beautiful mind can be just as sexy). And I want more women to be comfortable with expressing their views on men and women that they find attractive, and even be superficial about it.

These conversations can be dangerous. Desire can be dangerous. But a world in which we do not have these conversations would be too sterile for my taste. Too many times, I run up against the notion that it is somehow “undignified” for a woman to participate, to be too sexual, and too frank, or allow herself a moment of shallowness; I hear people say that she is merely “lowering herself” to the status of men (I’ve seen that on feminist blogs as well as other types of blogs). But I disagree wholeheartedly. I think it all depends on context.

I’m interested to know what you all think about this.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

This entry was posted in Gender, Sex, Sports and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to I Objectify Men

  1. Dianne says:

    But I do think that there is a genuinely OK way of expressing one’s appreciation for someone else’s physical body and/or persona (and hell, a beautiful mind can be just as sexy).

    Reliable women who I respect have told me that the Spanish team is sexier than the German team. I couldn’t say without hearing them talk astronomy or genetics. And politics. It’s so hard to know whether someone is sexy or not before you know whether they’ll respect your right to deal with any consequences a fling might bring in your own way or not.

    That aside, what’s wrong with finding someone beautiful, sexy, or even just interesting to look at? And so what if it’s shallow to discuss it? A discussion of Fussballer’s legs isn’t necessarily the depthiest conversation in the world, but what harm does it do if everyone’s enjoying themselves? If one needs an excuse to “allow” oneself to discuss such shallow things, how about this: knowing ones own desires and turn ons makes one less vulnerable to exploiters who just happen to fulfill would-be subconsious desires (now conscious because they were discussed openly.)

    Finally, re the EM finale. The Spanish deserved to win. They kicked butt and ball all the way through the tournament while everyone else screwed up or off at least once. And it’s their first win since 1984. It’s always nice to have a new team win. But for sheer style, I liked the Turkish team best. I think they may have been playing drunken master Fussball…How can anyone not love a team that scores twice in the last 5 minutes of a game anyway?

  2. r. says:

    my opinion runs more along this quote from propagandhi:

    “Sex has been distorted and vilified. I’m scared of my attraction to body types. If everything desired is objectified then maybe eroticism needs to be redefined.”

    and i think it’s a huge difference from admiring a physique because it’s athletic or because it’s estethically pleasing in some other specific way for some specific reason, and “objectifying” a person. what i hate about “objectification” is what usually happens: the entangling of sex with sexism until there’s no disentangling anymore – and i don’t think that can be countered simply with more of the same.

  3. K says:

    I also think many of the European football players I’ve watched these past three weeks have great legs and beautiful bodies. They’re not too-tall American basketball jocks or bulky American football players who merit nicknames like “Icebox.”

    Real football (soccer) players are agile and lithe and beautiful in motion, and the best players are gorgeous human specimens. I like watching them.

    Oh, and did I mention that I’m a lesbian, so I have no sexual interest in these men whatsoever? In fact, I believe I enjoy watching women soccer players for the same, non-sexual reason (well, usually): Their bodies are beautifully “designed” and “maintained” athletic machines. Period.

  4. r. says:

    * “difference between admiring a physique…”, that is

  5. I don’t objectify men, but then, I’m lesbian, so sexualising men’s bodies isn’t exactly high on my “to do” list *smile*

    That said, however, I’ll admit it, I do look at women, and the bodies of women, and to certain extent, yes, it involves objectification. I was actually thinking about this last night as I watched the US Olympic Swimming Trials after coming home from Pride.

    I too was a competitive swimmer up into my late teens, and only stopped when I got to the point where I was going to have to make a choice to devote a goodly portion of my life to such, and I decided I didn’t quite want that. But I still have a swimmers build, and seeing a swimming competition is just achingly familiar that I love watching.

    I also recognise the amount of work these women have put into getting the bodies they have, to develop the muscles, the skills, that beauty in motion. Not because those things were their goals, but rather, those were merely the by-products of their goals; to win, to compete, to succeed. I know what it is like to stand on that kick-block waiting for the starter’s gun, all my muscles bunched and quivering.

    And so dammit, I find that incredibly attractive in the women I look at. I still adore seeing athletic stomachs, and arms, and legs, all bound up in a femme presentation, like myself. Yes, I do objectify their bodies as much as I adore actually watching the sport, and maybe I’m justifying post-hoc my objectification through saying I am appreciating their efforts and work on their bodies.

    But that doesn’t mean I nevertheless don’t. I think they are gorgeous, and sexy, and I’m reducing them to their bodies in doing so, because I don’t know them from jill. But I do think a little bit of objectification and sexualisation can be a good thing, provided it is done in the right way … it becomes the horrible thing we are familiar with when it’s done excessively to the exclusion of everything else, and involves the dehumanisation at the same time.

    I’m going to continue looking at those incredible women :)

  6. rp says:

    Hm, yeah, I don’t think you can objectify someone and still see them as fully human. It’s not just getting aroused by someone, it’s reducing them solely to their body or their sexuality/ability to please you sexually. They become like an inanimate doll for you to get off to without any consideration of their thoughts or feelings on anything.

  7. Toast says:

    They become like an inanimate doll for you to get off to without any consideration of their thoughts or feelings on anything.

    Yup. And can I just say, to all the women whose stupendously beautiful physical forms have allowed me to rock my world without caring a whit about their internal mental processes, Thanks! :-)

  8. Check out Leslie Green’s article “Pornographies,” [The Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 1, Pp. 27-52 (2000)] for more on this thought, Natalia. Key quote:

    Objectification does not…actually change the moral status of a person, for that is not a matter of social convention. To treat people as mere objects does not make them mere objects. Objectification says people are not the very things that they are: the whole possibility of insulting or degrading someone’s personhood begins on the footing that it embodies some kind of lie about her status. Our subjectivity is an un-won status, something we get for free, without effort, as is our objectivity. What has to be won is our awareness of our subjectivity—we need to see ourselves as the ends that we in fact are—and others respect for our subjectivity. However, and here is my main point, the same is true of our our objectivity.

    Let me approach this idea through an example. Our instrumentality is one important part of our objectivity; it is the property of being of potential use to others who may direct us to their own purposes. This is not sufficient for our dignity as persons; but some who endorse a disembodied view of personhood would go further and say it is not necessary either. Interestingly, non-philosophers do not agree. Most people desperately want to be of use to others, and they come to understand themselves partly through those uses, actual and potential. Of course, they do not want only that, and they want to be of use and used subject to certain constraints—but the idea of being useful is in fact valued. Part of what is at stake when people age, when they are severely disabled, when they are chronically unemployed, is the fear that they are not, or they are no longer, useful. Others do not want them; they fulfill no valued role. They miss not only their diminished agency, but also their diminished objectivity. In dire cases people may no longer see themselves as something desired, wanted, or useful at all, even as they retain their standing as civic subjects, applicants, supplicants, users or consumers. They become, to coin a term, subjectified. (45-46)

    Green is focusing particularly on gay men (who, he argues, need some objectification because society insistently tells them that their sexuality is gross and that nobody could ever find them arousing or attractive), but I think his point holds across the board.

  9. Anna says:

    I often tell my friends that the reasons I am not only upfront and casual about having a sex life but also about finding folks attractive and desirable is because of the still pervasive myths that:

    a) “nice girls” don’t want sex – and I am seen as a “nice girl”

    b) women aren’t distracted by hot bodies – sexuality is All! About! The! Men!

    c) sort of part of a & b in that idea that no woman wants sex unless it’s flowers, candles and ice cream – there’s nothing at all wrong with that (and heaven knows I’d love a bit of that!) but the idea that the only way that women ever want sex is that

    d) the idea that people with disabilities are non-sexual, and as I’ve mentioned many times, my husband is disabled.

    In my online experience there are more women talking about hawt guys than there are in my RL experiences, but that may be because of the folks I hang out with offline (and on, I suppose!).

    (I recently had a conversation with someone about how men were treated as sex objects in Buffy and that combination of “wow, that’s hot” “no wait! objectifying! AAAA!”)

    I may be wrong, but my feelings are that we-as-society push the idea that women aren’t visual in their sexuality – that we “look for inner beauty” or something while guys go for hot babes. And whereas yeah – I love my husband for his juicy juicy brain, he’s hot.

    (I always find it interesting when my friends talk about the footie and the hot football players that guys get really uncomfortable – while having no problem whatsoever with discussing how they’d “hit that” about women actresses and models and the like.)

  10. Caro says:

    I would say that “objectification” isn’t just looking at someone and appreciating their attractiveness. Objectification is about ignoring and trying to take away someone’s subjectivity as a real, thinking, feeling person with their own desires and making their existence all about you, seeing them not as a fellow human being but as an object for your pleasure or use. And it is certainly tied to the threat of using oppression and violence to force that person to become an object for your personal use.

  11. Nobody says:

    I think what makes this issue somewhat confusing is that “objectification” is often (over)used in an extremely loose way. At least in my experience, it’s come to be almost a synonym for “finding someone physically attractive”, even though that’s not how it was originally intended.

  12. But does every good person always see another person’s humanity? Do some of you folks believe that? Because I, for example, do not. Do you automatically take away someone’s subjectivity, Caro, if you’re thinking about them solely in terms of your desire and projection of said desire? For example, I do not know Iker Casillas as a person, I’m sure he’s a great guy, based on his excellent leadership and overall demeanour, but when I cock my eyebrow at a picture of him, my initial impulse is to think about something else entirely (precisely because I do not know him). Is there also a threat of oppression and violence buried in that?

    At one point in the Bible, Jesus says that a guy who has merely looked upon a woman in a certain way has committed the sin that he’s dreaming about. It’s not a comment on objectification per se, but it is a comment on the power of our thoughts, and, perhaps to a greater extent, human nature.

    Nabokov has asked similar questions in his work.

    I am tempted to write this stuff off on human nature. We are not innocent (I don’t necessarily mean that in the Christian sense of the concept, just to be clear). But are we always monsters in our lack of innocence?

  13. Chel says:

    I think that finding someone extremely attractive like that woman said further up about swimmers is separate from objectification. She thinks they are gorgeous but recognizes that their talents and goals and strengths also play into their attractiveness. I think that objectification can be summed up in porn and really stupid ads featuring overly sexed up young models to sell an unrelated product. Finding someone gorgeous or attractive and liking to look at them as they walk down the street wouldn’t be considered objectification in my little corner of the world/internets. It has to be a more full fledged separation of that person sexuality from their other qualities in which the objectifier reduces them to how they look/are sexually.

  14. Liza says:

    If you don’t know someone (and thus have no way to judge personality/intelligence/values/etc) but admire them for their physical appearance, is that automatically objectification? I can see how being attracted to someone solely on their looks can seem that way, but I don’t usually think of it that way. I prefer to say I’m “appreciating his hotness.”

    But hell, if checking someone out because he’s good looking is objectifying, guilty. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, as humans (and therefore animals) sometimes we operate on lust and sexual attraction, and I think it can be perfectly healthy to have fantasies where all you care about is looks. As long as you realize exactly that and don’t hold your genuine potential partners to strictly physical standards or see all members of your chosen sex that way.

  15. Dianne says:

    no woman wants sex unless it’s flowers, candles and ice cream

    I just had the most obscene thought about how the flowers, candles, and ice cream could be used in sex. Now I want to try it…maybe the kid’ll go to sleep early tonight…

    Ahem. Yes, flowers are nice, but women like sex qua sex too. And looking. And fantasizing.

  16. At least in my experience, it’s come to be almost a synonym for “finding someone physically attractive”, even though that’s not how it was originally intended.

    I see your point, Nobody, but I do not, and cannot, always look at an attractive person or an attractive body part and think about the person’s humanity, the sum of all parts, etc. And I would call that objectification. I think a lot of people have moments where they objectify others. I think how they behave themselves is what’s important in that instance.

    I think that objectification can be summed up in porn and really stupid ads featuring overly sexed up young models to sell an unrelated product.

    I sincerely do not wish to debate porn at this point – but I do have to ask: what about the porn we “produce” in our heads? I mean, I can recall a certain inexperienced 17-year old girl who had a big, big crush on a big, big sports star, who actually “starred” in a number of her fantasies. And while you’d never call that girl Max Hardcore – I have to wonder if her fantasy did not have some points of contact with, you know, the fantasies you can buy online with a trial membership of $9.95.

    What can we make of that?

  17. Dianne says:

    If you don’t know someone (and thus have no way to judge personality/intelligence/values/etc) but admire them for their physical appearance, is that automatically objectification?

    Given that being truly beautiful by the usual criteria that society applies (that is, looking like a Hollywood actor or actress) is a heck of a lot of work, perhaps it is somehow insulting to not notice and appreciate that they’ve gone through all that work to be hot to the average person. (Not that your standards of hotness are necessarily those of Hollywood.)

  18. pennylane says:

    This reminds me of the discussion around the calendar some dude is producing of the Women of the LPGA where they’re in evening gowns and bikinis. It seems like that calendar is intended to demonstrate that these women can be sexy in spite of being athletes which seems quite different than what Sarah is describing (quite accurately–swimmers’ bodies are amazing!) There seems to be something different in the two types of seeing though I can’t really put my finger on it. Context? Power relations? History?

    As a devotee of Les Bleus I am too depressed to discuss Euro 08.

  19. shah8 says:

    Desire is how we are other than we are. It is the key component in will and imagination, and I don’t believe we can be conscious beings without the time marked by desires percieved, gained, and lost. Sexuality, with that direct hook up to feeling reward and loved, is a very natural thing, as you all know. Seeing attractive men and women and paying more attention to them is natural, as all advertisers know.

    Here’s the thing, objectification is not really a personal attitude. It’s more a kind of social construct. There are elements of commodification, and ranking body parts by some stupid standards. There is an element of social control–we have to put women up on a pedestal to be easily lusted after, regardless of how she feels. Women as a whole are *herded* to that pedestal through the control of social values. If objectification was something that was indeed individual in nature, beautiful women would be able to laugh off the admiration of her suiters, and old/fat women wouldn’t be relieved that their conditions merit being left alone.

    Women can’t objectify men. White women could, perhaps, objectify Black men, or something of that nature. Fundamentally, objectification requires social power that women don’t typically have access to. Please don’t worry about lusting after football players. Maybe have a twinge when it’s Brad Pitt. See the difference I’m trying to show?

  20. I think that the idea that we shouldn’t ever objectify people of the gender/genders we find appealing is ridiculous. Why is appreciating someone else on a purely physical level such a bad thing? The only way that makes sense is if it somehow leads you to treat the person badly, but that doesn’t necessarily follow so what’s the problem

    Hell, without the blatant objectification of men my blog would be about 10 entries long.

  21. Alara Rogers says:

    Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here.

    There is no problem with objectifying humans provided that it is fully reciprocal. If *everyone* has the right to objectify *everyone*, then we all understand that being the object of another’s gaze is impersonal, is not a status we are being forced into permanently by society, and is therefore not backed up by the implicit threat of violence or coercion. If *everyone* can objectify *everyone* then we are all both subjects and objects and it’s all good.

    The reason the objectification of women, by men, is a problem is that it only goes one way, traditionally. It is bucking the culture to say that women have a gaze too and can use it on men. It’s bucking the culture even more to say that the male gaze can be turned on men, or to say that the objectified female can be gazed at by another female. The “male gaze” is ubiquitous. And since it is very, very difficult and just as much culture-bucking for a man or a woman to change categories, it’s as if you’re defined by your genitals as a subject or an object, and the law, the media, and people’s perceptions of you all treat you that way.

    Most men I know wish they could be objects. My husband actively enjoys the fact that I have an albino fetish, because he was looked at as an unattractive freak as a child and to be with someone who thinks he’s hot *because* he’s an albino makes him feel sexy and desirable. But, of course, they want to be objects to women they want to objectify; straight men don’t feel comfortable knowing that 60-year-old women or obese women or gay/bi men might be lusting after them. They, too, would find it unpleasant to be objects to the entire world, all the time, the way women are. The reason they don’t get why this is unpleasant is that in small doses it is a pleasure they don’t often get.

    So the problem isn’t with objectifying another in finding them attractive. The problem is when the culture participates with you in saying “Yes, that person is an object”, and then that person is left stranded without a subjectivity that is recognized by our society. It *should* go without saying that everyone is the subject of their own story, but it doesn’t. That is the problem with objectifying others.

    So Natalia, in my opinion you can objectify as many men as you want. Most of them will like it, and regardless, you’re moving us toward a culture where women can be accepted as subjects and men can be accepted as objects. Only when all people can be both subjects and objects at the same time will sex and sexiness cease to be fraught with danger, and that’s what we should be moving toward.

  22. Nick Kiddle says:

    I’m pretty sure I objectify the Scunthorpe United players. Not even just the ones that I find physically attractive either; I mean, their purpose in life as far as I’m concerned is to pull on the claret-and-blue shirt and score lots of goal (and/or stop the opposition scoring any). I don’t even think about the fact that they have families and loved ones and an agenda of their own until that conflicts with their willingness to do what I want them to, and then I have a huge pile of dissonance to get through. I can still manage to wish them all the best in the future, though, so I don’t think objectification is automatically death to decent human dealings, just often an obstacle.

  23. Women can’t objectify men. White women could, perhaps, objectify Black men, or something of that nature. Fundamentally, objectification requires social power that women don’t typically have access to.

    I find these to be very problematic statements – especially since I think that objectification is not merely defined by social power. Every one of us has a mind, and we do use it, sometimes in very primitive, basic ways.

    For example: there were two men doing some work around the sewer pipes in our yard recently. I am fairly certain I have more social power than they do. But I saw the way they looked at me, and yes, I was, to some extent, an object to them (there are cultural norms at work here as well, since I don’t believe they see many women in tank tops and yoga pants up close and personal). They were nice and polite, they didn’t irritate me or scare me, but it was what it was. You could feel it, you could see it. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. So I don’t believe that objectification is predicated solely on social power, though I would agree that it can certainly play a role in it.

    Please don’t worry about lusting after football players.

    Worried? I am happy like a pig in dirt. But am touched by your concern. :P

  24. Admiring someone’s appearance/beauty/sex appeal whatever is not necessarily a bad thing, men and women do it every day, really. And objectification isn’t even really always about that. I do seriously want to know…when you are eating at a dinner or something, or getting your car fixed, so on, do you ALWAYS recognize the full humanity of the person who is your server or mechanic, or do you see them as an objectifying way: Food gets here due to, car gets fixed do to…are you more focused on their status as full humans, or the service they provide?

    I honestly think various levels of objectification, sexual and otherwise, are part of human nature, and like anything in human nature, it can be good or bad.

  25. Holly says:

    I think people are talking about two different things.

    Seeing someone as an object, or viewing them through a lens that focuses on their materiality, what they represent visually or symbolically, what they can be used for. Focusing on the parts of them that are separate from their existence an autonomous individual with thoughts, hopes, desires, feelings, decision-making capacity of their own, a being who experiences the world in much the same way that you do.

    Ignoring or denying someone’s subjectivity, which basically means taking away everything that’s mention in the latter sentence, trying to erase it or pretend it doesn’t matter.

    Now, of course those two things often go hand in hand. It’s easier to use someone for titillation, symbolic value, or manual labor if you erase their subjective agency to escape or disrupt or squirm in any of those molds. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the case. Furthermore, I think it’s often possible to slip very seamlessly between appreciating someone as an object and appreciating them as a subject. If you see a stranger on the street, or on television, you can’t really help but perceive them first as a representation, an object, someone who may be fulfilling some function or role. Even if you can prick yourself into awareness that “oh yes, of course that person is an individual with their own thoughts and feelings,” if you don’t have any awareness of that stuff coming through, it remains a black box. But then you may hear them speak, or watch as they express themselves nonverbally, and you’re struck by an awareness of their subjectivity. In fact, the interplay can be quite beautiful.

    We see someone beautiful on a movie screen; the camera treats them like a piece of art, dwells on their form, what they represent. Then the dialogue begins, and emotion comes pouring forth, creating empathy and identification in a way that couldn’t possibly exist without an awareness of the other as a person like us. And then perhaps the camera retreats again. These things aren’t necessarily opposites, they’re just two sides of a pair of pants, being turned inside out and outside in.

  26. Cara says:

    I see your point, Nobody, but I do not, and cannot, always look at an attractive person or an attractive body part and think about the person’s humanity, the sum of all parts, etc. And I would call that objectification. I think a lot of people have moments where they objectify others. I think how they behave themselves is what’s important in that instance.

    I think that objectification is less about how you personally look at a person and more about how you treat them. For example, if some random guy (or girl) looks at me and thinks sexual thoughts, that’s fine. But I don’t want to know about it. The point at which I see the guy staring intently at my chest or get a rude comment is when I feel exposed and objectified. And though I’ll openly ogle say, Bono or Sayid from Lost, on television, I wouldn’t think it appropriate of me (though possibly somewhat inevitable) to do the same thing and persistently let me eyes wander to their crotch if I actually met them.

    By contrast, I kind of like catching my husband checking me out, so long as it’s not a hugely inappropriate moment. In fact, having been together for 6 years, it makes me happy that he still does. And I still check him out, and when doing so “I love him so much and he’s such a great person” isn’t exactly the usual thought at the front of my mind. But if he was openly checking me out in front of my parents, or doing so when I’m upset about something, or making a sexual comment about me in public, that would be objectifying.

    Context is very important here. I think that it’s entirely possible to think of someone in a purely sexual way without entirely disregarding that person’s feelings. And the disregard has always struck me as far more objectifying than the sexual thought on its own.

  27. CBrachyrhynchos says:

    Well, I dunno. I think often there is too much attention on what happens inside a person’s head rather than looking at sexism and objectification as systemic and cultural. The impact of your individual fancy of football players is rather small compared to that of advertising, movies, or television.

  28. shah8 says:

    Natalie, you can be queen of the world, with limitless personal power that can be alotted to a human, and your attention is singular. Not only would you not be able to focus on all the delightfully tush young men you could want, you don’t necessarily want sex or to think about sex all the time. The objects of your attention still has much of the free will necessary to act on their own interest unless you put ’em in your harem. Even if you *did* do all that, many young men will cover themselves, look uglier than they are, pork out, and they have the option of evading your attention.

    Very few people have the personal power to truly render people into nonhuman objects. The focus of that attempt usually has something to say about it, and humans being a remarkably equally talented bunch for a species of animals, many will succeed. Which is *why* there are social mechanism! Plantation capitalism requires racist propaganda and racist religion to prevent nearby white people who don’t benefit from plantations from assisting runaway slaves. They also convince other people that we *must* objectify* slaves by their labor in order to purpetuate an economic system that benefits whites everywheres. This co-option of social forces is key in many, if not most, forms of oppression and objectification.

    Objectification is when you *can’t* escape the valuation of your person by depersonalized attributes, because all eyes are *told* to evaluate you by those attributes!

    All of us have a mind, indeed! And in a world where everyone is ruled by their own minds and their own conscience, then it is possible for an individual to censure or evade the malicious attention of others. We don’t live in that world.

    Hey, I “objectify” Serena Williams sometimes. I wouldn’t want to be around her Jehovah’s Witness personality, but is that body fiiiiiiiiinnnne…Oh god! I did the same thing to those long distance runners in the olympic trials yesterday! Yup, it’s a pleasure indeed. Nothing to be ashamed of.

  29. shah8 says:

    Sorry I mispelled your name, Natalia.

  30. I think you and I have different interpretations of what it means to objectify someone, shah.

    I’m also not entirely sure what you mean by the hypothetical “queen of the world” scenario.

  31. Fatemeh says:

    I think that Hamit Altintop from the Turkish soccer team is someone who I like to stare at. Yum.

  32. shah8 says:

    ok

    I was making the point that even if you had all the power in the world, you still can’t objectify without the assistence of society. That point, however, goes under “different interpretations of objectify”. I don’t mind. I’m here for the yakking, anyways.

  33. (non-blogging)Cara says:

    Sadly, I disagree with you. You can try to justify it however you like, it’s still not progressive behavior. There isn’t a “right” way to think of someone as an object to be gawked at and forget they’re a whole person. Looking at hawt boyz isn’t some great spiritual admiration of the Lord’s creation [snark] or anything, it’s just looking at hawt boyz.

    It’s one thing to think someone’s attractive (and even say to a friend, “Wow, he’s cute”), quite another to justify objectifying them as a good thing to do. It’s also one thing to have a private thought and another to make your thoughts known regardless of how the target might feel about being *admired* for something that literally has nothing to do with who they are.

  34. …for something that literally has nothing to do with who they are.

    Do the way we look and present ourselves have nothing to do with who we are? I would disagree. I think looks often play too much a part, in many people’s eyes, but I wouldn’t say they have nothing to do with anything either.

    There isn’t a “right” way to think of someone as an object to be gawked at and forget they’re a whole person.

    Just to riff on something Ren said – do we always remember that someone is a *whole* person? For every minute of every day of our daily interactions? Obviously, that can be a really bad thing, but that rather depends on how one acts, no?

    Earlier in this thread, I brought up the men who were working on the sewer pipes in the yard, men who paid a whole lot of attention to certain parts of my body whenever I came out to give them water. They were still very nice, and very polite, but they made no secret of what they were noticing. I’m sure they weren’t thinking of me as a whole person when they were checking it out either. But because they were also very polite and friendly, I wasn’t hurt by what was happening. Obviously, I’m just one individual, but it’s how I feel, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se.

    Looking at hawt boyz isn’t some great spiritual admiration of the Lord’s creation [snark] or anything, it’s just looking at hawt boyz.

    I am in complete and utter disagreement there, snark or no snark. As a mildly religious person, I am always struck by the beauty in my path, be it the beauty of a hawt boy or someone or something else. A lot of great art is created with that beauty in mind – it’s just one aspect of it, but it’s a powerful aspect nonetheless.

  35. Ashley says:

    I would agree with earlier posters that the definition of “objectify” has a few meanings, and that the negative meaning generally involves dehumanizing someone, not the simple act of finding them attractive.

    Beyond that, I know that women’s sexuality is not all about flowers and ice cream, or any essentialized form. However, I think sometimes we fall into the trap of accepting the way our culture values what is constructed as a male way of being sexual as somehow “better” than what is constructed as a female way of being sexual, and then try to prove that we are just as “good” as the men.

    Personally, I don’t find either construct particularly useful or erotic. I’m interested in creating a construct for sexuality that doesn’t make anyone feel sexually worthless on the basis of their appearance, and where full humanity can co-exist with full sexuality.

    Also, this is a bit off-topic, but I think our culture is so terrified of death that we can get a little insane in our obsession with young people and sex, as a sort of distraction from our inevitable decline. Sometimes I think we might be happier if we recognized death more and quit the frantic efforts to focus on something, anything else. Leaving aside any political statement, all that objectification of the young is distracting a lot of people from their own lives.

  36. Jha says:

    I’m definitely feeling you on the “desire can be dangerous” aspect – I’ve no problem with objectifying per se. I do it too: render a person in my line of vision an object to be admired. But as soon as they start talking to me and asking for my attention as a human being, the objectification stops and I treat them like a human being, until such a time it’s appropriate for me to view them objectively again.

    Unfortunately, sexism seems to be a continued objectification even though the objectifier and the objectified are interacting.

    There’s nothing wrong with admiring a person on a purely physical level. I think it’s a healthy expression of sexuality to be able to say what one likes or doesn’t like on a physical level.

  37. SoE says:

    Well, when women start objectifying men the world won’t become a necessarily better place but at least it’s more equal.

  38. I’m in the set that generally thinks of the word “objectify” as “actually treating people as if they don’t count as subjects,” i.e. totally ignoring their preferences in how you react to them, rather than simple physical admiration. So, guy who admires my figure as I’m passing and neither knows nor much cares my thoughts = not objectifying (in this particular sense), but guy who “admires” my figure in a way a reasonable woman would find threatening, and then justifies his acts by saying darn it, I was dressing to invite attention and so should take whatever attention I get = objectifying (in this sense).

    I wonder, though, whether the word itself is all that useful, since so many people seem to use it in different senses. If half the people using it think most naturally of the sort of “objectifying” that just involves thinking someone’s hot without knowing them deeply and profoundly, and the other half of the people using the word are using it the way I generally think of it, with the negative meaning of actually dehumanizing someone, then it seems like a word that one can’t use without a whole bunch of qualifications, in which case, maybe there are better and less ambiguous words for each of the distinct meanings?

  39. CBrachyrhynchos says:

    I don’t know. Is it possible to have a dialog about this on a case by case basis? It seems like what would be objectifying is to not allow other people to say, “hey that makes me uncomfortable.”

  40. rp says:

    ;’y6sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssk

  41. Holly says:

    Can we just say “no objectification without due subjectification” and call it a day?

  42. piny says:

    Can we just say “no objectification without due subjectification” and call it a day?

    Holly, not to objectify you or anything, but will you marry me?

  43. shah8 says:

    If Holly is just a phrase to you, then that’s objectification!

    By the by, why the heck would you want to marry a voice anyways? It’s not as if she’s Orpheus.

  44. Can we just say “no objectification without due subjectification” and call it a day?

    Cool. Works for me.

  45. rp says:
    They become like an inanimate doll for you to get off to without any consideration of their thoughts or feelings on anything.

    Yup. And can I just say, to all the women whose stupendously beautiful physical forms have allowed me to rock my world without caring a whit about their internal mental processes, Thanks! :-)

    Let’s hope you’re just talking about fantasy and you don’t actually talk to/try to “hit on”/ and/or assualt and rape these women. Since you don’t see them as fully human (as inanimate dolls even!) and have no regard for their feelings when you’re getting off, I’m sure more than a few of them didn’t want it and didn’t want YOU, making touching them assault and fucking them rape. Whether they did want it or not, well, that’s just not your priority I guess. Because you DON’T CARE. It’s all about you and your fucking orgasms.

  46. Holly says:

    Holly, not to objectify you or anything, but will you marry me?

    If by “me” you mean the two letters “m” and “e” displayed on this web page, then I would be happy to betroth to your me the “act of clicking on the Submit Comment button” that I am about to perform! Symbolic digital acts are totally a catch these days!

  47. Holly says:

    Since you don’t see them as fully human (as inanimate dolls even!) and have no regard for their feelings when you’re getting off, I’m sure more than a few of them didn’t want it

    I think you made a gigantic leap right there. People have sex all the time where neither person is particularly compelled by the humanity and subjectivity of the other, they’re just using each other to get off. Sex where it’s about bodies and friction, not individuality and humanity. Yes, any kind of actual good sex (as opposed to rape) does involve consent, which requires subjectivity. But beyond that crucial minimal requirement, a lot of us enjoy occasionally and temporarily being objects for others. Some people get off on pretending to be dead, or a mannequin, while having sex. There are whole swaths of fetish that have to do with the utter de-agentification of just being an object — temporarily, which is crucial. And fetishes of being an object are far from exclusively female; in fact I think they tend to be more common in men, which is not entirely surprising considering that men are commonly denied access to the experience of objectification (bad though it may be in a whole lot of cases).

    Heck, you can even have this kind of sex with someone who’s subjectivity you’re extremely aware of at all other times — it’s part of why people in long-term relationships go out roleplay being strangers who’ve never met before.

    Again, objectification is fine as long as there’s room for subjectivity to emerge at important moments. Like when we consent (and continue to consent) to sex, even highly-objectifying sex. Like when we resist the patriarchal systems of commodifying and assigning sexist meanings to our bodies. Like when you form and build a real human relationship with someone — but of course that’s not always necessary for sex.

  48. rp says:

    Admiring someone’s appearance/beauty/sex appeal whatever is not necessarily a bad thing, men and women do it every day, really. And objectification isn’t even really always about that. I do seriously want to know…when you are eating at a dinner or something, or getting your car fixed, so on, do you ALWAYS recognize the full humanity of the person who is your server or mechanic, or do you see them as an objectifying way: Food gets here due to, car gets fixed do to…are you more focused on their status as full humans, or the service they provide?

    If you don’t recognize the full humanity of servers and mechanics, that is a problem also. Not a good thing.

  49. Holly says:

    RP, recognizing the objectivity and subjectivity of various people is not a binary state. It’s not like the light switch is either on or off. There’s always some element of both. If a guy is carrying your food to you, you are probably at least partly concerned with the function he is serving. In fact, it’s likely in many cases that you know zilch about his individual humanity, so any “recognition of his full humanity” is an abstract notion at best. One that you may feel is very important and strive to keep in the front of your mind — but it’s a sliver of a concept that doesn’t really represent who he really is either. In fact it’s possible that we might end up objectifying someone like that in a different way, as “a worker whose full humanity I recognize because it’s important to my ethics.”

    Complete and total empathy and understanding of all beings is really great, for bodhisattvas especially. Everyone else is likely to treat others in at least a partially utilitarian way, a lot of the time. What’s important is that we recognize that the truth of people, and the right way to recognize and treat people, is greater than this.

  50. rp says:

    I think you made a gigantic leap right there. People have sex all the time where neither person is particularly compelled by the humanity and subjectivity of the other, they’re just using each other to get off. Sex where it’s about bodies and friction, not individuality and humanity. Yes, any kind of actual good sex (as opposed to rape) does involve consent, which requires subjectivity. But beyond that crucial minimal requirement, a lot of us enjoy occasionally and temporarily being objects for others. Some people get off on pretending to be dead, or a mannequin, while having sex. There are whole swaths of fetish that have to do with the utter de-agentification of just being an object — temporarily, which is crucial.

    Heck, you can even have this kind of sex with someone who’s subjectivity you’re extremely aware of at all other times — it’s part of why people in long-term relationships go out roleplay being strangers who’ve never met before.

    Again, objectification is fine as long as there’s room for subjectivity to emerge at important moments. Like when we consent (and continue to consent) to sex, even highly-objectifying sex. Like when we resist the patriarchal systems of commodifying and assigning sexist meanings to our bodies. Like when you form and build a real human relationship with someone — but of course that’s not always necessary for sex.

    He’s not aware of their subjectivity EVER, judging by his comment. And I didn’t make a giant leap, I just didn’t phrase it right: chances are good that many of those women didn’t consent/didn’t want it, given that he only had himself in mind and didn’t care to find out or to take their feelings into consideration. Unless he just by blind luck managed to only sleep with women who want him (he doesn’t pay attention or care or listen, he did sleep with more than one, and I doubt he’s just THAT desirable).

  51. rp says:

    “a worker whose full humanity I recognize because it’s important to my ethics.”

    Uh, say what? Who the heck actually thinks of anyone this way? That’s bizarre and I’m not even sure I understand what you are getting at. No, I just tend to think of and treat people as people.

  52. rp says:

    My last comment got caught up in moderation, but here’s what I said, to Holly about Toady or whoever: He’s not aware of their subjectivity EVER, judging by his comment. And I didn’t make a giant leap, I just didn’t phrase it right: chances are good that many of those women didn’t consent/didn’t want it, given that he only had himself in mind and didn’t care to find out or to take their feelings into consideration. Unless he just by blind luck managed to only sleep with women who want him (he doesn’t pay attention or care or listen, he did sleep with more than one, and I doubt he’s just THAT desirable).

  53. rp says:

    My last comment got caught up in moderation, but here’s what I said, to Holly about Toady or whoever: He’s not aware of their subjectivity EVER, judging by his comment. And I didn’t make a giant leap, I just didn’t phrase it right: chances are good that many of those women didn’t consent/didn’t want it, given that he only had himself in mind and didn’t care to find out or to take their feelings into consideration. Unless he just by blind luck managed to only sleep with women who want him (he doesn’t pay attention or care or listen, he did sleep with more than one, and I doubt he’s just THAT desirable).

  54. rp says:

    Sorry for doubeposting that comment about Toady. It won’t let me edit.

  55. rp says:

    Anyways I even think of Toast (I guess it’s Toast, not Toady) as a person, just the most despicable kind of person on the planet. And I am responding to the other things that you said, Holly, my comments are just caught in moderation.

  56. Holly says:

    Uh, say what? Who the heck actually thinks of anyone this way?

    A lot of people, in my experience. People who want to make it clear, to themselves or others, that they’re being good people of the sort that do right by other people, and use others to that end.

    I mean, when I give a dollar to a panhandler who asks for it, I do so not because I understand the subjective humanity of that person. I don’t even know necessarily why they want the dollar, there are all sorts of reasons. I do it because I have a policy of giving money to people or organizations who seem like they need it when I am asked, even if it’s just a little bit. So the recipient of the money is being used, by me, so that I can adhere to this policy. The same is true for people who give to charity (or panhandlers) because they are required to give a certain amount by their religion, or who give because it helps them feel like a virtuous person, or who give so that they can tell others how much they give. It may not be the ONLY reason, and it probably isn’t given that there are humane rationales behind these actions as well, but it’s partly utilitarian.

    It’s kind of like the old question of, should you do the right thing so you can go to heaven and avoid hell (using opportunties to do right for your own ends) or should you carry a flame to burn up heaven and a pitcher of water to quench hell, so that you will do good solely for the sake of doing good? Few are capable of doing the latter, and only the latter, all the time.

    Oh and you’re right, Toast’s comment was creepy, for sure.

  57. rp says:

    Oh…okay… Yeah that’s a little weird to be THAT caught up in being a “good person.” I just mean, it pisses me off when people dehumanize/objectify other people based on their jobs or whatever they’re using to justify their prejudice. And I do mean “dehumanizing” and “not really seeing people as people” or treating them poorly… (I think that should be a qualification for basic decency, not “sainthood” or whatever) …and I don’t really mean “understanding everything about what everyone else is thinking, all the time.”

    And, that is one huge thing that I have never understood about “heaven”…doesn’t it make all these “good deeds” people supposedly do just self-interest? Also, the whole god-as-authority thing. If you are doing things because someone tells you to and will punish you otherwise, IMO you don’t deserve praise for it. Maybe that’s just me.

  58. Rockit says:

    Well since doing good in general will result in a better world for everyone, you could argue that any good deed is selfish to some degree. Although since that would result in another long drawn out argument I won’t.

    Still, it was a great tournament and don’t know about other guys but personally I had no problem with discussing the hypothetical attractiveness of the footballers with female friends (Iker Casillas came out top with Luca Toni a probable second, though as a Liverpool fan I felt obligated to argue the case for Steven Gerrard, regardless of logic or context).

    Oh, and I think Toast may have been referring to wank fantasies there. At least I hope so.

  59. Rockit says:

    Well since doing good in general will result in a better world for everyone, you could argue that any good deed is selfish to some degree. Although since that would result in another long drawn out argument I won’t.

    Still, it was a great tournament and don’t know about other guys but personally I had no problem with discussing the hypothetical attractiveness of the footballers with female friends (Iker Casillas came out top with Luca Toni a probable second, though as a Liverpool fan I felt obligated to argue the case for Steven Gerrard, regardless of logic or context).

    Oh, and I think Toast may have been referring to wank fantasies there. At least I hope so.

  60. He’s not aware of their subjectivity EVER, judging by his comment.

    I’m pretty sure he was just pointing out a fantasy.

    Now, about that other stuff… I’ve served people coffee, sold them movie tickets, etc. I think there’s a difference between when you’re being objectified as a worker and actually dehumanized. Obviously, I never expected all of my customers to know and understand who I am, why I work in this establishment, how my day is going, etc. What I did expect is some basic respect – no swearing, no making trouble, etc.

    Rockit, since you’re a Liverpool fan, you like Fernando Torres, right right right? Iker, of course, is still better, but, you know… ;)

  61. Sarah J says:

    I objectify the hell out of men. All the damn time.

    OK, but that was snarky. Seriously, though, I made a point on my blog about this a little while back, about how looking at someone and appreciating their physical beauty is not the same as denying their humanity or agency.

    I don’t know the guy I was making eyes at all weekend very well, so it would be impossible to say that I appreciate his full humanity and blah blah blah. I know he’s a person, but my primary interest is still in looking.

    The problem for me comes in when you cross the line between looking and feeling entitled to touch or act upon someone.

  62. shah8 says:

    Pandagon’s having a pretty similar thread…Tho’ I suppose most people here read both sites, but still…

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/men_speak_out_and_much_is_learned/

    seems to explore other areas of I do/I do not objectify…

  63. exholt says:

    Objectification as a term seemed to be defined as including merely judging by physical appearance judging by the objectification lectures given by dorm staff. It was also blended in with race as there seems to have been a past issue with mainly White males attempting to gain dates with WOC solely because they were seen by them as “exotic”.

    Though I was exempted when I asked as they said I was a POC, those experiences are probably some of the reasons why I still have trouble even looking at women in public venues as I always get the feeling that even looking in a respectful manner at women with a pleasing experience will result in my being yelled at for objectification. Unfortunately, some co-workers and classmates have told me that my looking away whenever I pass women on the street can be misinterpreted as dislike or disapproval of their looks and/or person when it is really my way of avoiding committing an offensive faux pas on the street and the confrontation that may result from such.

  64. exholt says:

    Whoops…I meant to say “Objectification as a term was seemingly defined on my college campus as…”

  65. It was also blended in with race as there seems to have been a past issue with mainly White males attempting to gain dates with WOC solely because they were seen by them as “exotic”.

    Is that really a “past” issue though? From what I can tell, it’s very much in the present.

  66. exholt says:

    Is that really a “past” issue though?

    Hello Natalia,

    When I wrote the above, I meant it was a past issue with the dorm staff that predated my matriculation as a student.

    As for me, it is still a present issue and I have yet been able to even discuss this with anyone, much less find ways to overcome it.

    Would you or anyone else here have any ideas on how to grapple with these issues?

  67. (non-blogging)Cara says:

    Do the way we look and present ourselves have nothing to do with who we are? I would disagree. I think looks often play too much a part, in many people’s eyes, but I wouldn’t say they have nothing to do with anything either.

    You know, Natalia, I really don’t feel mine do. Maybe I’m just weird, but I’ve always been so conscious of being examined and objectified and praised for the way my genes panned out that I hate doing it to anyone else. I’m not trying to be more progressive than thou or anything, but it does bug the shit out of me to such a degree that I feel pretty divorced from the whole thing.

    I mean, my weight fluctuates all on its own. (For instance). I can eat the same thing and get the same amount of exercise and my weight will creep up or suddenly drop; I’m just going about living my life. I get praise from random strangers when it drops and my eyes are avoided when it creeps up. But I’m the same person–not to mention the fact that I’m a person who doesn’t give a shit what somebody else has decided they like about my looks.

    So why would I feel like it had anything to do with me, and why would I behave that way toward someone else?

  68. Rockit says:

    Natalia, Torres is a hero on the kop but the last few years we’ve established a base of spanish players (Xabi, Reina and Arbeloa all played during the tournament while ex-players like Garcia and Morientes were on the bribk of the squad) which meant Spain were a natural choice for us to support. And they, along with a fair few other teams were a credit to the idea of sport as an art.

    As for objectification, I probably go more with Sarah J’s view on the question. I don’t think finding someone attractive or fantasising about them in a purely sexual way is wrong, it’s when you bring that view of them into the way you interact with them on a personal basis that it becomes wrong, unless of course they feel similarly.

  69. Margalis says:

    Pandagon used to run the Tuesday of Lechery, to me that was a bit much. I never saw the difference between that and “The Official Hot Chicks Thread” at a random video game website. I made that objection once or twice but the response was always some variation on “but we’re wimmenz” and “lighten up.”

  70. Would you or anyone else here have any ideas on how to grapple with these issues?

    Hmm, I’m probably not the best person to speak to about that. But there are other great bloggers here. And you should check out Womanist Musings.

    So why would I feel like it had anything to do with me, and why would I behave that way toward someone else?

    I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to feel and behave. What I am telling you is that others might choose a different path.

    never saw the difference between that and “The Official Hot Chicks Thread” at a random video game website.

    Mmmm, I look at “hot chicks” threads rather frequently (and have one on my blog). Monica Bellucci and Michelle Yeoh are personal favourites. Many lesbian blogs will have “hot chicks” threads as well.

    I do think that it would be nice if there were more “hot studs” threads out there. And I do work tirelessly to correct that balance.

  71. Paging Margalis! You posted here again, it went into moderation, and I was about to approve your comment when the stupid scrolling function on my browser (scrolled sideways instead of down) accidentally got your comment deleted. I apologize. If you can, please re-post.

  72. Margalis says:

    Whatever I said, it wasn’t that important. Don’t feel bad about randomly deleting my posts — I’m in permanent moderation because I’m a truly vile person.

    About hot chicks or hot studs threads, it seems a bit silly for feminists to complain about the objectification of women then participate in such. That’s a bit different than merely thinking that someone is attractive, or chatting with someone IRL about it.

    It also looks to me like men are becoming more objectified and now subject to the same crap that women are – axe body sprays because your natural body doesn’t smell good, elaborate skin care products, etc. I suppose that’s one way to achieve equality, but a world where every hot chick thread has a hot studs equivalent, while equal, doesn’t strike me as a huge improvement.

  73. Anastasia says:

    Humanity has objectified people since day dot, ever since humans could draw and sculpt likenesses. As for the question of health. Objectification is innate. We distinguish things as babies, and create preferences early on. Anything is unhealthy if it overtakes personal routine and jeopardizes an individual (financially, medically, etc). Objectification is the least of society’s worries.

  74. Pingback: Joe Perez :: An Integral Blog » Blog Archive » She objectifies men

  75. Pingback: season of the bitch » I love Natalia Antonova.

  76. (non-blogging)Cara says:

    If I said, “I know animals are sentient, but there’s nothing I like better than a thick juicy steak. (I know this doesn’t sound very progressive of me)”, I’d expect the responses to be along the lines of “yeah, you’re right, it’s not”. What I do after that is up to me, but I’m not going to say I’m RIGHT to do it and it’s fabulous and wonderful and God ordained animals for our consumption and all that. Maybe I can be a meat-eating progressive, but that doesn’t mean it’s progressive to eat meat. And the “lighten up, objectification is the least of our worries” stuff doesn’t fly. I don’t run around monitoring what everyone else does, but if they’re doing it to me it’s going to piss me off, for reasons most other women could probably understand.

    Anyway, it’s not meant to be an attack. Just saying.

  77. Lottie says:

    Natalia:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this, and find your take on the subject a refreshing change to a lot of what I see in feminist circles on the internet.

    Great post and follow up comments!

  78. Lottie says:

    Oh and you’re right, Toast’s comment was creepy, for sure.

    It’s one thing to call it creepy if that’s how you feel, but I think accusations of rape and/or calling someone a rapist because of it, is way over the line.

    Toast’s comment was clearly a light-hearted (and funny) reference to wanking. The vicious attack and accusations of rape and sexual assault were completely uncalled for. Not only that, but it seriously undermines and trivializes the terror of actual rape as well as the victims of it.

    Some people perfectly personify the stereotype of the humorless feminist. And the comments to Toast are a perfect example of why I hesitate to publicly identify as a feminist at all anymore – I don’t want to be lumped together with the ones who shriek like that over the slightest offense, real or imagined.

  79. Pingback: Kaunis kuin intiaanijumala - Eteläpääty - MTV3.fi blogit

Comments are closed.