Sexual Objectification (And Why It’s Not Always a Bad Thing)

We’ve all heard the term, and usually “sexual objectification” is not generally thought of as a good thing, and most of the time, I don’t think it’s a good thing. However, this subject is something I’ve spent quite a substantial amount of time thinking about, as most art projects I pursued in the last few years of art school (and ideas I am forming for future projects) revolve around sexual objectification, and what exactly it means to be sexually objectified, and how people objectify themselves, or where is the line drawn between expressing one’s sexuality, and objectifying one’s self.  

After giving these issues so much thought, I have realized something: sexual objectification can be a good thing, and here is why:

We as humans are mostly sexual beings, (I say “mostly” because I don’t want to make a generalized statement that doesn’t include individuals who are asexual or just wouldn’t describe themselves as sexual) and therefore we feel sexual attraction towards other people.

I think it is redundant to state that anytime we view a person as anything but, it is not a good thing. So stating that “sexual objectification can be acceptable” feels like a risk to me right now, because I try very hard not to say things that I don’t wholeheartedly believe in, and this is a concept that I am very much within the infancy of exploration right now, so I thought it would be good to write about it, as this is the most eloquent method I have for expressing my thoughts.

Sexual objectification, as stated, can be acceptable. However, I feel that this acceptability is very circumstantial. When people are together in a sexual context it is my personal belief that one will (to some degree) sexually objectify the other person. No matter how loving and respectful the relationship is, there may come moments when in order to fulfil one’s own needs, one might unconsciously or perhaps consciously objectify the other person.

In the context of a sexual relationship with mutual respect, I don’t actually think this is a bad thing. Thinking of one’s partner as a means to an end occasionally, does not necessarily mean that one does not care about their partner’s needs or desires, or that they think of them as less than a person in their daily life. It is simply acknowledging that as human beings we are animals, and sex drive is a huge part of being an animal, and our sex drive can sometimes lead us to be single-minded.

Being in a relationship myself for over nine years, I feel I can say with some authority that especially if your partner is also your best friend, you might not feel attracted to them all the time and you might not think of them in a sexual way all the time. Therefore, a little sexual objectification (in the sense that one temporarily distances some feelings for the other) might not hurt the relationship between two people extremely comfortable with one another, but may actually enhance their intimacy.

I’m going to continue my exploration of this topic, but for now that’s all I’m going to say.

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5 thoughts on “Sexual Objectification (And Why It’s Not Always a Bad Thing)

  1. I disagree with you, but would like to stress that this is a friendly disagreement and not me attempting to tell you that you’re doing feminism or sex wrong.

    It reads to me that sexual attraction and sexual objectification are intertwined concepts for you, which is not surprising in any way whatsoever. Our culture (i.e. patriarchy) expends incredible amounts of energy telling us that the two are the same, that you cannot be sexually attracted to a someone and still view them as a complete person–sexual attraction turns the other person into nothing more than an ambulatory sex toy for getting your own rocks off.

    I agree that this is extremely easy and definitely feels inevitable (at least sometimes) from within our patriarchal culture. On the other hand, I don’t think disregarding our partner’s humanity (even in a limited capacity) is natural, or even inevitable for those who make an effort at deprogramming. And I see the need for massive amounts of deprogramming if we ever want to raise a generation of children without patriarchy.

    “Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person.” –Jean Kilbourne (Killing Us Softly 4) <–I can provide you with a link to a copy if you like.

    Men's sexual objectification of women is a direct contributer to the epidemic rates of violence against women worldwide.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, you’ve definitely given me some food for thought. I especially appreciate the thoughtful disagreement as opposed to hostility; I’m glad this post has generated intelligent discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always been taken aback by claims of sexual objectification. It always seemed a bit .. alarmist to me, hearing that sexual objectification of women is associated with the reduction of a woman’s societal value. If taken down to the personal, 1 on 1 level, it seems a foolish statement. You hit the nail on the head:

    “Thinking of one’s partner as a means to an end occasionally, does not necessarily mean that one does not care about their partner’s needs or desires”.

    The foolishness stems from people taking sexual objectification, one part of the large emotional whole that makes up relationships, and dis-proportionately portraying its importance to these relationships. As humans we’re (generally) wired to want and enjoy sex. Obviously, this will lead to moments where human relationships are focused on the desire. But just because a person lavishes in such desire from time to time doesn’t mean that the person devalues his partner to nothing but a sexual means. The other aspects of the relationship a still present, they are just on the back burner.

    You said that “Sexual objectification, as stated, can be acceptable. However, I feel that this acceptability is VERY circumstantial.” (emphasis mine). I’d be curious for you to go into detail on just what these circumstances are. Also, I find that this post is only slightly controversial because you seem to be talking strictly about sexual objectification in romantic relationships. Much more interesting would be your take on whether or not there is a place for sexual objectification between people who aren’t in concrete relationships. If there is a place for it, what circumstances would its acceptability lie on?

    Good stuff, always nice to know another open minded person.

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    1. On the “acceptability of sexual objectification being circumstantial”, I feel that these circumstances are up to the individual, and where/when or if they feel comfortable being objectified at any given time. For example, there might be some objectification happening during sexual activity, or perhaps when one partner gives a sexy photo to the other for their viewing pleasure, there is some objectification going on there. Here is the point that I think is crucial: AWARENESS. If the person is aware that they are being objectified or they are objectifying themselves as a way of giving some aspect of themselves to their partner and are consenting to it, I think that’s not necessarily harmful.

      the only reason I was specifically speaking of sexual objectification within the realm of a monogamous relationship is because I am partly writing from my own experience, and so I do not feel qualified to make assumptions about the role consensual objectification might play in casual-sex relationships or open relationships, but I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on that; I think it would be very interesting.

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