Category Archives: Sex and Gender

Objectifying men

Note: Images are clickable

Men are usually seen as the worst offenders when it comes to objectifying, and it’s not like they don’t engage in objectifying women, sometimes to the scary degrees.

However, women are quite able to do the same, and it often goes both ways. They often objectify themselves (and other women), as well as men. Those who think women rarely do it or that it’s a relatively new phenomena don’t really think about what objectification really means.

In short, to objectify a person means to see her, or him, as an object that can be in some way useful to you. What it means to be useful varies, and is not strictly related to sexual aspect, though it often is, when it comes to inter-gender objectifying.

It makes you fail to see another human being as a person in a full sense of the word. Even if you do understand they are fully human, you still don’t… really care. All you care is your benefit: this individual’s personality, hopes, dreams and needs become irrelevant.

Objectifying for security

Historically, the most common way women used to objectify men is to see them as providers and supporters. The more money and success the guy had, the better. Who he was as an individual was irrelevant. This sort of objectifying exists to this day. So even women who have careers and are capable of providing for themselves will often value rich men, or men with better careers and success higher than the nice guys with great personalities who don’t posses material wealth or success. Yes, this is objectifying.

Is raw objectification possible for women?

And there’s, of course, another form of objectification: the straightforward sexual objectification, in which an individual is seen as a mere object of your sexual desire. Women do this, too. In the same raw, straightforward manner men do to women.

Some people say it can NEVER be the same thing, because of the whole gender imbalance: not matter how unfair women are, they still don’t have the same power as men, and they can never do as much harm; and plus, they’ve suffered so much historically. Also, due to double sexual standards, it can never be the same thing. A man who is objectified is never so dehumanized as an objectified woman. Etc, etc.

It is true that women are still oppressed on so many levels, and that men still have more power. Still, on an individual level, doing a bad thing is, well, doing a bad thing. And women are sure not immune to objectification.

Is it harmful?

One thing that need to be discussed (but it’s not the subject if this post) is whether objectification is as harmful as people claim it to be. Of course, taken to extremes, it is one of the ways to dehumanize people. But it’s also somewhat unavoidable. After all, what is sexual attraction if not a basic objectification? Isn’t certain (unconscious) objectification instinctive?

So yes, on a certain level, it might not be harmful at all. But it often turns into a mechanism of oppression and dehumanization, and that is a bad thing. Women know very well how it works. They all know what is like not to be seen as a subject, a whole human, but an object seen through a male gaze. They all know what is like to have your own values measured by how men find you attractive.

Raw sexual objectification and women

The thing is, women are equally capable of doing the same thing. Due to historical gender imbalance- and double sexual standards- it sometimes seem that women are “above that”. Wrong. Women are capable of thinking pure sexual thoughts, and they can objectify men just as easily.

It often goes to the simple “seeing a man as a sexual object”. His thoughts, beliefs, character, integrity- anything that makes him a human being- are irrelevant. Even his sexual needs are irrelevant. All that matters is how a person doing the objectification sees him.

Plus, due to double standards, women have no guilt over doing this. In fact, some women find it quite empowering. Women go into great detail describing (or thinking) about a man’s physical features that they find arousing, and they’ll fantasize about all sorts of sexual stories involving the guy. They also transfer some of it to reality, so they pay more attention to attractive males, while ignoring or ridiculing the ones that they don’t find as attractive. And let’s not even mention the short guys. They don’t exist, for all we care, right?

However, this objectification is still shaped by double standards that make women embarrassed about openly expressing their sexuality. That’s why their way of objectification takes an unique form.

Usually, it presents itself in a form of focusing to more than the guy’s physical appearance. So the women will emphasize the man’s other qualities, for example, how nice he is as a person, or how great he is at what he does. You can see it with celebrities: many women lusting after a hot actor will point out how nice and great person he is. As if they know him. But don’t be fooled: it’s all down to simple objectifying, really.

Teenage sexual fantasies

Another very popular example offer teenage fangirls (a subject that deserves its own post). Teenage female fans are good for studying objectification, because they are quite honest (they are pretty straight about what they like), but are also already indoctrinated with double standards so they can’t express what they feel in straight terms.

While 14 or 15 year old boys know quite well why they like an actress with huge breasts, fantasies of their female counterparts appear to be more romantic and complex. They want to go on a romantic date with Robert Pattinson. They want to marry him. They want to go on a tropic adventure where they have to solve the mystery of ancient gold, escape world class criminals and fall in love.

But essentially, it’s all down to one simple thing: they want to bang him, hard. But they are not allowed to say it that way, because 14 year old girls are not supposed to be sexual beings. That’s why they develop their (sometimes rather unhealthy) obsession with actors and musicians (instead of simply taking them as sex fantasies, like boys of their age do with their celebrity crushes). That’s why the only way they can write about sex and men they’re obsessed with is through slash fan fiction. It’s not the coincidence, I think, that most writers of slash fanfiction are heterosexual teenage girls. Because you seem less sexual if you write about members of your favourite band having sex with each other than with you.

Empowering… Or shallow?

Simply put, women are quite capable of objectifying men. And many, who get quite mad about men objectifying women, do that without any guilt. I suspect many don’t even realize what they’re doing when they want to watch a movie in which their favourite actor spends suspicious amount of screen time shirtless.

Because female sexuality can never be so raw and strong and simple like male sexuality, right?

A Long Penis Rant

Ah. Penises. (Waiting for the giggles to stop). Ready now? Penises. Handy things. They help men piss and make babies.

In many (most?) of the cultures, they are seen as more than that, though. A man’s penis is seen as one of the main symbols of his masculinity, or even him as a human being (??!- no shit). It’s also a commonly used symbol of fertility and power.

And there’s this idea of a big penis being the best one. Nobody knows how this myth originated, but it’s not universal. In some cultures, smaller penises were seen as better ones and the one a guy is proud to have.

One of these cultures was Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece is important because, for some reason, Western civilization sees it as it’s own cradle. It’s not Ancient Greek’s fault, but that’s how it is. So, what did they think about penises?

For all we know, they strongly associated big penises with barbarians, chaos, savagery, violence and everything bad and foreign. This is a trait that still exists in Western culture to an extend: just think about the oversexed black man = big penis stereotype. Right. It’s the same logic applied.

Now, unlike Greeks, today’s western culture – and due to globalization, all the world is at least a bit affected by it – like big penises. While “big penis equals savage” is still at play, there is also a big penis imperative in Western culture.

Nobody knows why. Men do seem pretty concerned about this issue, though it’s unclear whether they really care about it so much, or they simply pretend they do, because it’s what a guy is supposed to do.

Women certainly laugh about men and their penis obsession. But just between us, women don’t care about penis size as much as men are afraid they do; but they do care more than they are willing to admit.

Which brings us to the all existing myths about the correlation between penis size and other body parts, such as feet, hands, nose or height. Women seem to be the ones quite interested in these, and it’s not like it’s not fun to sit in a restaurant at giggle at some poor guy’s small feet.

Obviously, any comparison of this sorts is rubbish. There’s no correlation whatsoever between other body parts and penis size. There’s not even a correlation between someone’s flaccid and erect size – a fact some people still don’t get it. So I’ll repeat: you can’t say anything about guy’s erect size based on his flaccid size. Or his nose. Or feet. Or hands.

But wait a minute. Hands. Hands are interesting, because various dimensions of our body do show a slight correlation with hands. For example, a person’s fingers are of a perfect size for nose or ear picking. What I’m saying is, you can always put your finger in your ear and it will fit perfectly, but you might not do that for another person’s body. So hands are very interesting when it comes to penis stereotypes, and indeed, there seem to be several “mythical” ways of determining guy’s penis size based on them.

One of these methods take into account hand size, while other concentrate on fingers, particularly the index finger (which is proved that might show a correlation with the penis size). But my favourite method (yes, I have one) is estimating penis size based on maximum distance between guy’s thumb and index finger.

Like any other theory of this sorts, it’s utter rubbish. But. Anecdotal evidence seems to somewhat support it. I shit you not. (Guys, take a time and do it – is it true?)

There’s no reason whatsoever for this to be true, but it does make me notice guy’s hands (and feel bad about it).

Actually, this myth might as well be true – but without having anything to do with penis size. Average hand/finger size, and therefore the distance between thumb and index finger, might simply be around 6.5 inches – which is the average penis size. So it would work for many guys and appear to be true. (This is a nice example on why correlations do not mean anything on its own, btw).

So, what have we learn here? That I wrote this whole educated, smart post just I could ask the guys to measure themselves? Or so it seems. In any case, anything related to penis, particularly penis size, proves to be a very interesting topic.

PS- Let’s see if this post will generate some interesting spam messages.

Writing Sex Scenes

I’m at that precious place in my NaNo novel in which I about to write my first sex scene in… Let’s see: 13 years. I am not nervous about it (lol), but it does make me think about the whole problem of writing interesting, yet tasteful sex scenes in novels.

By “tasteful” I don’t mean on keeping it polite. Frankly, if you are too freaked out by words such as penis, vagina, or it’s numerous slang variations, you are not ready to write sex scenes, unless it’s fade to black – and you can’t really count those as sex scenes, now can you?

A good sex scene in a novel is like any other good scene in a novel: it serves its purpose. If you are writing erotica, your goal is to make people aroused. If you’re not, you might (or might not) want to achieve a different effect. It all depends.

Last time I wrote a sex scene I was a virgin. It was really, really fun (writing sex scenes, not being a virgin), and I enjoyed it. (No, not in “that” way! ;) ) They weren’t as bad as one might expect, but I was never graphic. It was back in the days when I was unable to write words “fuck” or “shit”, despite the fact I had no problem using these words (and worse ones) when speaking. But to see them on page? No way! But I digress.

My current novel is a coming of age story with these young people who are, more or less, miserable. And I am not talking about the usual teenage wangst, but on family problems and shit and what not – accompanied with the usual teenage wangst. There are several sex scenes planned, most striking ones involving each of the main characters (there are three of them) losing virginity… for good or for the bad. I am planning to write it in a distant, almost cold and clinical manner. It simply suits the story (and its style) the best.

The main problem I’m having with the scene I’m about to write is the fact it should be told from male POV. It freaks me out. (Not male POV in sex, but writing from a male POV). I might be a tomboy, but I don’t know much about the way men think. I don’t think I am good at writing anything from male POV, let alone a sex scene. On the other hand, my husband says I am doing a good job with the (regular) scenes from my male character’s POV. But still, this is different.

Basically, how to write a believable scene in which this guy loses his virginity? <- a rhetorical question (but if somebody is eager to offer his advice, I'd be more than happy to hear it :D)

How NOT to write a sex scene

Learn from the best (worst?) Here’s a striking passage from the (in)famous camp classic, “My Immortal”, by Tara Gilesbie:

"Draco climbed on top of me and we started to make out keenly against a tree. He took of my top and I took of his clothes. I even took of my bra. Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time.

“Oh! Oh! Oh! ” I screamed. I was beginning to get an orgasm. We started to kiss everywhere and my pale body became all warm. And then….


It was…………………………………………………….Dumbledore!"

Ok, this might be a bad example, because it’s essentially an epic win. But you get the idea.

Useful links:
IKEA Erotica
Shortlisted books for 2008 Bad Sex award

On Female Friendship

FriendsFemale friendships exist, but they’re often not seen as strong or profound like male friendships. Despite the ever existing male homophobia, guys are “allowed” to have really strong friendships (as long as they don’t touch each other too often). Female friendships are encouraged, especially in the younger age, but there seems to be the social limit on how truly strong your friendship can get before becoming “questionable”.

Historically, there are so many stories about great friendships between males, their strength and loyalty. If they fail, for being on the opposite sides in a war, for example, or because of a beautiful woman, it is seen as a tragedy. Something like that never happens when it comes to women. Women are frequently seen in a female company, but the strong friendship love and passionate loyalty are rare. Even when they share similar destinies due to living in a men-dominant world, they are more polite companions than “I’ll do anything for you” relationship you often see when it comes to males. And if their friendship fails, it’s not seen as an unbelievable outcome or a base for an epic story.

FriendsThere’s a reason for such a portrayal, of course. Most of the history and many of the stories are written by men, who usually don’t have a clue what women do when they’re not around. Still, it’s not an excuse. There are many female authors these days, and yet, it does seem the idea of an “acceptable female friendship” didn’t change much.

Females need other females- this fact is recognized. They need other females while growing up, and they certainly need them in later years. Still, there is a line that shall not be crossed- the BFF passionate loyalty pass the age of 12 is rarely portrayed and is often seen as “questionable”.

There seem to be the list of acceptable conversation subjects and acceptable behaviours. Women are free to talk about men, which covers many subjects, from finding a man, breaking up with a man, discussing men in general, lusting over men, or complaining about a life with a man. Those are serious subjects, no doubt, but are suspiciously man-centred. Not to mention there’s a stereotype of females talking about fashion, shopping and enjoying juicy gossip. As much as I hate these subjects, psychologists claim they are not superficial as they might seem- they do, in fact, help women bond and feel better. Which is good, and fine by me, but it still leaves us with the problem of “unacceptable” female friendship.

If a female friendship becomes really close- of the passionate “I’ll do anything for you” kind, it is often seen as “suspicious”. Such women are seen as lesbians. And no, it is not a joke. Quick, try to remember any novel, film or a story about females deeply committed to each other, without an emphasis on stereotypically female subjects in their conversations- in which they didn’t turn out to be lesbians. I can’t think of any.

Yes, I was mainly talking about media portrayal. But it does shape people’s opinion more than we like to think. This results in a significant number of women who see their female friendships in relation to their experience with men- and not on their own.

PS-Male/female friendship is another story altogether. It sure deserves its own post.

PPS-I know male friendship is different in reality than in stories. I know it’s more shallow and far away from the noble ideal. But the thing is, the ideal is there (and it’s still often seen in stories). Why isn’t the same for females, especially given the (historical) fact of women often being in a close company of other women, sharing the good or the bad, fighting their own battles in a male-dominant world?

Am I Sexist?

Toni Morrison… Because I don’t like female authors?

Ok, this isn’t easy for me to admit. I am not even sure if it’s true. I don’t even know if it’s sexism or something else, but there are so many male authors on my favourites list- and only a few females.

You might say it’s not surprising. After all, there were- historically- more male writers. Women of the past didn’t enjoy the freedom to write and to get their voices heard. It is, more or less changed today. Still, number of male writers is still higher.

Not to mention most of the so called “classics” are written by men. It’s not surprising for anyone to have more males on the list of favourite authors.

But there’s more. I seem to dislike most of the books written by females. It’s not like it’s impossible to find many books written by female authors these days. But it seems I don’t get them. And I’m not even talking about the so-called “chick lit” garbage that we all know it’s a poor excuse for literature. I’m talking about serious books. Why don’t I like them? Or to say it better: why don’t I like them as much as I like those written by men?

Why isn’t it easier for me, as a woman, to identify with stories written by females? Am I so brainwashed with testosterone-filled world to see anything different as a good thing? But hey people, I do not believe in male vs female writing. I do not believe men write differently than women- I swear, I don’t. I do not think it’s possible to say whether a writer is a man or a woman. I don’t think testosterone or estrogen guides anyone’s heart, mind or muse. I think the whole “men and women are soooo different” issue is rubbish.

In short, I don’t think females write differently than males- but I still seem to prefer literature written by men. (On the other hand, I enjoy academic books and essays written by female scholars. But that’s not the same).

There seem to be only a few female authors I enjoy reading. One of them is one of my favourite authors (and, along with Ian McEwan, my favourite living author). I’m talking about Toni Morrison, of course. Her novels are one of the best I’ve ever read, and “Jazz” is easily in my top 10 books. The way this woman writes is unbelievable and beyond amazing. (The funny thing is, I had no idea author was a woman (or black for that matter) when I first read “Jazz”).

Except for Toni Morrison, I like work of Pearl Buck (ironic, isn’t it? I mean, for these two ladies to be my fav female authors?) I also like, in a very nostalgic way, Charlotte Bronte (but I guess that’s because Jane Eyre was perhaps my favorite book when I was a kid). And… And I can’t think of more authors at the moment. And it’s not like I don’t read.

This trend, I’m afraid, goes beyond literature. My favourite musicians are men. Maybe it could be explained with the fact I prefer deep voices and to give it as a reason for preferring male singers. Maybe. But literature?

So, am I sexist?

PS-As a little gift, here’s one female musician I like. In fact, I’m really into this song these days, it is amazing on so many levels and it inspires me. And only really unique songs can truly inspire an author. A female one, in this case.