But Don't You Like to be Objectified Sometimes
But Don’t You Like To Be Objectified Sometimes?
People who ask this question obviously don’t understand what is meant by the term "sexual objectification". No, I don’t want to be objectified, not ever. Not by random people on the street, not by an intimate partner.
By definition, what is an object? An object is something inert to be manipulated by others. An object exists only for the purposes it was made and can only passively fulfil that purpose through its use by an active party. A grammatical object is the part of a sentence which indicates what is being manipulated by the subject; linguistically, an object has things done to it but does nothing on its own.
In more concrete terms, what are objects? Objects are items that exist outside of ourselves which we put to specific uses. A banana is an object. It’s a plant which has been domesticated so that its only purpose is to be consumed by human beings. The plant can no longer reproduce without human intervention, so its natural biological purpose has been subverted and it no longer has a real function outside of the uses humans design for it. When we plant grass in our yards to look nice, this is an object. The only real purpose of grass is to grow and spread, but we add cultural baggage, assumptions about class and aesthetics which we attach not only to our lawns but to their color and health, their maintanance, their growth. A car is an object; it is for transportation. A stove is an object; it is for cooking. Food is an object; it is to be cooked, it is to be eaten. A baseball is an object; it is to be thrown within the specific context of certain games.
Objects are things.
A woman is not an object.
Let me ammend that: people are not objects.
Women do not exist solely to be sexually manipulated, used, abused. When a woman is objectified she is made into a passive thing — she is not an individual with thoughts and ideas, with ambitions and goals and principles. She is simply something to be used for the pleasure of the one who objectifies her. And do things have feelings? Does anyone care what an object thinks or wants? In a very real way, objectification is dehumanization. Dehumanizing a subject, making them into an object, allows for their feelings and thoughts to be completely disregarded. Does consent matter when dealing with a thing rather than a person? Does anything matter but the pleasure and whims of the user, the abuser?
Other people are made into objects, too. It’s not just women who are made into objects in order to fulfil the fantasties of others; parents make their children into objects, too, assuming that the child’s only purpose is to live up to their expectations, to do as the parents would like the child to do. Politicians and advertizers make people into objects: we are a passive audience for them to manipulate, to do what they want us to do for their benefit and not for our own — we are a means to an end and we are not human when we do this. We are objects to be used and manipulated and then discarded when our usefulness is through.
So not all objectification is sexual. None of it is good, beneficial, or in any way desirable. I am a person, not an object. I take particular exception, however, to being made into a sexual object. My sexuality — the firing of neurons in my brain, the combination of feelings and sensations moving along my nerves, my body, my breasts, my vulva — does not exist for the pleasure of anyone but me. This is not to say that I’m selfish, that I would take pleasure from another while denying them pleasure from my body, my sex — it is to say that if I find it pleasurable to give pleasure to a particular person, that is my business. It is nothing that can be taken without my express will, my explicit consent. My body does not exist specifically for the visual or physical stimulation of others, especially those to whom I do not give permission to use me in this way.
"Don’t we all like to be objectified sometimes?"
No. I don’t. I don’t enjoy being made into a passive object to be manipulated. I don’t enjoy being made into something less-than-human. I don’t enjoy being ignored and overlooked as the individual that I am and instead made into something else against my own will.
Do I enjoy being found attractive? Yes, of course. Everyone does. But too often these two phenomona are conflated and confused. Being objectified, being verbally or sexually abused, is often said to merely be the same thing as attraction. It’s a compliment, it’s an honor to be harrassed on the street. Being a desireable object is confused with being a desireable human being. Being made into a thing to be used, which exists solely for the purpose of this use and is judged only on its usefulness, is not the same as being found attractive at all.
When a person finds another person attractive, that other person is still human. They are an active participant in all interactions. No one can have a relationship with an object; relationships are a dynamic, mutual process on the part of all involved. Relationships are an active process. In the dynamic of objectification, only one party retains active personal agency.
There is something to be said for the desire to submit, the desire to be passive, in a sexual or romantic dynamic. Some people feel more comfortable in dominant or submissive relationship roles. But this is still an active, consensual decision, and that is the distinction. In my relationships with my family, I enjoy caring for and taking care of others, I enjoy cooking and don’t mind cleaning because it makes everyone’s life more livable. If a young sibling is ill I will nelgect my own desires, my own plans for the day, in order to ensure that they are comfortable and all right. I would be absolutely the same if I were in a romantic relationship, because this is my personality and it is what gives me pleasure. I do not do this simply because it’s expected of me (it’s not), but because it is the role I am most comfortable expressing. This submission to the needs and desires of other people is an expression of love. If this submission is forced, rather than an active expression of the person in question’s authentic personality and desires, as it often is, that relationship is abusive.
A real relationship allows for everyone involved to act however they like, to fill whatever role they like. Objectification does not. Objectification forces a role and a purpose onto the object which, even on theoretical occasion that this role and purpose might conicide with how that particular person expresses themselves, still limits that person’s ability to be anything outside of that narrow set of expectations. It is still wrong, and it is always wrong.
I posit that no, nobody ever really likes to be objectified. When people ask that question, or when people say that they like a little objectification now and then, I think it’s clear what they actually mean is that they enjoy being found attractive, they enjoy attention. These are perfectly valid wants and desires. But I am not willing to accept that anyone on Earth actually wants, of their own free will, to lose any and all freedom to define themselves or to have any real agency in their own lives. Powerlessness as a fantasy or a kink is not the same as actual powerlessness, as actual slavery and bondage. No one who actually cares about the subject would think to conflate the two while describing submission in those terms, and the fact is that being made into an object is very real powerlessness, is very real bondage to another person’s desires at the expense of one’s own.
Objectification is a forced loss of self.
No one has any right to ever, under any circumstances, inflict this on another person.