I’d Court You If I Didn’t Have to Objectify You First

A young man can’t take the first step toward long-term love, getting a date, because he can’t separate sexual attraction from objectification.

Editor’s note: This essay does not appear to be about marriage, but only at first glance. Curt Moyer’s introspection here is essentially about his desire for lasting long-term love, of the initial, often confusing spark. It is an example of the Marriage section’s openness toward the stages of long-term romance, not merely the toil or celebration of the time we find ourselves married (or divorced). We encourage more submissions of this variety. 

I was raised by a single-mother. She raised me to not objectify women. I remember countless times watching television or films she’d note that a blonde character with large breasts was an “unrealistic portrayal of women”. She was attempting to illustrate how women can be beautiful and not conform to societal notions of what is beautiful.

But one thing my mother also taught me was the importance of not making a decision just because you need a partner in life. For a long time she dated men who had questionable morals, generally “bad boy” types. She was struggling as a single parent, and she wanted a supportive family structure to raise me. These elements lead to a lot of bad decisions and helped reinforce my current values and convictions.

I made plenty of questionable, impulsive decisions myself. From my teenage years into college, I drank alcohol, did inhalants, drank Robitussin, took hallucinogens, and smoked weed. I hated myself and believed I wasn’t worthy of a relationship. I didn’t even lose my virginity until college. For the longest time I wondered: What is wrong with me?

I quit doing all drugs—except alcohol—when I was twenty because I had developed panic disorder and crippling depression. I have worked on these problems, first with therapy and medicine, and then on my own. I am much better than I used to be, but I am still far from well-adjusted.

The problem of What is wrong with me? still lingers. I realize the truth: there isn’t anything horribly wrong with me at all. Even if there were, there is also something wrong with the world. And while this might seem like a cop-out, it isn’t—not completely.

The way we negotiate relationships, particularly sexual ones, is troubling to me. I am rather average-looking, a far cry from Casanova, but I haven’t had sex in five years and haven’t been in a relationship in six. Am I asexual? Doubtful. My peers see this as weird or strange, and I would argue it certainly isn’t “normal” behavior. I have my justifications.

For example, I cannot hit on a girl without feeling sleazy. Conscious of feminism, I know females get hit on quite a bit; it has to be quite annoying to walk around with the constant, unwanted anticipation of being hit on. More importantly, I feel I cannot hit on a girl because I must objectify her, if even in a minute degree. And I certainly don’t want to send the wrong signal. Being a guy, particularly one so impassioned, I constantly get misread as only wanting sex. And this is simply not true. I’ve made a conscious choice, a moral decision, to not use people for their sex organs, and to value a woman as a person before I even think about sex. Yet somehow, people are moving in and out of relationships all around me while I stay put.

This is what I am referring to when I say there is something wrong with the world. There seems to be no point of moral conflict for a ‘normal’ person; people hook up and go about their business like nothing happened, all the time. But I am an “all or nothing” guy, with a desire to have sex mean something. I’ve had one-night stands and I find them completely taxing for multiple reasons: I’m not into the act itself because I have no emotional connection with the female (and the sex suffers for both parties); I don’t like having an ethical crisis after we go our separate ways; and I am very conscious of the risk of contracting an STI.

See, for me, it doesn’t matter if there is a mutuality between the two parties. We are people not robots. We have emotional responses even if we try to divorce ourselves from them.

The way courting and pursuing sexual relationships is set up is disheartening. I’ve heard it described as constantly “trying people out” until you stumble upon the right one. This seems too morally reprehensible. People should not be treated as doormats to sexual goals, but as people (this is basic Kantian “means to an end” ethics).

And so am I supposed to be single the rest of my life because of a moral conundrum? The attitude I currently have is preventing my getting a date or having a sexual relationship with a woman. Am I to change my attitude? Then how do I reconcile my morality? Through mutuality? Do I just turn it off? Is there something I’m missing? What, finally, is wrong with me?

Photo by yinghai

About Curt Moyer

Curt Moyer is an MFA student at New Mexico State. Read a poem of his here: linkity text


  1. Right on Curt! Someone who shares my same morals. I often laugh that I will never have a relationship or sex again because of these morals. It’s hard for a gal to find an upstanding guy that wants to find out first if there’s a connection, let alone sex. I also won’t have sex until an STD test is shared (mutually). I decided to take down my match account because all it attracted were horney narcissits. One went as far as to grab my boob on the second date! HELLO! The art of courting is all but dead.

  2. I am a feminist and I think sex-negative feminism is the worst thing that happened to human sexuality since religion!

    We are all sexual individuals. It’s just part of us! But just because you can appreciate someone’s looks, does not mean you can’t appreciate their brains and the rest! Go talk to those women, you have the right to do that and they might like you!

  3. Rich Krzyzanowski says:

    I think Celeste hit the nail on the head. Just don’t hit on women. Talk to them. Be curious about them. Ask questions. Respond to them. I went on a bit of a celibate streak for similar reasons. What I found is that if you can approach a conversation with a woman without any sexual energy attached to it, the probability of a real connection goes way up! When you start finding real connections with people, attraction will flourish and a relationship is right around the corner from there. So keep your head up. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Smile. Be honest and vulnerable. And have fun; your worst case scenario is that your situation doesn’t change and you’ve talked to a bunch of women who you may or may not be attracted to, but you will have learned from the experience of talking to all of them.

    Good luck, brother,

  4. One thing I’ve noticed over the years (especially in job interviews) is that people pick up on your demeanor and believe whatever superficial messages it sends. So, if you don’t believe you are a worthwhile person, other people will see it and many of them will believe that you believe you are less valuable because you actually are less valuable. This is completely false but it’s probably contributing to your difficulty getting a girl.

    Being painfully aware of objectification can be very crippling, I feel it when I’m not trying to be a bigot around other marginalized groups and I get pretty uncomfortable because I’m just sure that I’m going to say and do something stupid.

    So in an attempt to help I have some suggestions.

    Gain friends first:. But make a concerted effort to “just” be friends. branch out in their body types and personalities, check over everything to make sure you’re not thinking less of a girl just because she isn’t stereo typically beautiful. -Why it will help- It will give you something to think about that might productively help you to overcome objectifying women and therefore overcome your fear of objectifying women also once you’re her friend, it will be a lot easier to know her.

    Don’t worry about the friend zone: As far as I am concerned the single best group of people that a person can search for long-term partners in is the friend group. Yes, many girls don’t see it that way, but I guarantee, if there is chemistry there (and she is emotionally/mentally stable enough to listen to her soul) she will know if she wants to date you. A lot of the time, as you relax, she may notice that process and her opinion of you will change as you grow emotionally.

    As for how to talk to a girl without feeling sleazy: Focus on consent! It literally fixes just about every problem that society has toward women (and also men). Because a lot of women are skittish (for good reason), you might get told “No” a lot, but if while hitting on a girl, you take extra steps to let her know that you respect her decision no matter what it will go leagues toward making her feel more comfortable and making you feel less sleazy.

    Best of luck :)

  5. Yeah, I fear that my teen son will end up doing similar mental gymnastics some day.

    Here’s the thing, being attracted to someone isn’t objectifying them. Having chemistry, being excited to be in their company, is a good thing. Sex is a good thing! Enjoying each other through via consensual sex is okay, more than okay.

    Look at a someone to fulfill your needs, whatever those needs are, is objectification. What you’ve described doesn’t sound at all like that.

    The fact that you think about women and sex in such a healthy way give me hope. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Wes Carr says:

    Do some reading on Men Going Their Own Way, or MGTOW. Also look up Zeta Masculinity. You don’t have to forfeit the game, but you don’t have to play it by someone else’s rules either.

  7. Showing interest is not objectifying women, being caught up in a conundrum about how unfair it is to persue women is objectifying. This is taking the equality out of courting.


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