12. Rethinking Objectification

In my last post I mentioned how men have been trained that, if they hope to even get close to having sex with a woman, they first must prove that they desire her mind, her heart and/or her soul.  Otherwise the guy’s just a typical male with one thing on his mind. Guilty!

Underneath this mindset is the tangled issue of objectification.

Now, I’ve had great cause to reflect on this topic!  As a worker—male or female— in the sex industry you are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a sexual object.  You have chosen to be so and you are much better off if you have a healthy relationship with that fact.

Of course, to have a healthy relationship with sexual objectification requires not only an intact sense of self-worth but also— and actually even more importantly— an understanding about sex and sexuality that most of us are lacking.  And this piece goes way beyond the sex industry and deep into the wider realm of human sexual existence.  So we have to dissect this whole issue from soup to nuts.  First, we have to ask what is objectification, and then we have to ask why is it problematic.  

To answer the first question simply, Webster’s definition of objectify is:  to present as an object, especially of sight, touch, or other physical sense; make objective; externalize”.

Addressing the second question is more complex and has three parts— historical, psychological, and sexual— that have become intertwined.   

Historically, the objectification of groups of people (in order to dehumanize them) has aided ruthless ambitions, from militant oppression to slavery and genocide.  So, from a humanitarian perspective, we are highly wary of it.  In our world, because of the patriarchal treatment of females as property, women have been objectified materially and sexually, something from which we are still trying to fully recover.  Because of this history, and the valiant efforts of women’s lib, the term objectification has become culturally defined as an act of degradation, most commonly as a sexist attitude toward women.  As a result, we automatically respond with aversion and distrust at the very mention of it.

We have decided that male sexual nature innately bends towards the dangerous practice of objectification because they are the perverted sexual animals who respond more to their “coarser” senses (see link below) while women, the more “refined” creatures, desire sex from a place less carnal and more civilized. In reality, however, the problem of the objectification of women is not a direct result of men’s sexual nature, but a by-product of their social power struggle.

Nevertheless, we glorify the inappropriately emotionalized and romanticized sexuality trained into women.  As women, we have become convinced of the fallacy that our sexuality is less physical than a man’s and should be treated as such, lest it be utterly disrespected.  So, ironically, we’ve been taken both coming and going.  In response to problems of objectification, our sexuality has been prostituted in the reverse— by unnecessary subject-ification–insisting that every aspect of its manifestation must reflect the whole kit and caboodle of one’s being, heart and soul.  

This actually reveals the extraordinary level of sexual insecurity that has become established.  It shows that, because sex has been made into such a degenerate thing, it must now be wrapped, suffocatingly, in this kind of security blanket that offers reassurance at every level that, even though we are involved in it, we are still okay.

Then, calling our position “politically correct”, we raise it as a model for modern men to aspire towards, leading them with us deeper into the delusion. So, while it may bring us closer on the surface, we still just end up miserable– with company!  Political correctness is just a flimsy disguise for the underlying problem that must be addressed.  In order to evolve beyond our stale position, we have to keep looking deeper inside to tease apart the critical pieces.

Sexually, we are still very confused about the facts of sexual desire and functioning.  What are these facts?  It all boils down to the fact that sexual attraction is quite material: we are turned on or off sexually by the physical features of an object that appeal to the senses.  These objects can be human, non-human, even inanimate.  Sticking to the first of these three, the point that another human being has other significant nonphysical attributes— intellectual, emotional, spiritual, democratically accorded “unalienable rights”, et cetera— does nothing to alter this fact.  Nevertheless, through fear and anger, we are taught that appreciating the physical is not only shallow but downright despicable (which makes for total confusion as we try to emotionalize a physical thing like sexuality).  Women have pointed the finger at men for objectifying them and progressive men have recoiled from the folly of their gender.  Which would be fantastic if it didn’t involve such a significant distortion of the facts about sex.

It doesn’t help us, either, that there is so much shame around sex, which brings us to the psychological part.  When there is shame and guilt around something inside of ourselves, it becomes more comfortable to externalize it, pointing fingers at everyone else.  (Think of the long list of scandals involving those exposed after a career of anti-sex crusading, i.e. Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart…).  So this points us all, again, toward a deep journey of sexual healing, because the real problem of objectification is the externalization of sexuality that we do as a result of pathologizing sex.  It is not a problem to solve by training more and more people to dissociate and distance from their own natural, physical, sexuality (which is unfortunately what all the PC training tends to do).  On the contrary, it is about bringing it all back inside and healing the shame and judgment around the aspects of ourselves we’ve learned to condemn.

It’s vital to realize that honoring the material facts underlying sexual response does not imply consent to behaviors (like human trafficking, for example) that turn people into faceless commodities.  It’s also important to point out that women participate in the objectification of men in their own culturally conditioned ways.  Women turn men into objects of their own desire: for security, for status, for validation, for gratification of any of the myriad desires we look to men to fulfill, without really admitting that the projection often has little to do with the human being himself (who he is and what he actually wants).  This is what we call the “Romantic Fantasy”.  That fantasy is, by definition, not real, but we attempt to make it real by playing out our role in the fairytale romance, objectifying him by expecting— often demanding— that he perform his role accordingly.

Refreshingly, recognizing the facts brings us all closer to the middle ground of sexual humanism (see post #10) and the basic principles of honesty and responsibility.  And, thanks indeed to those progressive social and political movements, the process of creating a more humane world is already in motion.  So we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we just need better bearings to guide us.

What I’m pointing to is creating those bearings by coming to terms with the basic facts of life, because we have overlaid history upon sexuality, conflating a pathological phenomenon with a natural sexual process, resulting in the completely nonsensical “common sense” we carry around about the evils of material sexuality.  This has never worked in bringing anyone into alignment with the basic facts of life and, therefore, it has never led to any sense of contentment, sexually or otherwise.  So, it’s time to put some real sense into common sense, and free the sensual creature within!


My own book offers an even more in-depth discussion within an expanded context: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781645849919

The classic Evolutionary Psychology argument that only males are aroused by visual stimuli has been debunked by scientific studies…

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