Category Archives: objectification
I don’t know one guy who would cut off his cock in the name of cancer-prevention. I wouldn’t!
That’s the DJ blather I had the misfortune of hearing on my morning commute the day Angelina Jolie announced her double mastectomy to prevent cancer.
It made me wonder.
Why would these guys choose their cocks over life?
And boobs are a cock-equivalent?
The male member makes babies and gives pleasure (not necessarily in that order), and eliminates waste. Breasts do just one of the three — and they are not the only route to pleasure. In fact, the clit works better.
And while men love looking at Angie’s boobs, women are less enamored of the male package, or gazing at it, anyway.
And of course, some guys think a bigger cock means a bigger man. (Not true.)
I’m not sure that women see their breasts in quite the same way. Sure, they’re seen as a sign of femininity and some women want bigger ones to feel more womanly. Yet others are secure in their femininity, regardless of size: Keira Knightley, Mila Kunis, Paris Hilton, Kate Middleton and her sister, Pipa, for instance.
And as Angelina now says,
On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
So what about a man choosing his cock over his life? A male student of mine wrote a piece I will be posting called, “Doing dumb stuff to prove manhood.” Maybe this is an example?
But of course, breasts have been a defining trait of Angelina Jolie – take those away and there’s nothing left if you happen to be a boob-obsessed guy? A kind of death, as far as they are concerned?
Or, if a woman is defined by her boobs and her man-appeal, maybe some dudes are just pissed that a woman would think that her body and her life are for herself and not for them?
Are others just disconcerted? Angie’s hot — even without natural C-cups. How could that be?
Boobs are a big thing, but in one stroke they’ve lost a chunk of cultural power, says Alexandra Bradner at Salon,
She absolutely robbed them of their cultural, symbolic power. And what’s so completely thrilling about this, is that she did it on her own, one single woman — one single decision — against the machine.
Imagine, valuing women for themselves and not for their breasts. For some, that is plenty disconcerting. No wonder there’s a bit of a backlash on the man-o-sphere.
Miss Universe can pose for Playboy, but she’d better not have sex with an actual playboy.
Sexual girls may be “sluts” and “ho’s” but all girls are bombarded by sexy-women images — that tell them what they’re supposed to look like. Combined with a high school hierarchy based on looks, the message gets thru that a woman’s worth rests largely upon her ability to attract.
Some seek confirmation that they are, indeed sexy, and therefore, “worthy” by drawing the male gaze.
Walking down the street a young woman meets male approval. Or, she may try sexting. All for his pleasure and her self-esteem.
Some have sex with men, hoping to feel beautiful. But a young woman who tries that is back to being a bad girl because now she’s sexual. Except that she’s not. She’s being sexy for someone else’s pleasure — a sex object who doesn’t enjoy sex – even as she enjoys looking good.
Kerry Cohen, psychotherapist and author of Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity says,
The problem is not necessarily that girls are victims of predatory males. It’s that they are victims of very narrow definitions of sexual desirability. And in the course of confirming their desirability – and hence their worthiness – they end up completely removed from their own sexuality and experience of sexual desire.
So how can young women get in touch with their sexuality on their own terms? Dr. Cohen has some suggestions:
1. Talk about Desire. When girls ask parents how they will know they are ready to have sex, desire rarely comes up:
We tell them that sex will get in the way of their happiness and growth. We tell them they must be in love. We tell them that good sex happens only when you are in love… (We must acknowledge) that girls have sexual desire, and everything can change.
2. Talk about Outercourse. Think second and third base, she says, or phone sex, so that young women can explore and test intimacy and communicate with their partners. Plus, women get more orgasms through outercourse than intercourse, anyway.
3. Talk about Masturbation. Women need to get in touch with their own bodily pleasure. It’s hard to know what you like, or communicate what you like, unless you get know your body and how it responds.
4. Talk about Emotions. Sex and sexual feelings are too often removed from emotions in our society, says Cohen, even though they are entwined. Young people need to think about various types of sexual acts and whether they are interested in them, or even prepared for them.
It’s about time more women enjoyed sexual pleasure instead of just being sexy for someone else’s.
As you drive to work you see billboards with scantily clad men drawing your attention to products that they gracefully caress. Other men bend over in ways that make you want sex with them. In some ads women lord it over submissive men.
You arrive at your ad agency, and as Creative Director you take a look at new ideas your copywriters have brought:
2) The silhouette of a man with a beer body and a foam head appears. Copy reads, “You never forget your first guy.”
3) Two women surgeons sit near a male patient who is sprawled over an operating table, dressed in just a thong. A scalpel “knife’s” his body in an ad for a TV show called “Nip Tuck.”
4) A man didn’t make coffee right so his wife spanks him.
In this world women are the dominant sex consumers who expect men to “turn them on,” passively open to them, and submit to them — sexually and otherwise. And if they don’t behave, the men will be punished.
Here’s a video on how such a world would look:
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Flipping images of women and men can flip our way of seeing.
This picture of Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert posing like female supermodels is making its way around the web:
(Is Stephen Colbert so hot because he’s not wearing glasses? Or is it that pose?)
Over at The Gender Press a “side-by-side” comparison of real Victoria’s Secret models and men posing to look like them is jarring. The women look sexy, but I’m not sure the men do. We are definitely not used to seeing men posed “sexily” in that way.
This superhero image has also gotten around:
Ready and willing, these guys may strike terror in the hearts of villains. But not for fear of getting beaten up.
The Gender Press offers another take on the theme:
No if’s, and’s or butts with these Avengers. Unless gender is switched — in Kevin Bolk’s parody.
Men come across as tough and strong, as assertive or aggressive. Or at least standing upright.
Women are more likely sitting or lying on the floor, maybe caressing themselves or an object. And if at all possible, their butts or breasts are aimed at us.
Even when women are depicted as tough, best to add sexy and stir? Even as we move outside the box, we get put back in it.
They’re called privates for a reason. I’m wearing pants, for f-’s sake. When people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel like that wasn’t part of the deal.
Female celebs are objectified all the time. Remember how Anne Hathaway’s nipples seemed more important than Anne Hathaway’s Oscar? Even Princesses get caught in the net, viz., Kate Middleton’s “Boobgate.”
Women are supposed to be used to this sort of thing. But men aren’t used to it.
A lot of guys probably think that objectifying is no biggie – and maybe even a complement – until men are.
When sociologist, Beth Quinn, asked men how they thought women felt about being stared at and commented on, most hadn’t given it much thought. It’s just something guys do. It’s no big deal.
But when she asked them to imagine waking up in a woman’s body things changed. Guys typically said they did not “know how to be a woman.” But as they talked, they mirrored what women said. Now that their identities and abilities – and humanity – were ignored, they didn’t like it and wanted to avoid it.
Here’s what one guy said:
I would probably have to be very concerned about my attire in the lab. Because in a lot of cases I’m working at a bench and hunched over, in which case your shirt, for example, would open up and I would just have to be concerned about that.
In everyday life he needn’t worry about his clothing or how he looks at every angle. Suddenly he does. And sometimes it doesn’t matter what you wear, you will get commented on anyway.
Turns out, men, women and Jon Hamm don’t really like being reduced to being all about sex and nothing else.
This matter of women liking sex less than men is confusing. I enjoy sexuality very much as a man and am disheartened by the seemingly in-your-face fact that women don’t enjoy sex as much as we men do. To me sex is a total experience (heart, soul, mind and body) and it seems that if women don’t enjoy this important part of healthy relationships, then they aren’t as attracted to men in all those ways. I don’t know, it would be nice to actually feel very attractive to the opposite sex. The whole thing makes me very sad, i dunno.
That’s one man’s reaction to a blog post I wrote asking, “DO Women Like Sex Less Than Men?” I wrote the post because statistics suggest that, on average, women do typically like it less.
That’s because women’s sexuality has been repressed by a culture that calls us sluts and ho’s and describes men getting sex with women in unappetizing ways: screw, f-, bang, nail, ram, smash, smack that, beat those… Or, women may get distracted with worry about not looking good enough. And if they do think they look good, they may focus on looking hot for the guy. Who can be in touch with sensual feelings with all that going on? Not to mention, women who have been raped often don’t enjoy sex at all.
Women in egalitarian, sex-positive cultures love sex and are easily and multiply orgasmic. They don’t even need a vibrator.
The problem is sexism, not biology.
The question remains: What to do?
As a society we need to heal. Women, their sexuality, and their bodies — in all their many forms — must be respected and celebrated. And we must put an end to a rape culture that so often blames the victim and fails to punish rapists.
Over time, both sexism and sexual repression have diminished, so there is hope. But cultural change takes time. What can we do right now?
If sexual abuse and trauma are part of a woman’s past, she likely needs therapy and a great deal of understanding from her partner. Too many couples try to struggle through the problem alone when they need help.
Meanwhile, the beauty ideal has narrowed to impossible standards, leaving many women feeling sexually undesirable – and that dampens libido. So women need to become more loving and accepting of their bodies, and men need to appreciate and communicate the unique beauty their partners hold.
Also, let go of how you look and get in tune with how you feel. Focusing on looks is a huge distraction. Instead, center on small sensations that grow larger as you submerge yourself in them.
Deep connection may also help partners to merge and emerge into a transcendent experience. As one woman describes it:
There is a form of sexual ecstasy that mimics the union of God and man, recreation of the world. I can’t really describe this experience… But pure joy and connection with another person I feel is becoming closer to the cycles of life and the underlying palpable energy to the world… in essence, God.
And finally I’ll repeat some advice to men from earlier posts:
If you want your partner to desire sex then romance her, show appreciation, stop shaming women for being sexual, or for not fitting ridiculous “ideals,” desire her and let your lady know she’s beautiful.
Playboy wanted to know how average-looking Lena Dunham, the award-winning producer, director, writer and star of HBO’s Girls, would feel if she woke up in the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
Not so great, said Dunham, who frequently appears nude on her show.
I don’t think I’d like it very much. There would be all kinds of weird challenges to deal with that I don’t have to deal with now. I don’t want to go through life wondering if people are talking to me because I have a big rack. Not being the babest person in the world creates a nice barrier. The people who talk to you are the people who are interested in you. It must be a big burden in some ways to look that way and be in public.
Looking like a Victoria’s Secret Angel instead of me. I can see the upside. Women are hugely judged by their looks so in an Angel-body I’d land at the top of the pack. How nice. And I could have any guy.
But studies show a downside. Plain women are more likely to get a job interview, for instance. Maybe they seem less sex objecty and more brainy. The beautiful are also believed to be more conforming and self-promoting.
Or, therapist, Mary Pipher wrote in her bestselling Reviving Ophelia that,
Girls who are too attractive are seen primarily as sex objects. Their appearance overdetermines their identity. They know that boys like to be seen with them, but they doubt that they are liked for reasons other than their packaging.
Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor who studies men, says some guys are more interested in bragging to other guys that they nailed a beautiful girl than in having sex with her. Other guys entirely miss seeing the girl because they’re obsessed with her body.
Meanwhile, girls who are too plain are ignored and miss a lot of experiences. Pipher continues:
The luckiest girls are neither too plain or too beautiful. They’ll be more likely to date boys who genuinely like them. They’ll have an identity based on other factors, such as sense of humor, intelligence or strength of character.
And then there’s this: A lot of guys thought Dunham’s response was B.S. But in a Slate comment thread one woman wrote,
You think you’d be happier if you were better-looking, but would you feel the same way if you were in prison? You don’t associate being attractive with any sort of threat, but for women it can be.
On a more mundane note, it’d also take a lot of time, work, starvation and calorie-counting to keep up that body when you could be doing other stuff. Healthy is good, “perfect” takes too much time and surgery.
Did Hermione Granger really say “I can’t” during the climactic battle in the final chapter of the Harry Potter film saga? Presented with her chance to destroy one of the horcruxes she had put her life on the line to hunt, she backs away and needs her almost-boyfriend Ron to insist that of course she can.
The transformation of a brave, adventurous girl into a young woman who becomes weakened by, or defined by, her sexuality, has a long literary tradition. The next step, it seems, is to become a mom who is sick or dead.
I discovered this pattern one year when I let fiction take over my usual nonfiction reading habit.
In The Sound and the Fury we meet adventurous, determined and nurturing little Caddy Compson who is busy exploring the local countryside, climbing trees and sometimes bossing her brothers. Later, she becomes a promiscuous woman, shamed and rejected by her family. And the mother in this story? She’s a neurotic hypochondriac.
Faulkner introduces us to a mother who is dying, and later dead, in the appropriately titled, As I Lay Dying. Her daughter is upset and fixated on her out-of-wedlock pregnancy (instead of her dying/dead mom).
In Atonement creative young Briony Tallis has an over-active imagination that leads to serious trouble. Her older cousin gets raped, and her older sister is overcome by romance. Mom is constantly bedridden with headaches.
Plain Song revolves around a shy 17-year-old whose mother kicked her out after learning she was pregnant. Two young boys have a mom who spends her days locked away, depressed.
I could go on, but you get the point.
If strong, adventurous girls grew up to become strong, adventurous young women,who were also sexual, that would be fine. But too often, sexuality diminishes them or becomes the only thing they’re about.
Maybe that explains why older women (moms) end up sick or dead. Upon reaching womanhood the grown girl leaves behind everything that had empowered and engaged her to become defined by her sexuality. When her allure fades, there’s nothing left.
Which suggests a lesson for real live women. Best to avoid a one-dimensional focus on sexuality that rests on narrow beauty notions. Instead, stay strong and develop many facets of yourself, including an ageless and radiant beauty and sexuality (a la Meryl Streep and Hellen Mirren, et al) to enjoy over a lifetime.
A new study on men’s breast size preferences may or may not be surprising.
University of Westminster researchers showed 361 British men 3-D models of women with different bust sizes and asked which woman they found most attractive.
A lot of women think that men only like big breasts, but this study says otherwise. Yes, nearly half – 44% – favored larger busts. But more than half didn’t, with one third preferring medium-sized gals and another quarter saying smaller is better. So there’s a range.
And, the researchers focused on white men because prior studies showed that preference varies by ethnicity. Once again, it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
It all goes against pop evolutionary psychology which claims men want bigger breasts because they indicate health and fertility. First of all, most men don’t prefer larger over smaller. Second, if men preferred larger, then those genes would have been spread more widely and we’d have a lot more large busted women around today. Finally, there is no evidence that large breasts are associated with better health or fertility.
And even men who love big breasts may come to love more petite women, and vice-versa, as many can attest.
So ladies, you needn’t get expensive and potentially dangerous surgeries (which need to be redone every ten years) for implants.
And here’s another reason you don’t need them: Men who preferred big boobs were more likely to be sexist.
After indicating their breast preferences the guys were surveyed on how much they objectified women, felt hostility toward them and practiced benevolent sexism (seeing women as weak and needing protection).
Turns out, a preference for large breasts was most common among men in all three of those sexist categories, and most especially, among those who saw women as weak.
Now, men who are partial to buxom women aren’t always sexist. The Western world acts like “bigger is better” so no surprise that many men come to think so.
At the same time, the pattern makes a certain amount of sense. One researcher suggested that,
It is arguable that benevolently sexist men perceived larger female breasts as attractive because larger breast size on a woman is associated with perceived femininity.
And if you are going to objectify, it helps to easily see the crucial body parts.
That said, women should be confident and proud of their bodies, however they are shaped. That confidence will attract the best guys.
Some are sure I want sex with them even when I’ve said I don’t. Some Mormon guys thought I’d enjoy a polygamous marriage in Heaven. (No. That sounds like Hell.) Another guy thought I’d like to bring in another woman and have a threesome relationship, or at least periodic threeways. That’s because I told him about research showing that women got more genitally aroused by a nude man than a nude woman. Or, that when women watched hetero couples in foreplay through goggles tracking eye movement, they spent half their time looking at men’s faces and the other half looking at women’s bodies.
The strange pattern of women seeing women as sexier is not about sexual orientation. As I’ve said before:
I’m hetero, but ask me which image I find more erotic, a nude female or a nude male, and I’ll choose the girl. Many of my hetero female students nod in agreement.
But men have “informed me” that I am bisexual. Or that all women are either lesbian or bi:
You are a great person but you aren’t straight.
I’m afraid I don’t agree with you… doesn’t matter if you say that you are not interested in having sex with women, if you feel sexual arousal with female images, it is more than enough to be bisexual… Definitely, women are bisexual.
The comments come often enough that I’m writing this post so that I can simply insert a link in response to future comments because I’m tired of repeating myself.
On the breast fetish being learned and not biological, here’s what I said in one post:
Women’s bodies are obsessed over, with breasts selectively hidden and revealed, creating a captivation, leaving us wondering about that which is hidden. The camera gazes, zeroes in on women’s bodies. We talk about women’s breasts as alluring. So they become a sexual signal to both men and women. We don’t treat any part of the male body in the same way.
When cultures don’t fixate on breasts that are selectively concealed they are no big deal. So tribal men, who see them all the time, aren’t especially interested. European men’s attraction waned in the 80′s when topless women appeared all over local beaches and billboards. And men can become numbed to titillation with overexposure to porn.
I could add that mere covering has managed to make women’s hair erotic in the Middle East. A student of mine said that when she lived in Iran she would sometimes draw back her veil to reveal a hint of, shall we say, hair cleavage. It drove men wild.
In a culture obsessed with boobs is it any surprise that both men and women learn the fetish (though hetero women may experience it a bit differently)?
Sexual appeal is a part of being human, but must it be turbo-charged with women and withheld with men? I’d like to see balance: women portrayed more multidimensionally in addition to sex appeal, and I’d like to see sexuality attached more often to men. But not narrow notions that say you have to look like “this” to be attractive. Variety is the spice of life!
On the breast fetish being no indication of sexual orientation, I have explained to various guys that:
Being a guy you likely associate the fetish with attraction to the woman who’s attached to the breasts. I don’t. It’s the breasts, only, that are arousing. I was in Nice, France, where some women were topless at a beach. I found that arousing but was not drawn to any of the actual women. I suspect a lot of the arousal came from a sexual breach: Topless women in a public place! Scandalous!
Tribal men are the opposite. They are drawn to women but aren’t aroused by breasts. So if they don’t get aroused by breasts they’re not hetero, right?
Now, given the research, some guys insist that all women are either gay or bi. Yet tribal women aren’t aroused by breasts, either. So they’re the one exception to all women being lesbian or bi?
You can’t seem to understand that breasts have been made into such a strong sexual symbol in our culture that they can provoke a fetish response in the West, on some level, among men and women alike, but not in places like tribal societies, where they are not sexualized.
And oddly – or maybe not — it is not uncommon for a woman in Western society to get aroused by seeing her own sexy self through her lover’s eyes. As she imagines his arousal over her body and lives through it, on some level she vicariously makes love to herself. After all, he’s not a sex object to focus on. She is. Yet it’s hetero because she needs his gaze and his lust to get aroused. This may sound strange to a lot of guys, but plenty of women recognize themselves in this.
Meanwhile, I know quite a few lesbians and bisexual women and more than one has offered to have sex with me. But the thought of genital contact nauseates me. If I were bi that wouldn’t happen. Doesn’t happen with guys. I find myself not “getting” why some girls are attracted to girls. I know it happens and that’s fine. I just can’t relate to it.
If despite all this explanation it’s important to you to believe that I’m bi, go ahead. No big deal. I’m interested in educating people but I’m tired of trying to explain something that you may never understand.
When people write comments insisting I’m bi, the thing they don’t get is that the breast fetish has nothing to do with male heterosexuality, either.
In fact, men are more likely than women to like enormously unnatural breasts. How could being drawn to something that does not exist in nature be biological? In fact, when some men get so that they can only appreciate large, unnatural breasts, they get less aroused by natural, smaller ones. And that makes perpetuation of the species less likely.
Also, when men have been with a particular woman for a while the fetish disappears. A number of men have remarked on this, some on this blog. A man may still find his partner’s breasts attractive, just as he finds her legs attractive — and new lingerie may help create a sense of newness and mystery — but her naked breasts will not provoke a fetish response in the way a new woman’s breasts would. Or in the way that hers did the first few time he saw them. There’s a reason why men needed a new Playboy pinup each month, back when Playboy was the porn of choice. Guys won’t keep getting aroused by the same woman’s breasts over and over again. And yet, he will continue to be turned on by her, and will still want to have sex with her, over and over again. And to repeat: In tribal societies where women are topless all the time men don’t get aroused by breasts. In 1980′s Europe, when men saw plenty of naked breasts on topless beaches and billboards, the fetish disappeared. Men who are overexposed to pornography stop finding breasts attractive.
What’s arousing is the hiddenness and intrigue behind that which is hidden, heightened by a culture obsessed with breasts as a sex signal.
Apparently, many women are confused about experiencing a breast fetish while being sexually drawn to men and not women. “How is that possible?” they have wondered? So my posts have found their way to various sites like “Yahoo! Answers.” Or, a number of women have found my blog by googling something like, “I’m a straight woman but like boobs.” When I put “Women Learn the Breast Fetish, Too” on StumbleUpon, it received a 97% “like” rating. So there must be plenty of women who can relate. I doubt they’re all bi.
Being bi would probably make me – and all women — more intriguing. Sorry to disappoint.