Ozy Frantz discusses what is and is not sexual objectification, and how common stereotypes about it are rooted in misandrist assumptions.
Via Feministe, we have a really startling example of misandry from some gentleman at Aggie Catholics:
Something I never really wanted to post about, but feel I have to, because I don’t think that young women quite understand the problem.
Yesterday when I logged onto Facebook, I had several pictures of college co-eds in bathing suits, who are friends on Facebook, come up on my feed. In response, I posted the following on Facebook as my status:
“A note to young women on Facebook, from a guy who works with young men struggling with pornography…you might look good in your bathing suit, but if you were able to see yourself through 20 year-old male eyes, which are struggling to see you as a human and not an object, you would never post that pic. Just a thought.”
In my opinion, this is one of the more common slurs against male sexuality, commonly created by people who do not understand the concept of “objectification”– that men looking at women sexually are inherently objectifying them.
Objectification means treating a person as an object– i.e., as the opposite of a subject. Think of it like grammar: a subject goes about doing things (in the technical term, it has “agency”); an object has things done to it. For a long time in Western culture women have been treated as objects: the damsel in distress is rescued but does not do much herself, and could generally be replaced with a piece of paper that says MacGuffin on it for all she contributes to the plot.
How does this relate to sex? Sometimes people are treated as “sex objects.” That is, they are passive things to be looked at or have acts performed on them; they themselves have no sexual agency, no ability to choose. I will now provide a helpful guide to things that are and are not objectifying.
Not Objectification: Finding a person attractive.
Objectification: Finding a person’s attractiveness to be the only important thing about a person.
Not Objectification: Having mutualistic, enthusiastic, enjoyable sex.
Objectification: Using another person as a glorified masturbation aid.
Not Objectification: Establishing a relationship, whether casual or committed, with another person.
Objectification: Viewing another person as an annoying impediment to access to their genitalia.
It is important to note that most people who are sexually objectifying are (a) complete douches and (b) not that good in bed.
However, what this gentleman is assuming is that male sexuality is inherently objectifying. That is, that men by definition are incapable of viewing women as people, as opposed to as sexual objects.
I don’t know about you, but I presume that when most people who are attracted to ladies see a picture of a hot lady in a bikini, their reaction is “I would like to engage in mutually pleasurable sex with her!” With kink this gets a little more complicated, but even so it almost always boils down to “I would like to engage in mutually pleasurable sex that looks like it isn’t to an outside observer with her!” or even “I would like to fantasize about engaging in sex that is not mutually pleasurable with her, but if we ever had sex I would like to engage in mutually pleasurable sex with her!” I feel this is the normal person way to go about things.
However, in our culture male sexuality is often viewed as “predatory,” as “degrading,” as “creepy.” Sometimes this gets to the line of rape apologia, as when people suggest that women ought to not wear short skirts or flirt or make out lest men, unable to control themselves, be driven to rape them. (Oddly, these are often the sort of people who think that feminists think that all men are rapists.) And because people live down to low expectations, all too often male sexuality becomes perverted from its natural form into predation.
In this schema, a man looking at a woman in a bikini has to think of her as a pussy with a flap of skin around it. As soon as the penis turns on, the ability to treat women as human beings turns off. The only way men can respect women for their minds and personalities as well as their bodies is for women to dress “modestly,” a word with an ever-changing definition that generally means “a skirt two inches longer than the one you’re wearing.” No man is ever able to treat a woman in a bikini as anything more than a hole to be fucked.
I hope I don’t have to explain how misandric that is.
Side note: One of the commenters on the Feministe post links to a study on objectification cited by the gentleman from Aggie Catholics. What the study actually shows is that men with high levels of hostile sexism tend to objectify women. This tells you some interesting things about that gentleman’s psyche (i.e. he assumes that all men have high levels of hostile sexism) and is also something that would clearly not be predicted by feminist ideas at all. (Note: the previous sentence may contain sarcasm.)