Sexual objectification  

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"In loving from sexual inclination, they make the person into an object of their appetite. As soon as the person is possessed, and the appetite sated, they are thrown away, as one throws away a lemon after sucking the juice from it." --Immanuel Kant in his Lectures on Ethics likens lust to sexual objectification, see ""Kant and Eros.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sexual objectification is objectification of a person. That is, seeing them as a sexual object, and emphasizing their sexual attributes and physical attractiveness, while de-emphasizing their existence as a living person with emotions and feelings of their own. The concept of sexual objectification and, in particular, the objectification of women, is an important idea in feminist theory and psychological theories derived from feminism. Many feminists regard sexual objectification as objectionable and as playing an important role in the way that men subjugate women. Increased sexual freedom and media visibility for women and gay men has also led to an increased sexual objectification of men.

Contents

Overview

Objectification of women

Many feminists (as well as some non-feminists) view the sexual objectification of women as one of the main ways in which women are subordinated in a sexist society. In their view, the objectification of women involves disregarding personal abilities and capabilities, and focusing instead on attributes relevant to women's role as sexual partners, such as physical attractiveness, sex appeal, and submissiveness.

Examples seen by some as objectifying women include depictions of women in advertising and media, images of women in pornography, as well as more mainstream media and art, strip clubs and prostitution, men evaluating women sexually in public spaces, and cosmetic surgery, particularly breast enlargement.

Historically, women have often been valued for their physical attributes. Some feminists and psychologists argue that such sexual objectification can lead to negative psychological effects include depression and hopelessness, and can give women negative self-images due to the belief that their intelligence and competence are not being acknowledged. The precise degree to how objectification has affected women and society in general is a topic of academic debate. Such claims include:

  • Girls' understanding of the importance of appearance in society may contribute to feelings of fear, shame, and disgust that some experience during the transition from girlhood to womanhood because they sense that they are becoming more visible to society as sexual objects (Lee, 1994).
  • Young women are especially susceptible to objectification, as they are often taught that power, respect, and wealth can be derived from one's outwardly appearance (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
  • According to Anne Koedt, women have been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men.

Pro-feminist cultural critics such as Robert Jensen and Sut Jhally accuse mass media and advertizing of promoting the objectification of women to help promote goods and services.

Celebrity objectification

Many actors and famous people are considered sex objects or "sex symbols" (such as Pamela Anderson, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Halle Berry). Marilyn Monroe might be considered an archetype of popular culture figures, although some analysts consider Clara Bow the true first "It" girl.

Objectification of men

Feminist authors Christina Hoff Sommers and Naomi Wolf have noted that women's sexual liberation has led some women to make men into sex objects. Research has suggested that the psychological effects of objectification on men are similar to those of women, leading to negative body image among men, as well as fears of inadequate sexual performance, leading to increased use of drugs like Viagra.

Examples of the increasing trend of the objectification of men in contemporary media include increasing exposure of the male body in movies, television, advertising, and women's magazines; the popularity of male striptease performances; advertisements for drugs to increase penis size or improve sexual performance; and increasingly prominent media portrayals of men with unrealistic body types (e.g., hairlessness, perfectly toned muscles, an absence of blemishes or body fat, etc.) on billboards, in calendars, in magazine advertisements, etc.

Views on sexual objectification

While the concept of sexual objectification is important within feminist theory, ideas on what constitutes objectification and what the ethical implications of objectification are vary widely. Some feminists such as Naomi Wolf (1992) find the concept of physical attractiveness itself to be problematic, with some radical feminists being opposed to any evaluation of another person's sexual attractiveness based on physical characteristics. John Stoltenberg (1989) goes so far as to condemn any sexual fantasy that involves visualization of a woman as wrongfully objectifying.

Radical feminists view objectification as playing a central role in reducing women to what they refer to as the "sex class". While radical feminists view all mass media in a patriarchal society to be objectifying, they most often focus on pornography as playing an egregious role in habituating men to objectify women.

Other feminists, particularly those identified with sex-positive feminism, take a more nuanced view of sexual objectification, seeing sexual objectification as mainly a problem when not counterbalanced by women's sense of their own sexual subjectivity. Sex-positive feminist activism therefore emphasizes developing greater sexual subjectivity in women, rather than attacking sexual objectification.

Some social conservatives have taken up aspects of the feminist critique of sexual objectification. In their view however, the increase of sexual objectification in Western culture is one of the negative legacies of the sexual revolution. These critics advocate a return of Victorian values as the antidote to sexual objectification.

Many critics of feminism contest feminist claims about the objectification of women. Camille Paglia holds that "Turning people into sex objects is one of the specialties of our species." A related concept often used by postmodernist feminist theorists, is that of gaze.

Objectification as a sexual fetish

Sexual objectification also describes a specific sexual fetish involving the act of treating a person as an object for erotic purposes. This may provide erotic humiliation for the person so regarded. As with most BDSM-related activities, it is not considered abusive when engaged in consensually. Allen Jones' Hat Stand and Table Sculpture, which show semi-naked women in the roles of furniture, are clear examples of the depiction of the fantasy of sexual objectification.


Oppononents of the sex industry

See white slavery

Opponents of the sex industry argue that it is exploitative (particularly of young women), that it is morally damaging to society, and that cheapens sex and encourages sexual objectification of women.

Subject-object problem as it relates to language and power

A closely related power issue in ethics, sociology and philosophy of science is that of "the other", that being, an entity or group-entity which is always treated as an object, assuming oneself or "those like oneself" as the subject. In making such a universal assignment of object status, a group such as slaves, psychiatric patients, workers, or debtors can be assigned some subordinate status by use of language. The master, clinician, employer, creditor, respectively, can legally (using force) assume some power for the other, and speak for them in the same manner as the fictional literary omniscient narrator.

Marxism, feminism and Queer studies are particularly concerned with these problems as they relate to work, women, and gender and sex roles respectively. However they are a general concern of meta-ethics which increasingly is concerned with body as the housing and the motive for the mind. See also philosophy of action, ethical relationship, perspective.

When feminists speak of "sexual objectification", they knowingly or unknowingly refer to the Hegelian metaphysic, without which "objectification" seems an odd choice of word. The ethical postulate of egalitarianism remains as the one remaining moral absolute, unchecked by social constructionism, or the notion that all discourse is about power. Thus, a concern that no one be treated as a Hegelian object becomes a paramount concern of neo-Hegelian idealists. Moreover, by accepting a strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, issues of language and usage were seen as important political foci.

Depiction of Women in Advertising

advertising and sex in advertising, depiction of women in advertising

Themes

  • Alcohol
  • Body Parts
  • Competition
  • Dummies/Dolls/Mannequins
  • Emaciation
  • Magazine Pseudostories
  • Misc
  • Sex
  • Surgery
  • Tobacco
  • Violence against Women
  • Violence against Men
  • Weight Loss
  • Women of Color
  • Women with no Clothes
  • Young Girls

In fiction

Story of O

One view of the novel Story of O is that it is about the ultimate objectification of a woman. The heroine of the novel has the shortest possible name, consisting solely of the letter O. Although this is in fact a shortening of the name Odile, it could also stand for "object" or "orifice," an O being a symbolic representation of any "hole."

In science fiction

A survey of science fiction films reveals a lack of substantial female roles: In early scienc fiction leading ladies were usually love interest or "saucy sidekick". Soylent Green went so far as to refer to women as "furniture"; while Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner (1982) was a female doll.


In film

La Femme objet

See La Femme objet

La Femme objet is the story of a science fiction writer who is completely addicted to sex. Realizing that no living woman can satisfy him, he sets up a laboratory in the basement and builds a true to life, remote controlled robot woman - his "female object" (Marilyn Jess). At first life is good, as the stunning, busty blonde robot can not speak nor complain. However, as time goes on, something goes wrong with the experiment. The robot begins to develop a personality of its own, and refuses to obey his commands. Soon she is out of control, having sex with anyone else who comes by the house. The writer makes a second robot but it is not long before he is obeying the commands of his two robots and he has became "l'homme objet"- the male object.

Blind Beast (1969) - Yasuzo Masumura

See Blind Beast

The summum of objectification is capturing someone. The plot bears some similarity to John Fowles' powerful novel The Collector, published in 1963, Blind Beast is based on a rather grotesque tale by Rampo first serialised in the Asahi national newspaper between 1931 and 1932.

Pussy Talk (1975) - Claude Mulot

As K. H. Brown has pointed out, someone is going to "discover the film and produce an academic paper exploring Pussy Talk's discourses around self and alterity and masculine constructions of female identity, making heavy-handed use of lines like the one where the pussy informs the reporter to come closer - "don't worry, I don't bite" - or constructing a history of similarly themed entries from Ever Ready the detachable penis-cum-phallus in the 1920s to the present as a history of meconnaissance in the porno genre…"

Further reading

External links

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexual objectification" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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