When men lust after women, it doesn’t just creep women out. Objectification hurts men, too.
I was encouraged to think of men in a similar way that men are so often encouraged to think of women: as sexual objects. It was fun … and then it was painful, weird, disempowering and alienating. And I realized that’s how many men end up feeling, all the time.
We should all know better than to reduce someone to the sum of their parts. But when social norms offer a tantalizing opportunity to get our lust on, it’s easy to just … go with it. Growing up constantly bombarded by the message that women are sexually exciting, men without the guidance or the life experience to know better yet are likely to see women as playthings and pretty pictures. Objectifying women sexually is so normal in our culture that some men may not even realize they’re doing it.
And it’s incredibly damaging … for the men.
The Energy of Attraction
Sexual attraction is the magnetic pull between yin and yang energies in people. These are traditionally gendered, but attraction is gender neutral; my yang could be attracting the shit out of some guy’s yin. We all have both, in varying degrees. Similarly, men aren’t the only ones doing the objectifying, and women aren’t the only ones being objectified. Any person can objectify any other.
I’ve objectified men. When Men in Kilts, a window cleaning company, was kiltily cleaning my windows, I felt the energy of attraction. They wear kilts, and cheeky T-shirts that say “No Peeking”. Which made me want to peek. So. Bad. These were average guys, not muscular or tall or especially handsome. But there I was, looking at them like kilty pieces of man flesh on the meat market of desire. That’s because I was actively looking at them sexually.
Engaging with another person as a sexual object, seeing them with lustful eyes, looking at them as a sexual being first and foremost creates an energy of attraction where none may have been otherwise.
However the energy of attraction is created, that energy forms a bond. That’s the first part of why objectification is so vile, the part we already know: it is genuinely violating to be objectified.
But the person who feels the bond the strongest, who’s therefore most likely to be hurt by it, is the person who is lusting, who is turned on, who sees this incredibly sexy beautiful person and wants them so badly they could die. Objectifying someone creates that energy, fuels that bond, making it grotesquely powerful and consuming.
One Way Attraction
When I objectified those bekilted men, I realized just how powerful that bond can feel for the person doing the objectifying. I felt comfortable with these guys, even though we hadn’t said a word to each other. I felt a familiarity, as if the attraction were mutual, as if we were both in on it.
Though these men may not have felt anything for me at all, may not even have noticed me, and I wasn’t actually attracted to either of them, looking at them with lust made me feel that I had a tacit right to have whatever interactions with them that I wanted, because it felt like we had already established a relationship. I felt entitled to them, in some way. I mean, we feel entitled to be close to the people we feel close to, right?
All because their shirts said No Peeking, because they were presented to me as objects, there to please me. It happened in an instant, I didn’t mean it to happen, and believe me; I really should know better.
It was truly shocking for me to discover these things happening within myself, and if I didn’t have a deep, mindful meditation practice, I may not have noticed … let alone been able to name what was happening, and do something about it. All of this goes back to seeing others with our hearts instead of our heads, which truly helps us understand real attraction … which this was not.
The Loneliness of Lust
Is this how some men feel about women all the time? Bonded with women who barely notice them, lonely in lust, hungry for love?
I noticed the beauty and sexiness in these average looking guys far more than I notice sexiness when I’m out walking around. And I genuinely believe that men are beautiful—I’m extremely attracted to men. If I was encouraged to look at men as sexual objects all the time, as men are encouraged to look at women by advertising, video games, etc; would my relationship to strangers of the male gender involve that same sense of entitlement-based-on-shared-experience, that same I looked at you and you looked nice and I liked it, we are both in on this, we are connected now? As our culture changes and encourages women to look at men this way, will women suffer the same heartbreaking fate?
This would explain why guys are always coming up to women they think are beautiful, even if that woman thinks she’s giving off ‘don’t approach me’ rays. She may very well be doing so, but a guy may be overcome by the powerful energetic bond he feels with her, and not notice them. Even if he’s a well intentioned, kind, thoughtful guy.
Those guys who just don’t know better yet, who are hungry for a connection, yearning for the energetic exchange of sex and of love, who are thwarted and confused, are operating at a serious disadvantage. They think there’s already a connection; they may even be overwhelmed by that connection.
When the woman they have invested so much energy in turns them down, they’re genuinely hurt, angry and sad. They’re baffled and don’t know how to do better, and are extremely vulnerable to corrupt, money-making ventures like PUA, which preys on men plagued not just by loneliness, but by shame and self-hatred and low self-esteem, and which perpetuates the cycle of objectification necessary to its worldview.
I’m not trying to excuse sexual harassment, sexual objectification, or claim that either of those things are always gendered.
I am saying that the heartbreak of men is important, that their happiness is as important as anyone’s, even if they have been led astray by advertising that uses their loneliness, shame and lust as fuel, even if they’ve internalized the messages of entitlement that underlie so much of our culture’s views of sexuality, and unknowingly bring those messages into their relationships with real human women.
All of those things hurt them very deeply. Those are the costs of sexual objectification for the person doing the objectifying. They are incredibly high.
Sex with Humans
The thing is, having Men with Kilts around was fun. Feeling sexually stimulated, seeing the sexiness in others, all of it is fun. Sexual attraction is fun. That’s why we like it so much. It’s fun and satisfying and fundamental to who we are. But sexual attraction is not dependent on objectification. For a lot of people raised in our crazy culture, it may feel like it is; like you can’t lust for someone unless you lust for their parts. That just isn’t the case.
What we all really want and need is so much more than a jerk off. That’s the reason there are so many jokes about the self-loathing and emptiness that comes with watching porn, and why they get so many laughs. There is a profound energetic and spiritual component to everything we do; the exchange of energy is fundamental to our experience of sexuality, especially satisfying sexuality.
We don’t really want to have sex with objects, with tits and ass, with mannequins. Even though it’s scary, we want to have sex with full, complex, sometimes crazy, always beautiful, humans.
From the Heart,
Photo—Peter O’Connor aka anemone projectors’s photostream/Flickr