Do Women Objectify Men?
When I talk about objectification, every now and then someone — it may be either a man or a woman — protests that:
- Women do it too!
- Women check out men!
- Playgirl exists!
- Young girls love teeny-bopper Tiger Beat
Do women objectify men?
Before going any further let’s make a distinction between “sexy” and “sex object.”
When a person is seen entirely in terms of her sexuality and treated like a thing that exists for someone else’s gratification, that is sexual objectification.
On the other hand, if you see someone in all of her multi-dimensions, with sexy being one part, then you are looking at a sexy person and not a sex object.
So do little girls who buy Tiger Beat objectify their fave celebs? The magazine doesn’t exclusively focus on skin — the guys’ chests, gams and butts. Instead, the girls look at pretty pictures of these guys and learn everything they can about their likes and dislikes and everyday lives and adventures. These guys are people. Sexy people, to be sure.
Meanwhile, a plethora of girlie magazines, where women are treated as sexy object-things that exists for someone else’s pleasure – Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Barely Legal, Beaver… have made tons of money. Yet, Playgirl goes bankrupt.
It’s not that women are better than men. We just aren’t taught to objectify them.
We simply don’t live in a culture where the male body is fetishized. No part is selectively hidden and revealed and obsessed over. Cameras rarely focus on men’s butts or linger on their chests.
Just like men, women can be drawn to the beauty of the opposite sex and linger on it. But since the male body isn’t fetishized — doesn’t create the same level of titillation that so often grabs and compels men, making them feel they have no choice in the matter — there’s less push to see a man as a sex-thing that exists for our gratification. And it’s easier for us to make different choices.
Some women might manage to objectify men, anyway. But it’s rarer.
Again, this doesn’t mean that women are innately better. We just haven’t been taught to.
And because we are so unaccustomed to seeing highly sexualized images of men, we often feel uncomfortable looking them. At least if they are nude or semi-nude.
Or, we are so used to sexualized images being meant for the male gaze that a sexy guy in a thong can look “gay” to us. Not a big turn-on.
So maybe it’s no surprise that women often find clothed men sexier. Think Don Draper.
Interestingly, some women have told me that they do their darndest to objectify men. They want to turn it around. So they go to strip joints and scream and shout. Or they sit around with girlfriends and check out guys.
But in the end it often feels more like “playing at” objectifying than actually doing it.
The big concern here is how it leads us to treat each other.
Some men — perhaps many or even most of them — may be able to separate porn fantasy from reality.
But too many end up seeing women as just a means to their gratification. A number of guys commenting on my blog insist that women should do what men want, sexually, even if it is emotionally or physically painful. Or that it’s okay for men to be rude to their partners and ogle other women. Others feel compelled to sexually harass. Some are involved in trafficking women, whether buying or selling.
In these instances women’s hearts and minds don’t matter. For they’ve become mere sexual objects that exist for men’s uses.
Yes, women do notice and appreciate hot guys. And men can check out and appreciate hot women, too — without objectifying. But in our culture, that’s just easier for women to do. But not because we are innately better.