Tag Archives: objectification

On “Love” Without Respect (And How Men Do It)

Can love exist without respect?One would say love can’t exist without respect. There is some logic and truth to it – true love doesn’t come without respect for a loved one. However, there is a sad reality of many people who confuse admiration with love and who can feel a deep affection for someone without truly respecting them.

Dare to say, men are the main culprits here.

Men tend to be more susceptible to this (due to different socialization and gender roles). This isn’t really surprising – it’s the way society tells them how to treat women. It goes with the perception of women as ethereal and beautiful, but ultimately strange creatures a man can never truly understand. A man builds an admiration for her beauty, her charm or maybe even her character, but this affection falls short on the respect because a woman is seen more of a beautiful object than a fully human being. This was a traditional way of viewing women and femininity.

Luckily, things are changing these days, but these feelings are still present surprisingly often. This is how you get men who will claim to love a woman but without understanding her as a person, men who want to protect and support a woman but without accepting her agency and opinions, and, ultimately, men who have deep feelings for a woman while still considering her an inferior.

It all comes from the power imbalance and unchallenged gender roles. Women, on the other hand, often internalize these opinions. This is why you still find many women who believe that a man finding them beautiful is the highest praise there is or that being admired by a man is more important than a basic human respect.

I must say I am not familiar with this feeling. I am not a type of a woman men admire or find beautiful. It sure made my self-esteem shaky as a teenager. But paradoxically (or not?), the lack of sexual attraction and admiration often led men to respect me. I don’t mean they necessarily liked me (in fact, I am not particularly liked; I’m too awkward for it). However, any dislike or animosity came from a dislike for my individual character. In other words, I was treated as fully human, for better or worse. As if lack of attraction or sexual interest made men able to see me as fully human, as if it made them respect me on a basic human level.

And yes, I could tell a difference. Fashion magazines tell you a bit of makeup and trendy clothes make a lot of difference, and they’re right. I know what is like to dress up and “prettify” yourself, and yes, it makes men see you differently. Those moments resulted in a heightened interest by men (I am usually ignored – many men ignore women they don’t find attractive), but the type of comments I’d received and the way my opinions had been received clearly showed the lack of human interest. As if being attractive somehow made me less human. This the disrespect I’m talking about.

The main point is that men (or whoever has a problem of “loving” someone without respect) should understand that a person they love is a fully human being not so much different than “their kind”. The whole idea of men and women being inherently different is particularly harmful here because it essentialises gender differences in a way that prevents people to see those of a different gender as “one of their own”. As a result, it leads to Othering and exoticism of the other gender(s). And as we all know, Othering & exoticism = no true human respect.

Not to say women are not susceptible to this. However, women as a group still don’t have equal power in the society; society is still male-oriented and catered to male needs. Men are presented as fully human all the time: they are leaders, teachers, doctors, flirts, fools, cowards, heroes and anything in between. They are still seen as a “default human”. In this sense, women are constantly aware of all the different ways men are and can be; women can’t simply forget men are fully human and they can’t forget all the variety of their behavior. Sadly, the way women are portrayed is still reduced to a few types, often defined in a relation to men: a mother, a wife, a daughter. There’s still a harmful dichotomy – the one that leads to the whole “admiration without respect”, the horrible “Madonna vs whore” dichotomy.

What is the solution? There isn’t an easy one, and it probably requires redefining gender roles from scratch. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. At the same time, I must say I do notice a bit of a change in a good direction. Still, we have a long way to go before this problem is fixed.

PS- My personal litmus test here was to never trust a guy who wouldn’t respect you if you had a one night stand with him. I suppose it’s a bit unorthodox way to go, but it worked for me.

Photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc

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?