It is not often that we think of men as being subject to objectification, as the term is mostly reserved for women. We typically think of objectification of as the way that women are portrayed and used as sex objects.
And while this is an accurate interpretation of objectification, as the sexual objectification of women is pervasive in our culture and media, the full definition of objectification is more expansive.
Objectification is when we treat someone as a function in order to get our needs met, while disregarding their individual needs. Men most certainly do this to women. But women do it to men, too.
When we, as women, objectify men, we are dehumanizing them because we want something from them. We are failing to see them as individuals with individual needs.
And when we objectify men, we are not conducting ourselves in a way that is in our own best interest. We are failing to take care of our own needs in a healthy, emotionally mature way, and we are lacking the appropriate boundaries we need in order to keep ourselves safe.
These are three main ways that women objectify men, along with what we should do instead, and what red flags to look out for.
1. Pushing Him for Early Commitment
It takes time to really get to know someone. People are typically on their best behavior in the beginning stages of dating. And though there are many valid reasons why someone would want to be in a committed relationship, jumping into a committed relationship with a man before taking the time to fully vet him carries the risk of becoming involved in an unhealthy relationship.
When we’re laser focused on the idea of a relationship, we often are not actually seeing the man with whom we are trying to have a relationship with. We don’t like him as a person as much as we like the idea of him. We have a need for a relationship, and we want that man to fill the need, before we truly know who he is.
This is objectification.
We may be so caught up in excitement and passion that we’re not pausing to evaluate character and alignment. We may feel a strong initial attraction, chemistry, and connection, but often we are feeling the familiar pull of our unhealed wounds.
While I do think that two emotionally healthy people who have strong boundaries and are very connected to themselves, may quickly “know” they have met the right person, I believe this is rare.
It is more likely that the unhealthy parts of ourselves along with a desire for validation and safety are driving the need for a defined relationship. We feel unworthy, unsafe and uncomfortable while we sit, undefined, in the getting to know you stage.
And therefore we push for commitment, unconsciously believing that commitment will heal our wounds and bring us a feeling of worthiness and a sense of safety. And maybe babies, too, if that’s what we’re after.
It is reasonable for someone to want to spend time getting to know a person before becoming committed, or moving to higher levels of commitment. If we disregard this valid need to move slowly because we believe our need for a relationship takes higher priority, we are objectifying the other person.
This does not apply to “situationships” or other circumstances where a man is stringing us along and tossing out breadcrumbs. Those are the cases where the best solution is not to continuously push for a relationship, or to give it more time, but to cut him off and look for someone else who is open to the possibility of a real relationship.
The key to this is equipping ourselves with the ability to discern if the man is capable of having a real relationship with us, and more importantly, if he is someone with whom we want to have a relationship with.
Do we really like him as he truly is, in his full humanity, flaws and all? Or do we just like the idea of him we have in our head, and who we want him to be?
When we value ourselves and feel safe within ourselves, we can easily discern who is a good fit and who is not.
Before we open ourselves up to commitment with someone, we should be asking ourselves numerous questions, including:
- Do his actions match his words?
- Does he consistently treat me with kindness and respect?
- Is he honest?
- Does he listen?
- Does he communicate well?
- Does he handle disagreements with emotional maturity while also taking responsibility for his emotions and behaviors?
- Does he respect my boundaries?
- Does he make me a priority?
- Is he supportive of my dreams and goals?
- Are our goals and values aligned?
When you choose to evaluate someone this way, the “getting to know” stage will become an important stage for you, and you will lose the sense of urgency to jump into commitment before learning the answers. You will get your mind out of the future and into the present.
As a woman, it puts you in a safe space of your own design. If you start to see answers you don’t like, then you know you should step away sooner rather than later. It is easier to walk away from someone before commitment than after commitment.
Trying to Change Him
I believe that we should always be working to improve ourselves, and we should always be treating each other with respect. But there is a difference between becoming a better version of yourself and changing the essence of who you are.
When a man isn’t behaving the way we want him to, we might try to change him into the person who we want him to be. We take our own expectations that he never agreed to meet, and we try to force him to meet them.
Instead of accepting responsibility for our expectations, we make our expectations his responsibility.
We are trying to change the core of who he is to better suit what we want in a partner.
This is objectification.
It is very painful to be on the receiving end of this type of objectification, and it is a type of behavior that will destroy the foundation of a relationship, as it erodes safety and trust and builds resentment.
When we try to change a man, we are sending him the message that we do not accept him. We are telling him that there is something wrong with him, and he is not ok the way he is.
An intimate relationship should be a safe and supportive space where you are fully seen and accepted for who you are. You see your partner in all their flawed humanity, and you accept him as a separate individual with separate needs, interests, opinions, goals, and quirks.
This does not mean accepting poor behavior. If someone is treating us poorly, we should walk away.
But if the issue is simply that someone is not meeting our expectations, we may determine that our expectations are unreasonable. Or we may determine that there is a compatibility issue.
When we try to change someone, we are taking responsibility for something that is not ours. And we are most likely avoiding our own issues by focusing on changing another. This is co-dependence.
This behavior is hurtful to the other person and is also indicative that we have our own healing to do. When we try to change or control others, it is often because we lack an internal sense of safety within ourselves. We do not trust ourselves to keep ourselves safe, and we will try to gain a sense of safety outside of ourselves by attempting to control other people or circumstances.
Our well-being is like a pie. A relationship is a slice of that pie and should make us happier than we were before. But it is our responsibility to fill the rest of the pie ourselves, and to make ourselves happy so that we are not overly dependent on one person for our happiness.
There are certain needs that can only be met within a relationship. But often we take the needs we should be meeting ourselves and put them on other people. A healthy relationship is one of interdependence, which is the healthy balance between dependence and independence.
When we hand over a significant portion of our happiness to someone else, we are giving our power away. But when we take responsibility for meeting our own needs and see a relationship as a way to add to our already existing happiness, we are in a much better space to evaluate if our expectations are reasonable.
Alternatively, our desire to attempt to change someone can exist because we jumped into a relationship before we really got to know the person. Once the initial butterflies wore off, we realized that there was a lack of compatibility and alignment, and we are trying to force something that is not meant to be.
Disregarding His Need for Space
In her books, “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain,” Louann Brizendine writes about the inherent biological and physiological differences between men and women. The major differences are driven by hormones, and also by structural differences between male and female brains.
Men and women do not process emotions the same way. Us women are feeling creatures. We often love to talk about our emotions, and we can sometimes do this for hours on end.
The typical heterosexual male does not love to talk about his emotions. The idea of endlessly talking about emotions the way women do doesn’t make sense to a man. And it feels like torture.
Instead, he loves to retreat to a space of no pressure, where he can process through things on his own.
Men desire space for many reasons, but a main reason is to decompress. As women, we too may decompress by taking space, especially if we are introverted, but often we decompress by talking and connecting. Therefore, we can interpret a man’s desire for space as an affront against us, when it actually has nothing to do with us.
If we have an anxious attachment style or a fear of abandonment, we may become triggered by a man’s healthy need for space, and then act out in dysfunctional behavior patterns.
What we are doing is operating out of our wounding and prioritizing our needs over his. We are expecting him to be meeting a need within us that we should be meeting ourselves. And we are invalidating his valid need.
This is objectification.
There is a difference between a man having a healthy need for space vs. a man being selfish, neglectful, and avoiding responsibilities.
If we find ourselves triggered by a man’s need for space, we should first look within ourselves by reflecting on what needs are not being met and then by managing the emotions that are coming up.
Do we need external validation due to a lack of self-love that we are trying to source from outside of us? How can we give ourselves the love that we are seeking?
Or is this a situation where the man has a pattern of behaving in ways that are selfish and neglectful?
The most beneficial thing for us to do is to focus on our own healing. When we are healed and whole, we will be able to discern if the man’s behavior is healthy or unhealthy.
We will be ok with a partner needing a healthy amount of space. And we will be turned off by a partner who is selfish and neglectful.
When we are unhappy in relationships, our first focus should be on ourselves. We need to ensure that we are emotionally healthy and taking care of our own needs. This is how we show love to ourselves, create a sense of safety within ourselves, and eliminate maladaptive validation seeking behaviors.
When we are whole, happy, healthy, and meeting our own needs, we will not engage in objectifying behaviors. We can easily discern if a man’s behavior is healthy or unhealthy. We can then either accept his behavior, or we can reject his behavior and ultimately decide that the pairing is not a good match.
If we find ourselves engaging in the objectifying behaviors listed above, we need to acknowledge that what we are doing is hurtful to the man and also hurtful to ourselves.
If we are attempting to get a man to meet the needs we need to meet ourselves, and we have not enacted the boundaries we need to keep ourselves safe, we are caught in a pattern of self-abandonment and self-betrayal.
It is in our own best interest to work through these patterns in order to establish a foundation for our own emotional health and for emotionally healthy relationships.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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