- "Sex object" redirects here. For other uses, see Sex object (disambiguation)
Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity. Objectification is most commonly examined at the level of a society, but can also refer to the behavior of individuals.
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 deplorable and as playing an important role in gender inequality.However, some social commentators argue that some modern women objectify themselves as an expression of their empowerment.
- 1 Sexual objectification of women
- 2 Sexual objectification of men
- 3 Views on sexual objectification
- 4 Objectification theory
- 5 Sexual fetishism
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Sexual objectification of women
Female sexual objectification by a male involves a woman being viewed primarily as an object of male sexual desire, rather than as a whole person. Although opinions differ as to which situations are objectionable, some feminists see objectification of women taking place in the sexually oriented depictions of women in advertising and media, women being portrayed as weak or submissive through pornography, images in more mainstream media such as advertising and art, stripping and prostitution, men brazenly evaluating or judging women sexually or aesthetically in public spaces and events, such as beauty contests, and the presumed need for cosmetic surgery, particularly breast enlargement and labiaplasty.
Some feminists and psychologists argue that sexual objectification can lead to negative psychological effects including eating disorders, depression and sexual dysfunction, and can give women negative self-images because of the belief that their intelligence and competence are currently not being, nor will ever be, acknowledged by society. Some have argued that the feminist movement itself has contributed to the problem of the sexual objectification of women by pushing for an end to the so-called oppressive patriarchal marriage and promoting "free" love (i.e. women choosing to have non-reproductive sex outside of marriage and for their own pleasure). Such promotion has increased the average number of lifetime sexual partners for men, which in turn has caused some men to devalue sex, which in turn has caused men who objectify women to devalue women.[dubious ] How objectification has affected women and society in general is a topic of academic debate, with some saying girls' understanding of the importance of appearance in society may contribute to feelings of fear, shame, and disgust during the transition to womanhood, and others saying that young women are especially susceptible to objectification, as they are often taught that power, respect, and wealth can be derived from one's outward appearance.
The objection to the objectification of women is not a recent phenomenon. In the French Enlightenment, for example, there was a debate as to whether a woman's breasts were merely a sensual enticement or rather a natural gift. In Alexandre Guillaume Mouslier de Moissy's 1771 play The True Mother (La Vraie Mère), the title character rebukes her husband for treating her as merely an object for his sexual gratification: "Are your senses so gross as to look on these breasts – the respectable treasures of nature – as merely an embellishment, destined to ornament the chest of women?"
Ariel Levy contends that Western women who exploit their sexuality by, for example, wearing revealing clothing and engaging in lewd behavior, engage in female self-objectification, meaning they objectify themselves. While some women see such behaviour as a form of empowerment, Levy contends that it has led to greater emphasis on a physical criterion or sexualization for women's perceived self-worth, which Levy calls "raunch culture".
Levy discusses this phenomenon in Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Levy followed the camera crew from the Girls Gone Wild video series, and argues that contemporary America's sexualized culture not only objectifies women, it encourages women to objectify themselves. In today's culture, Levy writes, the idea of a woman participating in a wet T-shirt contest or being comfortable watching explicit pornography has become a symbol of feminist strength; she says that she was surprised at how many people, both men and women, working for programs such as Girls Gone Wild told her that this new "raunchy" culture marked not the downfall of feminism but its triumph, because it proved that U.S. women have become strong enough to express their sexuality publicly.
Sexual objectification of men
Feminist authors Christina Hoff Sommers and Naomi Wolf write that women's sexual liberation led women to a role reversal, whereby they viewed men as sex objects, in a manner similar to what they criticize about men's treatment of women. This was especially apparent during the Girl power era of the 1990s and early 2000s. Men are often objectifed by other men. Research has suggested that the psychological effects of objectification on men are similar to those of women, leading to negative body image among men.
Instances where men may be viewed as sex objects by women include advertising, music videos, movies and television shows, beefcake calendars, women's magazines, male strip shows, and clothed female nude male (CFNM) events. Women also purchase and consume pornography although they mostly view other women.
Views on sexual objectification
While the concept of sexual objectification is important within feminist theory, ideas vary widely on what constitutes sexual objectification and what are the ethical implications of such objectification. Some feminists such as Naomi Wolf find the concept of physical attractiveness itself to be problematic, with some radical feminists[who?] being opposed to any evaluation of another person's sexual attractiveness based on physical characteristics. John Stoltenberg goes so far as to condemn as wrongfully objectifying any sexual fantasy that involves visualization of a woman.
Radical feminists view objectification as playing a central role in reducing women to what they refer to as the "oppressed sex class".[this quote needs a citation] While some feminists view mass media in societies that they argue are patriarchal to be objectifying, they 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 different view of sexual objectification and see it as a problem when it is not counterbalanced by women's sense of their own sexual subjectivity.
Some social conservatives have taken up aspects of the feminist critique of sexual objectification. In their view however, the increase in the sexual objectification of both sexes in Western culture is one of the negative legacies of the sexual revolution. These critics, notably Wendy Shalit, advocate a return to pre-sexual revolution standards of sexual morality, which Shalit refers to as a "return to modesty", as an antidote to sexual objectification.
Others 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." In her view, objectification is closely tied to (and may even be identical with) the highest human faculties toward conceptualization and aesthetics. Individualist feminist Wendy McElroy says, given that 'objectification' of women means to make women into sexual objects; it is meaningless because, 'sexual objects', taken literally, means nothing because inanimate objects do not have sexuality. She continues that women are their bodies as well as their minds and souls, and so focusing on a single aspect should not be "degrading".
||This section needs attention from an expert in Feminism or Gender Studies. The specific problem is: The prose is jargon-filled, repetitive and nearly impenetrable to laypeople. The structure needs improvement. (January 2015)|
Sexual objectification has been studied based on the proposition that girls and women develop their primary view of their physical selves from observing others. These observations can take place in the media or through personal experience. Through a blend of expected and actual exposure, women are socialized to objectify their own physical characteristics from a third person perception, which is identified as self-objectification. Women and girls develop an expected physical appearance for themselves, based on observations of others; and are aware that others are likely to observe as well. The sexual objectification and self-objectification of women is believed to influence social gender roles and inequalities between the sexes.
Self-objectification can increase in situations which heighten the awareness of an individual’s physical appearance.:82 Here, the presence of a third person observer is enhanced. Therefore, when individuals know others are looking at them, or will be looking at them, they are more likely to care about their physical appearance. Examples of the enhanced presence of an observer include the presence of an audience, camera, or other known observer.
Women, girls, and self-objectification
Primarily, objectification theory describes how women and girls are influenced as a result of expected social and gender roles. Research indicates not all women are influenced equally, due to the anatomical, hormonal, and genetic differences of the female body; however, women’s bodies are often objectified and evaluated more frequently.:90-95 Self-objectification in girls tends to stem from two main causes: the internalization of traditional beauty standards as translated through media as well as any instances of sexual objectification that they might encounter in their daily lives. It is not uncommon for women to translate their anxieties over their constant sense of objectification into obsessive self-surveillance. This, in turn, can lead to many serious problems in women and girls, including "body shame, anxiety, negative attitudes toward menstruation, a disrupted flow of consciousness, diminished awareness of internal bodily states, depression, sexual dysfunction, and disordered eating."
Sexual objectification occurs when a person is identified by their sexual body parts or sexual function. In essence, an individual loses their identity, and is recognized solely by the physical characteristics of their body. The purpose of this recognition is to bring enjoyment to others, or to serve as a sexual object for society. Sexual objectification can occur as a social construct among individuals.
Objectification theory suggests both direct and indirect consequences of objectification to women. Indirect consequences include self consciousness in terms that a woman is consistently checking or rearranging her clothes or appearance to ensure that she is presentable. More direct consequences are related to sexual victimization. Rape and sexual harassment are examples of this. Doob (2012) states that sexual harassment is one of the challenges faced by women in workplace. This may constitute sexual jokes or comments, most of which are degrading. Research indicates that objectification theory is valuable to understanding how repeated visual images in the media are socialized and translated into mental health problems, including psychological consequences on the individual and societal level. These include increased self-consciousness, increased body anxiety, heightened mental health threats (depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and sexual dysfunction), and increased body shame. Therefore, the theory has been used to explore an array of dependent variables including disordered eating, mental health, depression, motor performance, body image, idealized body type, stereotype formation, sexual perception and sexual typing. Body shame is a byproduct of the concept of an idealized body type adopted by most Western cultures that depicts a thin, model-type figure. Thus, women will engage in actions meant to change their body such as dieting, exercise, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery, etc. Effects of objectification theory are identified on both the individual and societal levels.
Causes of depression
Learned helplessness theory posits that because human bodies are only alterable to a certain point, people develop a sense of body shame and anxiety from which they create a feeling of helplessness in relation to correcting their physical appearance and helplessness in being able to control the way in which others perceive their appearance. This lack of control often results in depression. In relating to a lack of motivation, objectification theory states that women have less control in relationships and the work environment because they have to depend on the evaluation of another who is typically basing their evaluation on physical appearance. Since the dependence on another's evaluation limits a woman's ability to create her own positive experiences and motivation, it adversely increases her likelihood for depression. Furthermore, sexual victimization may be a cause. Specifically, victimization within the workplace degrades women. Harassment experienced every day wears on a woman, and sometimes results in a state of depression.
Sexual fetishism can be considered sexual objectification when a person is assigned or adopts the status of the fetish object. In BDSM activities, even though it is consensual, subjecting a submissive to erotic humiliation can be regarded as sexual objectification. Human furniture is a form of fetishism and sexual objectification. Allen Jones' Hatstand, Table and Chair sculptures incorporates semi-naked women into furniture, in a show of exaggerated sexual objectification.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sexual objectification.|
- Exploitation of women in mass media
- Gender role
- Rape culture
- Sex in advertising
- Sexuality in music videos
- Barry, Kathleen (1984), "Pornography: the ideoloy of cultural sadism", in Barry, Kathleen, Female sexual slavery, New York London: NYU Press, p. 247, ISBN 9780814710692.
- LeMoncheck, Linda (1997), "I only do it for the money: pornography, prostitution, and the business of sex", in LeMoncheck, Linda, Loose women, lecherous men a feminist philosophy of sex, New York, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 133, ISBN 9780195105568.
- Szymanski, Dawn M.; Moffitt, Lauren B.; Carr, Erika R. (January 2011). "Sexual objectification of women: advances to theory and research". The Counseling Psychologist (Sage) 39 (1): 6–38. doi:10.1177/0011000010378402. Pdf.
- Jhally, Sut (director) (1997). Dreamworlds II: desire, sex, power in music (Documentary). USA: Media Education Foundation.
- Yeung, Peter (December 2014). "The female artists reclaiming their bodies". Dazed (Dazed Digital).
It is through this prism of patriarchal control that much exploitation of women has been enacted: commonly phallocentric portraiture has been used to permeate the rest of society...The fetishisation of womens’ bodies and their regular reduction to breasts is something that New York artist Cindy Hinant is acutely aware of.
- Fredrickson, Barbara L.; Roberts, Tomi-Ann (June 1997). "Objectification theory: toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks". Psychology of Women Quarterly (Sage) 21 (2): 173–206. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.
- Abrams, Dominic; Hogg, Michael A. (2004). "Collective identity: group membership and self-conception". In Brewer, Marilynn B.; Hewstone, Miles. Self and social identity. Perspectives on Social Psychology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. p. 167. ISBN 9781405110693. Pdf.
- Lee, Janet (September 1994). "Menarche and the (hetero)sexualization of the female body". Gender & Society (Sage) 8 (3): 343–362. doi:10.1177/089124394008003004.
- American Psychological Association, (APA) (2010). Report of the American Psychological Association task force on the sexualization of girls, executive summary (PDF). American Psychological Association (Report) (Washington, DC). Retrieved 19 February 2007.
- Jensen, Robert (1997), "Using pornography", in Dines, Gail; Jensen, Robert; Russo, Ann, Pornography: the production and consumption of inequality, New York, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 133, ISBN 9780195105568.
- Frith, Katherine; Shaw, Ping; Cheng, Hong (March 2005). "The construction of beauty: a cross-cultural analysis of women's magazine advertising". Journal of Communication (Wiley) 55 (1): 56–70. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb02658.x.
- Schama, Simon (1989), "The cultural construction of a citizen: II Casting roles: children of nature", in Schama, Simon, Citizens: a chronicle of the French Revolution, New York: Knopf Distributed by Random House ISBN 9780394559483
- Levy, Ariel (2006). Female chauvinist pigs: women and the rise of raunch culture. London: Pocket Books. ISBN 9781416526384
- Dougary, Ginny (25 September 2007). "Yes we are bovvered". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- Sommers, Christina (1995), "The gender wardens", Who stole feminism?: how women have betrayed women, New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, pp. 264–265 ISBN 9780684801568
- Wolf, Naomi (1994). Fire with fire: the new female power and how to use it. New York: Fawcett Columbine. pp. 225–228. ISBN 9780449909515.
- Friend, Tad (February 1994). "Yes: Feminist women who like sex". pp. 48–56.
- Teunis, Niels (May 2007). "Sexual objectification and the construction of whiteness in the gay male community". Culture, Health & Sexuality (Taylor & Francis) 9 (3): 263–275. doi:10.1080/13691050601035597. JSTOR 20460929.
- Neimark, Jill (1 November 1994). "The beefcaking of America". Psychology Today (Sussex Publishers). Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "Female friendly advertising". Mankinirevolution.com. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "Sports, gym classes, team initiations and events". Sensations4women.com. 26 January 1998. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "Tale of the Dancing Bear". Dancingbear.com. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- McElroy, Wendy (1995). XXX: a woman's right to pornography. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780312136260.
- Pearce, Dulcie (1 April 2009). "Shock Sun sex survey reveals 66% of women watch porn". The Sun (News Corp). Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "A 'Playgirl" for adult TV". Multichannel News (NewBay Media). Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Taormino, Tristan (13 May 2008). "Girls love gay male porn". The Village Voice (Josh Fromson). Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Scott, Lisa (15 October 2008). "Women who like to watch gay porn". Metro (DMG Media). Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- Murphy, Chris (12 May 2015). "Women's porn tastes: You'll never guess what ladies prefer". Daily Mirror (Trinity Mirror).
- Wolf, Naomi (2002) . The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women. New York: Perennial. ISBN 9780060512187.
- Stoltenberg, John (2000). Refusing to be a man: essays on sex and justice. London New York: UCL Press. ISBN 9781841420417.
- MacKinnon, Catharine (1993). Only words. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674639348.
- "Dr. James Dobson". The Interim: Canada's life and family newspaper (Toronto, Canada: via True Media). 12 January 1997. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Shalit, Wendy (2000). A return to modesty: discovering the lost virtue. New York: Touchstone. ISBN 9780684863177.
- Reisman, Judith A. (1991). "Soft porn" plays hardball: its tragic effects on women, children, and the family. Lafayette, Louisiana: Huntington House Publishers. ISBN 9780910311922. (pp. 32-46, p. 173)
- Holz, Adam R. (2007). "Is average the new ugly?". Plugged In Online (Focus on the Family).
- National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families (July 1997). "Subtle dangers of pornogaphy (special report by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families)". Pure Intimacy (website) (Focus on the Family). Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Shalit, Wendy (2000). "Modesty revisited". orthodoxytoday.org. Fr. Johannes Jacobse.
- Paglia, Camille (1991). Sexual personae: art and decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 9780679735793
- McElroy, Wendy (2006). "A feminist overview of pornography, ending in a defense thereof". WendyMcElroy.com.
- Bartky, Sandra Lee (1990), "On psychological oppression", in Bartky, Sandra Lee, Femininity and domination: studies in the phenomenology of oppression, New York: Routledge, p. 26, ISBN 9780415901864.
- Kaschak, Ellyn (1992). Engendered lives: a new psychology of women's experience. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 12. ISBN 9780465013494.
- Goldenberg, Jamie L.; Roberts, Tomi-Ann (2004), "The beast within the beauty: an existential perspective on the objectification and condemnation of women", in Greenberg, Jeff; Koole, Sander L.; Pyszczynski, Tom, Handbook of experimental existential psychology, New York: Guilford Press, pp. 71–85, ISBN 9781593850401.
- Fredrickson, Barbara L.; Harrison, Kristen (February 2005). "Throwing like a girl: self-objectification predicts adolescent girls’ motor performance". Journal of Sport and Social Issues (Sage) 29 (1): 79–101. doi:10.1177/0193723504269878.
- McKay, Tajare' (30 September 2013). "Female self-objectification: causes, consequences and prevention". McNair Scholars Research Journal (McNair Scholars Program) 6 (1): 53–70. Pdf.
- Calogero, Rachel M.; Davis, William N.; Thompson, J. Kevin (January 2005). "The role of self-objectification in the experience of women with eating disorders". Sex Roles (Springer) 52 (1): 43–50. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-1192-9. Pdf.
- Doob, Christopher B. (2013). Social inequality and social stratification in US society. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 9780205792412.
- Moradi, Bonnie; Huang, Yu-Ping (December 2008). "Objectification theory and psychology of women: a decade of advances and future directions". Psychology of Women Quarterly (Sage) 32 (4): 377–398. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00452.x.
- Bartky, Sandra Lee. 1990. Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-90185-5 (hc), ISBN 0-415-90186-3 (pb).
- Berger, John. 1972. Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books. ISBN 0-563-12244-7 (BBC), ISBN 0-14-021631-6, ISBN 0-14-013515-4 (pbk).
- Brooks, Gary R. 1995. The Centerfold Syndrome: How Men Can Overcome Objectification and Achieve Intimacy with Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-0104-0.
- Coy, Maddy; Garner, Maria (November 2010). "Glamour modelling and the marketing of self-sexualization: critical reflections". International Journal of Cultural Studies (Sage) 13 (6): 657–675. doi:10.1177/1367877910376576.
- Eames, Elizabeth. 1976. Sexism and woman as sex object. Journal of Thought 11(2):140–143.
- Holroyd, Julia. 2005. Sexual objectification: The unlikely alliance of feminism and Kant (conference paper). Society for Applied Philosophy International Congress 2005, Oxford, UK.
- LeMoncheck, Linda. 1985. Dehumanizing Women: Treating Persons as Sex Objects. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-8476-7331-6 (hc).
- Nussbaum, Martha C. 1995. Objectification. Philosophy and Public Affairs 24(4): 249–291. doi:10.1111/j.1088-4963.1995.tb00032.x. (JSTOR link.)
- Papadaki, Evangelia. 2007. Sexual objectification: From Kant to contemporary feminism. Contemporary Political Theory 6(3):330–348. doi:10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300282. (PDF)
- Parker, Kathleen (30 June 2008). "'Save the males': Ho culture lights fuses, but confuses". Daily News (New York).
- Shrage, Laurie. 2005. Exposing the fallacies of anti-porn feminism. Feminist Theory 6:45–65. doi:10.1177/1464700105050226.
- Soble, Alan. 2002. Pornography, Sex, and Feminism. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-944-1 (pb).
- Paul, Pamela. 2005. Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-7745-6 (hc).
- "Feminist Perspectives on Objectification" by Evangelia Papadaki, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, March 10, 2010.
- "Feminist Perspectives on Sex Markets: 1.3 Sexual Objectification" by Laurie Shrage, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, July 13, 2007.
- "FAQ: What is sexual objectification?" by Tigtog, Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, March 23, 2007.
- "Comes Naturally #5: On Sexual Objectification" by David Steinberg, Spectator Magazine, March 5, 1993. – Sex-positive feminist perspective on sexual objectification.
- "Women Like Seeing Men as Sex Objects". Interview with Janet Anderson by Petronella Wyatt, Daily Telegraph, October 5, 1996.
- John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Episode 2: The Female Nude. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. (Archived on YouTube.)
- "Sexual Suggestiveness in Online Ads: Effects of Objectification on Opposite Genders" by Sriram Kalyanaraman, Michael Redding, and Jason Steele, Media Effects Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, 2000.
- "Bikini-Clad Women Make Men Impatient" by Bram Van den Bergh, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Marketing & Consumer Science Blog, June 11, 2008.
- Needs More Gaze: A Critical Analysis Of Hot Babes