If you have breasts and a vagina, you’ve conceivably experienced sexual objectification by someone with testicles and a penis. Whether in the form of cat-calls, whistles, or boozy-bar come-ons, women have long been recipients of this form of communication.
It appears some men like to do it or I suspect they wouldn’t, unless they somehow feel compelled to fulfill a stereotypical male role of those that hoot at women. I’m curious, though, to know if women like it. Obviously, it largely depends on the woman. We’ve probably all heard the differing views of what women think about sexual objectification. Presumably though, a lot of self-respecting women will not condone this type of behavior for obvious reasons. I also assume that many women will not say that they find it flattering. For myself, this is how I generally respond: *eye-roll* “Ugh, how stupid.” *ignore all further comments* Or something to that effect.
To the onlooker, I’m annoyed. But secretly—and I’m unwittingly setting feminist movements back here—I kind of appreciate the acknowledgement. In its purest form, it confirms that I’m desirable to the opposite sex. But I want to be clear, I’m not talking about commentary that is downright degrading or crude. I’m talking about the innocent-enough expressions that say, “Hey, good lookin’, I think you’re sexy!” Perhaps not in so many words, perhaps verbatim.
Either way, I feel I’m not supposed to enjoy the attention by sheer principle, but in truth, it’s nice to know I’ve got what it takes to turn heads. It’s not that I crave attention or seek it out. Nor do I measure my confidence by the pitch of some guy’s whistle. It’s just that, you know, it’s nice to be desired, even if that’s just an illusion. Agree or disagree with my sentiment, I’m just being honest. But maybe there are more women that align with my thinking. Maybe a lot. I’m not calling other women liars, but there’s an interesting observation to note about desire.
Ever notice how Halloween appears to be a green light for some women to wear costumes that are revealing or risqué? It’s as though the event gives them a free pass to get as much ogling from guys—or anyone—as they can. They are able to explore their alter ego of mesmerizing sex goddess in the safe haven of make-believe, and all without too much judgement. Additionally, you don’t have to look much further than social media to see some women posting provocative photos of themselves (my guess is it’s not for their grandparents to see). Nevermind the salacious pictures, but there are the copious amounts of selfies and now belfies. For what purpose other than to pose as something to be desired? At least that’s my impression.
But now let’s explore this concept of desirability by turning the tables. What are men’s perceptions of being sexually objectified if/when it happens? Do they feel dirty or worthless or outraged? Or do they feel good about themselves knowing they have been found acceptable of sexual “imprinting”, whatever you want to call it. From what I’ve gathered, most men say it’s a compliment. Is this because men are simply wired differently? Maybe, but I’m not fully convinced. Besides, women aren’t the only ones posting selfies and sexy pics. I’ve viewed far too many images of shirtless, flexing men attempting to be nonchalant about the fact that they’re shirtless and flexing.
It seems as though the state of being lust-worthy is an innate human craving. For everyone. Is that wrong? I wouldn’t say so. But here’s the problem, especially for the female gender: women have come from a long history of being powerless in many ways including sexually. The inappropriate and unequal expression of sexual longing often diminished women (and still does in some circumstances) into hollow sex objects, hence sexual objectification, hence many women’s rightful protest.
So there’s that. It’s not a trivial problem to be ignored. Yet apart from the dark side, it is reasonable to presume that wanting to be desirable is somewhat instinctive. What isn’t clear, is whether that innate craving is organic, or whether it was conceived as a “natural” phenomenon through social construction of what desire is and how we should experience it. I’m not sure either way. What is certain, though, is that society managed to screw things up with sexism, exploitation, double standards, oppression, and repression, for that matter.
So, how do we reconcile enjoying being desired without being reduced to empty sex objects?
First of all, we need to understand that all humans are individual beings: what feels good to one person may not be appreciated by another.
Second, it’s ok to enjoy being wanted, as long as you sense you aren’t being disrespected, and as long as your self esteem is not contingent on the actions of other people.
Third, RESPECT everyone. Men, if you find that the woman sitting in the coffee shop, walking down the street, standing in the bar is better than sliced bread, fine. But think twice about how you choose to let her know it. Chances are, she’ll be flattered if your method of delivery is civil and considerate. Women, respect goes both ways, and double standards apply to you too.
Fourth and final, society…what can I say about it. A lot needs to change, but we have the power to do that, you and I. Let’s transform sexual objectification into something more human by not turning human into object, by not detaching human from sexuality. Desire is a part of who we are, we can’t change that. But what we can change is how we express ourselves and relate to others.
Photo Credit: Toying with the Men by JD Hancock