Sex Objects Who Don’t Enjoy Sex

Sexualizing women can have its perks in the bedroom, with breast fetishes and butt fetishes heightening men’s arousal.

But surprisingly, sexualizing women can have the opposite effect, harming both men’s and women’s enjoyment. And in many ways. Here’s one: self-objectification.

Drowning in “sexy women” images, men and women can both come to see women as the sexy half of the species. So what happens in bed? Because men aren’t seen as especially sexy (at least by comparison) men are focused on women and women can be focused on themselves.

Caroline Heldman, assistant professor at Occidental College, found that some women become preoccupied with how they look instead of the sexual experience. “One young woman I interviewed described sex as being an ‘out of body’ experience,” she said. “She viewed herself through the eyes of her lover, and, sometimes, through the imaginary lens of a camera shooting a porn film.”

Sounds a bit like Paris Hilton: “My boyfriends say I’m sexy but not sexual,” she mused. “Being ‘hot’ is a pose, an act, a tool, and entirely divorced from either physical pleasure or romantic love.”

Heldman feels that girls and women are learning to eroticize male sexual pleasure as though it were their own. She feels they need to explore their sexuality in more empowering and satisfying ways than this vicarious act.

Cultural theorist Jackson Katz has similar concerns. “Many young women are now engaged in sex acts with men that prioritize the man’s pleasure,” he reflects, “with little or no expectation of reciprocity.”

When having sex, these young women may be enjoying themselves, and how great they look. They may gain a boost to self-esteem as they dwell on their “hotness.” But they’re not enjoying sex.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 2, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’ve recently been toying (pun intended) with notions of porn and the way sex is expanding in our culture. Do you think it’s possible that the act of sex goes beyond the “bedroom,” so to speak, and into the realm of public images deemed “sexual?” That is, can things like watching porn, trying to look sexy, and going to strip clubs be considered “sex?” It just seems to me that these sorts of experiences are so embodied in our contemporary culture that they can be just as “real” as intercourse.

    Of course this does not necessarily mean women and girls are enjoying the act of sex anymore, a truly tragic phenomenon. I hope more and more men are recognizing the way this affects their own enjoyment of sex!

    • Well, I’ve heard some men say that porn is very much like sex, others say it’s better than sex, while still others say that it’s not as good as sex with real women. So I guess it’s certainly possible. I think the “better than sex” perspective is unfortunate.

      For women, a disembodied sexual experience based on porn depends on how you define “porn,” because women don’t use porn a lot. I even have a piece coming out later on how male strippers don’t seem very sexy to women. But many women are into erotica, particularly sexual, romantic novels.

      So yes, I suspect that disembodied sex is a real possibility.

      That said, most people say they want pleasure and connection from sex. Virtual sex provides pleasure, but completely misses out on connection. So it’s pretty empty. How sad.

  2. Wow–what a confusing place to be–self-objectification to the point where one is a bystander to her own sexual experience? Wow, talk about sex in the third person! Oh no, you have now tweaked my muse.

  1. Pingback: sex in the third person | Susan Daniels Poetry

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