Why Men Objectify Women

“When I check out women, what is really going on with me? Is it just normal because I’m a heterosexual guy that likes women?” Jayson Gaddis explores objectification.

I get this question a lot and it’s one I’ve explored for years. “Why do we (men) objectify women so much?” Sometimes men will follow that question up with “And, what can I do about it?” (sure, women objectify men too, but that’s not what this post is about).

I posted this question on my facebook wall and got quite the range of responses. I included a few short responses below and the longer, stand-out responses I have included at the bottom of this post if you are interested.

A few men also asked me to define objectification, which to me seems prudent. So, we’ll start there.

Defining Objectification in the context of this blog post:

Objectify:  To stare, gawk, or check out women and their bodies and body parts. To see them as objects (instead of real people) and to think of them in a sexual way.

A guy named Alex added,

“I think what we are calling “objectification” is its own line of development and that “picturing myself fucking her,” is a limited sliver of what the interpenetrating faculties which cause a man’s bodymind to go there can actually unfold into.”  

In other words, Alex is pointing out that how we define objectification will depend on where we are psychologically/spiritually/developmentally in life.

Here are some classic male responses to the question that I have received from the boys and men I’ve worked with for over twenty years:

  1. It’s biology
  2. Because we just want to have sex
  3. Because I’m a guy
  4. I’m an animal, I’m supposed to want to have sex with every woman I see.
  5. I’m just horny
  6. It’s normal male behavior
  7. I don’t objectify women…

Then, here are some more sophisticated responses I got on facebook:

  1. “To avoid the terror of annihilation — being reabsorbed back into the feminine. To avoid kicking up unhealed dependencies on mother.” –RF
  2. “I objectify women cause it’s “safer”. I receive an immediate gratification, a thrill if you will, albeit superficial, it does keep me safe at least for a time, (and I will jump in with Richard here) from annihilation — from a treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability — the risk of being really seen and connected with– or actually rejected!! Yes, that’s it — it’s an avoidance of rejection… Intimacy takes a lot of work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an “easy” road out of the potential of rejections — at least for the moment. A slice of breathing room if you will, though illusory and ultimately unfulfilling and painful — it’s still or at least has been a strange sort of unconscious haven for me…” –R.
  3. “I’m stuck in the belief that that feminine essence is outside of myself. I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being. That sexy, juicy, radiant paradise is not inside myself, therefore it’s an object I obsess about outside myself and I treat it like entertainment. This insight leads me to believe I haven’t spent enough time balancing the relationship with My (whole) Self.”
  4. “First of all, I love this thread. I feel no shame in my feelings of lust for women. I suppose that if I thought they were ONLY good for sex, that would be an issue. I have an beautiful wife, and I have two daughters. I love women. they are an inextricable part of my life. I love what these women bring to my world. but god, I love looking at women. they’re just amazing. It’s part of my biological make up to think that they’re beautiful. Is that objectifying them? Maybe, maybe not. I just love them. and at some point men will have the same feelings for my daughters. If that comes with a respect for the beautiful people that they are, then I think that lust is part of a beautiful package.” –KB
  5. My personal response? “Because I’m avoiding something.” I unpack this down below…

Is there any truth to the first lists above? Sure, and in my experience men who have done personal work on themselves and have the ability to self-reflect and take ownership have more insightful responses. They know there’s more going on in the picture.

So when I check out women, what is really going on with me? Is it just normal because I’m a heterosexual guy that likes women?

I took this question to my personal therapy many times. I was never satisfied with my therapist’s response, so then I took it to the meditation cushion and my male friends. I contemplated it for many months and had many, many discussions with my male friends and mentors. Our aim was to get underneath to the deeper truth going on.

Here’s what I/we came up with:

1. Nature

Yes indeed men want to procreate and plant our seed, so naturally we look for mates constantly. True. Biology is indeed a factor. We are indeed animals. It’s in our DNA to want to have sex and be sexual with other human beings. We will objectify the sex we are attracted to and it’s perfectly normal and okay. In fact, it can even be glorious, alive, fun, and enjoyable.

2. Nurture

The next thing to note is that men are conditioned to objectify women. It’s ain’t just nature working here. In men’s culture, it’s acceptable to objectify women. Men bond around it.

And, the less developed a man is, the more animal-like and unconscious his behavior will be toward women. In other words, for guys who have very little ability to self reflect or a limited self-awareness, they live seeing the entire world as object where they can get something, rather than seeing object as a relational interplay.

For example, marketing companies prey on men who are stuck in their animal brain. We are taught over and over to see women as objects. I can barely go on any male-focused website now without being hit at some point by a tiny, physically attractive, disproportioned airbrushed woman looking at me. Someone took the Hooters business model and applied it everywhere to everything. Seriously.

And, it’s pervasive and all around us. Notice where men buy stuff, there are often photos of women present.

3. Pain Avoidance

Here comes the deeper cut. I objectify women because I feel a hole in me and I want to fill that hole. For example, I notice that I find myself checking out women when I feel like shit. I’m in a funk, bad mood, triggered, and most importantly, disconnected. It happens almost always when I had stuff to feel deep down that I simply didn’t want to feel.

Take R.F.’s comment,

“As I have sat with it a little longer, the simple answer is that I feel it will make me feel better. If i am feeling some sort of unrest within myself, I will seek to get something from “her”, to “suck her beauty” in some way; And that will somehow feed me / nourish me, and help me get me by for a time…”

My own experience?

Yes, I love beautiful women and I appreciate them in an ongoing way. This experience feels good in me and I feel alive. I do this with anyone I find beautiful, from a small child, to men and women, to folks that are eighty years old. I appreciate their human beauty and specific characteristics. And, when it doesn’t feel good or it feels off, that’s my cue that something else is going on.

When I used porn semi-frequently, I was doing so whenever I was disconnected from myself. When I’ve had lovers in the past, I would be most interested in sex with them when I was feeling flat and in a funk. I had no tools back then to feel my pain, so sex most often helped take the edge off a little bit and it helped me connect to myself again and even connect to my partner again. Similarly, one of the main reasons why so many men surf porn is because it’s a temporary stress reliever. It’s medication.

Since I used to suck at feeling my feelings and I was emotionally constipated (due to my conditioning), I resorted to the limited tool belt I had; stuffing, distracting, avoiding, masking, hiding, masturbation, fucking, or projecting it outward through blame.

So objectifying women is temporarily helpful for me when I want relief, even though it’s comes at a cost and it ultimately doesn’t help me in the long term.

I also noticed that it ultimately doesn’t feel good. It certainly doesn’t feel good for women (I’ve asked many times). In relationship workshops I lead, women often give the men feedback about how painful it is to be on the receiving end of their stares, looks, peeks, and glances. Women know when a man is checking them out. While some women report they are okay with it and even like it, the majority of the women I interface with are not cool with dudes staring at their body alone. They also want to be seen for who they really are.

How to do this differently

Explore the cost. Remember that objectifying women isn’t bad or wrong. It just comes at a cost. It’s up to each of us to figure out what that cost is. Get honest about the cost. For me it is just medication and food for my ego.

When I’m in pain or avoiding feeling something, I default to habits such as objectifying women. That doesn’t mean it’s okay or not okay. You be the judge of whether it works for you and your relationships to women. Ask the women in your life and get a range. Ask mature women, older women, younger women, and ask your partner.  Ask them what the impact of what your behavior is like for them.

Get connected. When I objectify women, it’s because I feel disconnected, less present, less in my heart, and less in my body. The remedy is simple now. Get back in my body and heart. Connect to me, all of me. This requires I meditate, connect to someone I love and slow down. It requires I feel what is going on deep down inside of me.

Appreciation. Once I get connected to me again, I notice how I can appreciate a beautiful woman and I’m in my body, connected to my heart. It has a totally different quality. She feels it and I feel it.

What about you? What is your relationship to objectification?


Here are a few other unedited shares from the awesome facebook thread:

D. said…

“Why do I “objectify”? It’s a loaded term for me as well and I’ve felt a good deal of shame about it for a while. Still do to an extent. I like to think of it as a form of appreciation. Appreciation for a woman’s physical traits that for whatever reason I’m energetically drawn to. Yes, I can “lose myself” in it for a while, and I’m noticing a little charge for me there as I say that. Like its easier for me to shame myself there before anyone else can (not saying they will… just my projection). And yeah, what I’ve found works best for me so far is being a yes to everything in my own experience and in what’s happening AND at some point in my development simply realizing that objectification is not enough for me. I love appreciating and experiencing another human being for more than just her physical traits. What I prefer physically doesn’t in itself inspire me to want to connect with a woman, and doesn’t in itself have me feel attracted. The attraction and inspiration simply are there or not independent of how she looks.”

J said…

“If I may add… we objectify women for the same reason women objectify men: to be able to see our personal fantasies in them.”

G.C. said…

“it happens in the hungry ghost realm I live in most of the time…..for me its about seeking approval, biological instincts, unmet needs, and grasping for wholeness outside myself…….the most fun and exciting and ego gratifying times in my life have been when i have embraced it and danced with it and gave myself permission to play with the illusions, projections, feelings, etc……..”

M. said…

“When I objectify a woman, I am not ignoring that there is more than her body, I am just filling up the rest of my perception of her with my fantasy of her.”

S.P (a woman) said…

“I don’t know any women who don’t like being appreciated! (I consider “admired and desired” as part of appreciation) as long as it is grounded in reality, not based purely on projection, and from a place of wholistic seeing. Some women feel scared of it, or long for it but don’t know how to take it in, or push it away because it has come with strings in the past, or push it away because it comes with strings in the present (the other person’s need for approval, the other person’s need for something to be fulfilled in them etc.). But underneath all this, I believe it is safe to say that all women (and in fact all people!) have a basic human desire and need to be wanted, appreciated, and loved! Some generalizations are just true! :)”

JB said…

“The thing I just discovered was that the women I would typically objectify were the hardest ones for me to understand completely. They seem to have the thickest mask which triggered my desire penetrate that mask.

The next thing I noticed was how easily such a mysterious woman could fit into my ideal partner that I subconsciously created as a child. This was my “Fairy Tale Fantasy” about how such an ideal women would behave and believe about herself. Typically, the “exterior beautiful” women would trigger this belief because I had assumed they must be special and I wouldn’t have to completely let go of my fantasy.

My fantasy would then project this image onto her and I would react to that image. The image had a belief that these women would always be honest and had a much higher level of personal integrity than me. That would keep me in a cycle of self judgment in comparison to this belief which triggered me to hide behind my mask even stronger.

The other part was my unwillingness to believe that someone would have good intentions toward me if I had good intentions toward them. That made it easier for me to dismiss their “bad” behavior as being an unintentional mistake. In turn, I could continue to have this running story going on about them that had no foundation in truth simply because of my unwillingness to see past their mask and see them as a real person.

The answer for me was to stop trying to get this woman but use that energy to make myself the best possible me I could become. A me that now has confidence because I am self assured, self respecting, and full of self accepting unconditional love. Part of becoming that man means that I must accept and own the truth of my motives and be willing to see the motives of others. That is when I was finally able to let go of the fantasy and see this woman for who she really is inside.

My biggest life breakthrough and victory came as a result of that growth. Once I saw this woman for her true self and fully let go of my fantasy about her, I no longer felt any desire for her.

As a result, something incredible is happening to me now. Something wonderful has started growing in the void where my fantasy use to live. It’s a genuine curiosity and appreciation for all woman. Especially for all the women who actually live and display their authentic self and freely give their love to all as an expression of their femininity.

I no longer see women as a simple desired object constructed in my fantasy that I need to get, I have only appreciation of all of her (both good and bad). I now know that if I trust myself to drop my mask and reveal all of myself, most women will follow my lead and appreciate me for having the courage to create a safe place for her to let herself go.

I now see these amazing women everywhere in my life where I could not before. The fact is that they have been there all along, providing me their example as living models of what I have been seeking in my life. Until that time, I had never really appreciated them for that love and the joy they bring to my world.

To all of you who have watched me struggle with this, Here is a heart felt thank you for your patients, encouragement, and support for me to let go and wake up.”

V. (a woman) said…

“Love the discussion here. Thanks Jayson. I have a passion for this subject. I believe that society offers to us the message that if there is deep connection or even attraction, then its MUST BE expressed in a romantic manner. Thus “the Romantic Myth”. What this robs us of is experiencing each other deeply, honoring each other as sexual beings, but not having to act on that or “objectify” each other. It is sad when the expression “Just friends” is used. We are robbing each other of the depth of connection that can be experienced in the most honoring way. I especially experience this as a married woman who is open hearted, committed to honoring my husband, and yet have experienced deep, meaningful connection with male friends. I stand strong when romantic feelings are expressed and am not surprised the way our culture programs us. I’ve said, “I do not feel the same way. But I am not running away. I honor your processing of it.” Some have run feeling like there is no room… thus if it can’t be romantic then there is no other option. But the closest friends have processed through what it means to respect, honor and not “objectify” and have a safe place to be. Many of the men I work with love that I can express appreciation and yet never desire… they show up more powerfully in the world walking in a new level of honor for themselves. Also, importantly these relationships are an expansion of the marriage rather than outside of the marriage. This has been a big journey for my husband and I. But as we’ve grown we have learned what loving others can really look like regardless of gender. So the answer to When Harry Met Sally, can men and women be friends without ending up in bed (if there is attraction), the answer is yes. Wisdom, emotional and spiritual maturity, and transparency, all must exist, no doubt. But the safety of rich friendship, without objectification, is such a gift.”

photo of surprised man looking through binoculars: Shutterstock.com.



About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, host of The Smart Couple Podcast, is THE breakthrough marriage and relationship coach for smart, successful, people. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, Digital Romance, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, & Elephant Journal. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or sign up for this month's free training If Your Man Unavailable or Shut Down. You can also become a fan on Facebook here: Jayson Gaddis Fan Page.


  1. So heres how i see it. Theres a big diff between being a guy and objectifying. Being a guy: you see something you like you glance and its all good. For me i expect this from men. And it doesnt bother me if it happens to me or my bf takes a glance at the lady in the store. Its normal. Now objectifying: starring and drooling like your about to molest them is gross. And quite scary for us. It instills an immediate fear that that guy might try and kidnap you or something. Grunting and standing way too close and gawking for long times is very unsettling.
    We women know men are going to look. But its how YOU CHOOSE to look is the key. Youre at a store, bigg breasted women walks by, hell even im gunna look. But purposely seeking out a womens body for your own gratification in a pervert in a white van way is just very disrespectful, hurtful and makes np women on the planet want to touch you or even speak to you. So look away men, but for the love of god, stop being the white van pervert. You will always get rejected.

  2. The best social scientists in the world have proven for over 50 years that it’s cultural and not biological and instinctual. They have also proven that women can be the same.

    • What are you talking about? Various fields of study have shown the phenomenon occurs naturally. It is very much biological. Stop making crap up, you are doing any good by spreading misinformation. Here is an article from “social scientist” that utterly disprove what you so ignorantly state. http://www.livescience.com/21806-brain-male-female-objectification.html

      • What are YOU talking about James?
        Let’s reread the line you are referring to in the article a little closer this time…
        “There could be evolutionary reasons that men and women process female bodies differently, Gervais said, but because both genders do it, ‘the media is probably a prime suspect.'”
        This is an example of reading what you expected to read, and it’s a great example of how much the attitude of “it’s just biology” is ingrained into western males these days. Pay attention to the words “could” and “but” in that sentence, then use them in your reinterpretation of the sentence’s meaning. The social scientist is actually saying that the likely cause is “the media” and not “evolutionary reasons”. The only reason why the Gervais mentioned a possible evolutionary cause is because she is a responsible scientist and responsible scientists never disregard theories without experimental evidence. So for the record, according to Jame’s article, James is spreading misinformation, not Shannon.

        Looking forward, the article doesn’t really tell us the cause anyway, since Gervais’ study can in no way lead to any conclusion of causality. I think the only way we can really settle this once and for all is to create an experiment where the manipulated variable is the way the media portrays women’s bodies, and the dependent variable is how much more local processing than global processing occurs within the beholders of the media when presented with images of women’s bodies. It might be a while until such an experiment occurs though, because I can’t think of a design that would not be flagged as unethical by the APA.

    • A few years ago, I read an army officer’s recollection of being sent to an area of India where it was common for women to go bare-breasted. He writes about how excited the men of his regiment were, upon hearing of this custom. The prosptect of being surrounded by bare-breasted women was entrancing, or so they thought.

      However, this was a tribe that did not regard female breasts as being sexually arousing — women swung their breasts uninhibitedly, as they went about their chores.

      The officer describes how his men gradually became accustomed to being around bare-breasted women; how the sight of female breasts came to be seen as normal and not the least bit erotic.

      I have pasted an excerpt and a link to the original blog below:

      “While cleavage visible under thin fabric or through a woman’s saree is certainly a pleasant sight for any man. In the villages of Nagaland, it was an anti climax to see dangling pairs of bare boobs, available to look at in abundance in all shapes and sizes. Initially they were a cause of some excitement, which was natural, but gradually the excitement turned into monotony. I was reminded of the words of a famous poet that the ‘beauty that is veiled looks more beautiful.”

      The blog can be read here:

      A lot of sexual stimuli are culturally shaped and differ from culture to culture.

  3. Personally, I don’t care what thoughts a strange man might be having about me. It’s none of my business. If he thinks about me in a sexual way, and it goes no further than that, it’s not a problem. It’s only when he acts on objectifying thoughts with disrespectful behavior (staring, following, crude remarks) that it becomes an issue. If he can’t respect me enough to behave with basic courtesy it is not only insulting, it’s frightening.
    As for all this the soul searching and self-recrimination from men who want to be “good” is a bit silly. There is nothing wrong with finding women attractive as long as you behave decently, and most likely, you and every man seriously reading this blog already do. Don’t take criticism that’s aimed at predatory creeps and apply it to yourself.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To my mind there are some simple answers to this:

    – Learn to disregard all the media hype and advertising that is at the root of a lot of the objectification.

    – Men and yes women as well need to do some growing up and really look at themselves.

    – Follow your heart: learn again to connect emotionally with a lady – become friends with a woman, actually talk and listen to her; become attached to her, she should be someone you actually want to be with, laugh with, hang out with, and cry with if need be.

    As an example I met the loveliest woman recently; the things that stood out for me were the facts that she was intelligent, kind, gentle and had a quiet inner peace and confidence about her; lust does not last – friendship and real companionship are in the end longer lasting. Unfortunately a developing friendship wasn’t to be (for various reasons beyond my control). But because I care that deeply about her I had to let her go – it still does not stop me from having deeply romantic feelings about her. I will always remember her.

    This to me is the simple and clear thing that it is all about; real closeness and companionship which goes way beyond the idea of objectification.

  5. And yet again a series of ‘shoulds’ or enlightened goals that one must eternally strive for. Don’t get me wrong, I love this article, but it joins a long tradition of advice giving type material of the “If only people would do … then …” sort. In this case, if only men would … then they/society.women,relationships/the world …” I can barely pass up chips let alone my highly automated responses/habits to the world.
    Basically I warm-up in such a manner depending on the context I am in and the interplay between me and that context. A gorgeous woman walking towards me as a cruise down the street – one warm-up. A beautiful woman giving my mother mouth to mouth resuscitation – another warm-up. A beautiful woman crying – yet another. A beautiful woman jeering – yet another. A beautiful woman carrying a racist sign – yet another.
    Thanks for the article.

  6. There will always be flirtation and appreciation of people that persists on a superficial or fantasy level because it can’t or “shouldn’t” go beyond that. Men and women both appreciate each other or the same gender on a superficial level and some people may or may not appreciate being viewed in that superficial way. The real issue people are trying to get at is what people are trying to gain by letting OTHERS around them know that they view people in this way, trying to feel they are “one-up” on others/above them because they can view people in a superficial/leering way and they want to be RECOGNIZED for leering/acting perverted as an ego boost for themselves or to get a rise out of other people around them. That is the issue.

  7. I’m at a loss for words at this article. This is … just… amazing in so many ways.

    These men have drank so much kool-aid they’re busting through brick walls at this point.

    A point-by-point response to Objectification Theory can be found here: https://4thwavers.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/sexual-objectification-a-response-yes-to-the-entire-theory/

  8. Men receive all the bashing for no reason. The truth is that most women think of themselves as object and merchandise. Men are attracted to women regardless of their status (or even race). But you don’t often (or never) hear a female doctor marries a male janitor or a receptionist. Women think men attentions are as good as their wallets. They think of their sexuality as a business, a part of the deal.


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  2. […] Some men wonder why they objectify women. So Jayson Gaddis asked men on his Facebook page why they thought they did, and then he wrote about it for The Good Men Project. […]

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