Objectification & Male Self-Esteem

man objectifying womanWhy do men objectify women?

Jason Gavis asked men that question on his Facebook page and wrote about their replies for The Good Men Project. Here’s one answer he got:

For me it’s about seeking approval… the most fun and exciting and ego gratifying times in my life have been when I have embraced it and danced with it.

This reminded me of a woman who said (more like complained) that her guy seemed to get an ego-boost whenever a woman he ogled noticed him.

So I’m wondering why this is. 

Because it doesn’t always work out that way.

In fact, some men feel inferior to sex goddesses who make them feel weak in the knees. Some of these guys react by hating sexy women.

I wonder if a guy might try turning the tables by objectifying — remodeling said vixen into an object — in hopes of attaining the higher status of “subject,” himself?

But the quote above sounds like the guy is having fun, not compensating for an inferiority complex.

Robin Thicke objectifying women

Robin Thicke objectifying women

For guys like him, maybe the ego expands because he thinks the sex goddess is dressing up for him, and enjoying revealing herself to him. “She’s offering herself up to me… She wants to turn me on.” And therein, she lifts him slightly higher than herself — since she is doing it all for him.

I wonder because a guy once told me that that’s how it worked for him.

Might make sense in light of some studies.

Researchers found that men who spend more time gazing at women are more often risk-taking and sexually compulsive. Also, guys who seek out short-term hookups (the more sexually compulsive?) tend to overestimate women’s attraction to them. And the more attractive these guys find a woman, the more attractive they think she finds them.

So ogling could well give these guys a much desired shot in the arm.

On the other hand, maybe the sexy lady just makes these guys feel good. And feeling good, he feels better about himself.

If any guys would like to chime in, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. And keep in mind that “objectify” is not the same thing as “desire” or “appreciate an attractive person.” Men who objectify don’t see women as people whose thoughts and feelings matter. And objects don’t deserve autonomy and respect, either.

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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 September 16, 2015, in feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. I would just like to point out that personally I believe objectification goes both ways. That it’s not just women who fall victim to objectification but men as well, albeit often times in a different set of circumstances. That being said, I don’t think there is any question that you will most likely find more women out there who have felt as though they are being objectified more so than men, and it most certainly happens to them more often. It’s also interesting I think that when women do it to men, for whatever reason it is taken much less seriously, and almost more of a joke rather than the creepiness of when guys do it. But ultimately none of this takes away from the seriousness of objectification in general. No one should be objectified and it should be wrong to treat people as anything other than people. I do agree that I think self-esteem has a lot to do with it. But sometimes it may be as simple as them thinking what there saying or thinking is a compliment when clearly its not.

  2. Interesting correlations of variables, dear Georgia 🌠
    It could be related with the need of compensating an inferiority complex…
    Even more if there is not a unrequited feeling…
    Taking it further, it might also apply to women when they feel they can not compete against certain female beauties… Quite a corrosive burden as it certainly has the ability to grind down self-esteem…
    Best wishes to you. Aquileana 🎆

  3. I know of a man who found himself in the exact situation you describe. Ken Wilber is a well-known author who at first had women coming to him and saying they wanted sex without strings, But he found that he kept hurting woman after woman. So he felt he could no longer ethically continue to have no strings sex with them. So the answer is that once you understand that, you would be objectifying to continue behaving that way.”

    So men have to give up no strings sex, because women can’t get into it. I wouldn’t want to trick a woman into sex, but it’s unfortunate there’s a division where either both parties men and women end up getting something they don’t want and standing in each other’s way. A man might want to have sex no strings attached, but most or many women he comes across don’t want that or prefer a relationship. A woman wants a relationship or women want that, but the men they meet don’t want that, so the men a dropped high and dry. Compromise would help, as it seems either women are having their hearts broken or a man or men are dealing with unwanted, unintented abstinence for possibly years if they are to hold off from sex with woman, because of how it could hurt women’s feelings with no strings attached sex. If men didn’t or couldn’t be a little selfish, then most men probalby would be hardly getting any sex. I don’t know neither sound good. Broken hearts would suck to feel or go through, but a year or longer, or years of a dry spell would really, really suck.

  4. Have you followed the story of the Ashley Madison bots at all? I’ve been wondering what it is about these programmed “engagers” that made men so much more willing and eager to drop cash — and now I’m wondering how it might relate to this idea of men having “fun” with objectified fantasies?

    Anyhow. My own thoughts are only partially-baked at this point, but it struck me as a story (and question) that fits with much of what you write about here. [And ICYMI, here’s the most recent analysis of the bot data I’ve come across:
    http://gizmodo.com/ashley-madison-code-shows-more-women-and-more-bots-1727613924 ]

    • I actually haven’t heard about the bots. If you write something about this I be interested to see it. I’ll have to give this some more thought, but it does sound a lot like having fun with objectified fantasies. Or maybe feeling really great about yourself because all of these women want you. When it’s just an ego thing, And women are pawns in a game that says how great you are — because you have manage to collect a lot of women — then the women are just objects. And obviously, if you don’t know anything about them, other than sex, same thing.

  5. I just sighted your response to my earlier comment, Georgia, and feel adding a clarification is due. Objectification of the female, or even male, is obviously not desirable and I am not subscribing to it as balanced male egos do not need such pandering. All I am hinting at in the given context here is the extreme of capitalist economy and its tendency to commoditise everything that sells, female pulchritude included. It is not right, but there are many things not right with market capitalism.

  6. Keep in mind that “objectify” is not the same thing as “desire” or “appreciate an attractive person.” Men who objectify don’t see women as people whose thoughts and feelings matter. And objects don’t deserve autonomy and respect, either.

    It’s no surprise that a man with these attitudes would be more likely to use/abuse and rape. And research bears it out.”

    True that men who rape or do bad things, most likely see women as objects, or sub human, as in order to do something like that. You have to either be a sociopath and/or see a woman as not human or 2nd class citizen to do such heinous stuff. But what you’re getting is kind of complicated and not so black and white, and to me, shades of grey. Human beings, personalities and quirks, etc are quite complex, so motives and what not could seem like a contradiction, but it simply being a matte of an individual thinking and acting certain way during certain times but doing a 180 and thinking and acting another way another time.

    I mean if that’s the case than most or a majority of men are abusive then. There’s a difference between being a “jerk” and criminal. With hook up culture, many guys have either had a one night stand, casual fling, fwbs, fbs or short term girlfriends. Probably even some decent guys have might have had a “player” period, even if short where they hooked up a girl and was done, she wanted more and she got her feelings hurt. But like I said, it can be complex. With this culture or biology, men can compartmentalize things. Meaning men can be emotional, romantic, but also selfish, ego driven and choose to use either side depending on mood and want. So the difference is,, the bad rapist man, he doesn’t really have morals, but most likely sees women as simply objects, and nothing else. The self centered, but also, nice guy also, sounds like a contadiction huh?

    He can go through a period of banging girls, using girls, maybe it bothers him, but he shrugs it off, but he still may want and prefer a relationship. Later on, he matures, wakes up and he always had that emotional, romanctic part, and then gets in relationships, is good with the woman, maybe gets his heart broken, etc. It’s weird how this happens. I’ve seen some cocky immature dudes who were about casual sex and maybe didn[‘t try to be players, they might have intentionally or unintenionally caused heart break for girls. But then next thing you know that guy is married and happy and his wife happy and he’s romantic and always wanted or had the romanctic caring side. He just suppressed it.

    • The problem with sexual objectification is when it hurts people. I plan to write on this more later. But thanks for your question because it helps me to clarify for that blog post.

      If a man and woman want to hook up and they both enjoy it. And he’s concerned with her thoughts and feelings enough to not try to pressure her to do things she doesn’t want to do, he hasn’t misled or manipulated her just so he can “get some,” he cares that she is enjoying herself, too, and the end result will not end in harm to anyone — then that’s not really objectification.

      • What if the man cares enough not to pressure her, but he also not enough to care about the results of their “hook up” and she still gets hurt as a result. What I mean is, it seems more complicated than that. Girls want hook ups less than guys, and even the ones who think they do, they can both agree with each other, but sometimes or many times the girl still wants more and gets hurt when the man doesn’t have the care or want to see her more and just wants sex with her. She can still feel used. What about something else. What about if or when a girl and guy meet and date and what many see as the third date, many times turns into sex. Say he doesn’t pressure her, and things go well, she’s attracted to him and what happens, you don’t want to cling or talk about a relationships or she or what others may feel is, you know just going with whats happening now. So she has sex with the guy after 3 dates. After that she gets connected, wants more, but he just wanted sex. But he never made promises or told her what she wanted to hear, as players do or might do. If she asked if he wanted a relationship he would say he doesn’t or imply that and not go further to not cause problems. She doesn’t bring it up, so he never says his intentions. To me that’s up to her, if it’s not brought up, then casual sex or hook up is fair game.

        She ends up getting hurt, because she wanted more or ended up liking him more after and ended up getting emotionally connected to him, while he wanted simply sex the whole time and was just hoping she wouldn’t bring up a relatiosnhip so he wouldn’t have to tell her his true intentions and could then be ‘free of the guilt” as she never asked, so he didn’t have to tell his intentions. Fact of the matte, is guy’s want sex, and less of the emotional baggage more so than women, so it’s kind of tough. Doesn’t a guy have to kind of be, a little bit selfish if he wants to have sex with multiple women? If a man wants t sow his oats so he can have fun and be ready by whatever age and then get serious. Well he’s not going to meet that quota going into relationship after relationship, which could end up being a year or more each girl and a waste of time since these girls, while nice girls were never “the one” as it’s hard to find the one, so a waste of time, while also holding him up from sex with different girls. Thats the trick, guys wanting sex and girls wanting relationships. something is going to give. Guy’s aren’t going to get the multiple sex they want withouth probably being somehwat selfish at some point, as women wouldn’t be having sex with these men or many men if men made their intentions obvious and then denied. It’s hard for many guys to gets dates or attract women enough as it is, a man isn’t going to want to cause a girl to lose attraction and let go of each opportunity once he knwos a girl is attracted and it can lead to sex.

      • “(But) not enough to care about the results of their “hook up” and she still gets hurt as a result”?

        I know of a man who found himself in the exact situation you describe. Ken Wilber is a well-known author who at first had women coming to him and saying they wanted sex without strings, But he found that he kept hurting woman after woman. So he felt he could no longer ethically continue to have no strings sex with them. So the answer is that once you understand that, you would be objectifying to continue behaving that way.

  7. Even if it is a shot in arm, I worry about what it’s doing long-term. Because objectification removes us from real feelings. An ego boost may come at the expense of true connection. And what kind of emptiness does that lead to?

    • I agree. Thanks for saying so.

    • @ Jay,

      “Because objectification removes us from real feelings.”

      How so Jay? If you saw a woman who was a total stranger, just what kind of feelings would you have anyway?

      On the one hand, the cry goes out “if no one is being hurt….yada yada yada”. Then we see that a majority or a very large number of women who view intercourse as LESS intimate as holding hands or kissing…To this we add to all of this our casual sex culture along with hookups etc. Lastly, we have women who view sex as “just sex” and feel perfectly OK having sex with men whom they would not even date…

      So, when you step back and look at it ALL (i.e., big picture), is objectification really the issue? If women see men as sex objects and men see women in the same light AND are acting out these tendencies with casual sex, casual dating, hookups, friends with benefits…what exactly is all the fuss about? Seriously…

    • But would a man be set for a relationship if he has things he needs to fix for himself first? It’s easy to look at it that way if a person has done the things they want or not proud, but, it sucks to let something slip through or a true connection at the expense of an ego boost. On the other hand, what’s a true connection if the man gets in a relationship, but is still bothered by the past, and needs the ego boost and stroking before getting too far deep into a relationship or any relationship that could be serious?

      It’s hard to understand if you aren’t a competitive or person too focused on accomplishments and possessions, etc. But if you are an ego driven person, then it makes perfect sense. It sucks it has to be that way and a man could regret not connecting with a woman that could be great for him, but then again, if he’s not ready and hell bent on having some ego stroking, then he wouldn’t be good for a long term relationship and would be wasting the woman’s time too. For example, say a shy guy, but with personality and actually nice looking guy. He has an ego, but he’s only had a few sexual partners and he’s like 26 now, but he never held out because he didn’t want to have sex or something like that. He was just a man with social anxiety, but who over time came out of his shell. He’s a proud man and knows he’s attractive and though frustrated with himself, it bothers him to have not sowed his oats a little and as a result the lack of partners has put an ego bruising on him. It’s unfotunate he might blow past and skip over a woman and just have sex with a furtue wife or someone great. But on the other hand I get it too in the sense, I can’t blame a man not wanting to get too serious say if he’s only had sex with 2 or 3 women and is like in mid to late 20s.

      Sure the relationship is more meaningful and he is putting to much emphasis on sex. But on the same token, this is a man not happy with the results. If you feel you’re a sexy person and charming, but not having the results to go with your ego, but also others guys ego’s stroked who are definitely less attractive and charming, that can be quite the salt on the wound. What’s a man in that sitatuou to do? Well have some more casual sex and more partners. But the different unlike highschool boys who’d used that to brag about or “give them value”, which is not good. This is different, this is just getting the results and filling the man’s expectation that he didn’t fulfill though, though of his own fault. It still doesn’t matter as the results can be something bothersome for a n ego driven man. It’s like a man being a good basketball shooter, sharp shooter. He admires his amazing stroke when he arches it up and knows it going in and just watches it with a sly smile. But this same man goes in a drought and can’t hit a barn and say missed 20 in a row. And then is asked to never take a shot again and make the shots back. A proud shooter is not stopping from having done terrible and such deficit. You know his ass, is coming back to the gym and not only gonna shoot again, but keep shooting until he not only makes 20 in a row, but 30 in a row. And after making them think “that’s more like it”.

      • Keep in mind that “objectify” is not the same thing as “desire” or “appreciate an attractive person.” Men who objectify don’t see women as people whose thoughts and feelings matter. And objects don’t deserve autonomy and respect, either.

        It’s no surprise that a man with these attitudes would be more likely to use/abuse and rape. And research bears it out.

        Also see this:

        I used to objectify women and now I can’t really love http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/building-romantic-relationship-hesaid/

        By the way, I just edited the post to clarify what I mean by objectify. So thanks for your comments so that I thought to change the post.

  8. I think it is because this behavior is really expressing a desire to possess…to have..to own etc.

    We men love to possess things…Our toys you know. We are often judged by our possessions. Also, for many men possessions create a higher sense of self worth. For many men, it is their sole sense of self worth. Sad but so true.

    So, when a man see a hot or attractive woman, he wants her as in to possess her.

    Just my opinion.

  9. In a way I don’t get some of it, because I don’t know why men would like having their engines revved up it seemed even if it boosts their ego, when they might not be doing anything with it. I could understand if it’s a very sexy woman and you actually get her number, date and have sex. But if it’s a lookg, she notices and then off to do whatever, whihc usually happens. That in a sense doesn’t seem fun, or don’t understand why guys get that high. That’s like blue balls stuff. BEing turned on, but what? Jerking off about her later? That’s the fun? I’m already discreet as it is, because I believe it’s rude to state, but I purposedly block myself my mind from getting too lustful, if it’s a woman I know I won’t approach or it’s in passing or something, because me doing that, I feel like I’d be teasing myself and then get down and disheartened after.

    So I usally appreciate or might, but I won’t let my mind wander like those guys probably do in the lusting sense. I only would if it’s a girl that I’ve checked out, she’s noticed and whom I got a number from, etc,. Even though she might flake out, atleast my mind is set that something might go forward whereas, if its a woman passing by or with a boyfirend or with a bunch of girls and in a situaiton that would be weird to approach her or uncomfrotable for me to, then I won’t get too caught up in looking at her. It’s the same reason I never understood men going to strip clubs, and not just that but spending money just to see naked women and get turned on. Only to leave after. Well some strip clubs might have a prostitution thing where the strippers might do that too. But still, like I have no interest in prostitutes and hever have so nothing like that would itnerest me regardless. Not because I don’t like seeing naked women, because obviousl I do. But I like, don’t see the point in it. A man paying money to get “blue balls” or sleeping with a prostitue, both seem like unappealing results to me.

  10. I agree that sex and this power thing is ego related. It’s one of those things, women hate how being objectified makes them feel about their looks and body and their insecurities from it. But men deal with as much insecurities and it can effect their ego based on their body and and looks in a different way. Men don’t get the eyes on them or compliments or acknolwledged nearly like women do. So in reality, guy’s might think they are attractive or not think they are, but I think it’s more of a mystery. So when a man checks out a woman and she looks sexy and she gives a hint or atlest to him that she’s dressing for his attention or something like that. It’s like a validation or in a sense from her action and dress, that he takes as a sign that “he’s hot stuff to her” for her to dress sexy to him or in his eyes validate him looking. Since men don’t get complimented much, this is their moment of, in a way getting some feeling of sexual worth, power and esteem from her response to him looking. Like he’s some in power, debonnaire, james bond, rugged handsome man to her (ego stroke). A man likes to be wanted but power to, a beautiful women liking his attention or him thinking she does, gives him that validation and satisfaction for me.

    I think this is just a temporary high though for guys. Kind of like a drug, they get that feelingand like doing it, and they do it to make them feel better, but I don’t know if it lasts long. I mean in my eyes I don’t know why an ego stroke would last that long if a man is checking out a woman, she notices him, but she doesn’t really flirt back, but he still takes it as her dressing sexy for him. And say she has a boyfriend or they are just walking by and then she’s gone. Or say she is not approachable or situation not for it or he’s hesistant to approach. Then it means nothing, as he’s not getting her number, going on a date with her, having sex with her. So what does that mean? nothing really, since nothing came of it and plus the fact, women can lose attraction in a man much easier than a man for a woman. So like nothing is completey sure until she’s actually naked in bed with a man and wants and has sex with him, that he can complete 100 percent know that he’s wanted and desired. More often than not, if a man is checking out a woman, a man probably would sleep with her. There’s less, things to stop a man from wanting her as men get lustful much easier and it seems to take more for a man’s to do a complete 360 toward a woman, unless she shows she’s bat shit crazy or says she has a bad std or something. Otherwise. a woman can know or feel he would have sex and it doesn’t have to proven up to the point of having sex.

  11. This all feels upside down to me, for a beautiful woman is a goddess, superior in all ways. For her to notice us at all is to bestow a great honour…

    • Interesting. Thanks for your sharing your experience.

      I realize I should have been more clear in distinguishing between appreciating a beautiful woman and objectifying her, in which case she would be an object/body parts and not a person, whose thoughts and feelings don’t matter (and your partner’s thoughts and feelings wouldn’t matter as you ogle the “other woman”), she just exists for your pleasure.

      • Perhaps a distorted upbringing can result in women being perceived as ‘other’, and therefore as objects to be feared – and therefore as objects that must be mastered and controlled and possessed and etc. in order to eliminate the threat.

        Perhaps the ultimate fantasy of a beautiful woman who will satisfy your endless curiosity about sex – and who indeed will worship you on her knees (or alternatively accept your kneeling worship) – has a fragile glossy perfection that can be lost in an instant like a balloon popped with the pin of reality.

        Perhaps there is safety and pleasure in choosing to see a woman as an object – a personal fantasy, controlled by you and you alone.

        But fantasy is fantasy, and to embrace it as real is unhealthy.

      • Interesting thought. Thanks for contributing.

  12. I guess it’s more about recognition…that you exist in the world as well and that gorgeous ladies have no issues in being with you.

    Thoughtful and well written.

  13. Interesting- so for some, treating a woman like an object makes them feel better about themselves? I guess in such cases objectifying allows for full projection as the uniqueness/humanness of the other person doesn’t get in the way. I wonder how much of it is culture- and how the brain gets trained by conditioning.

    • I suspect it’s somewhat complex. For instance, you may need to live in a patriarchy where men are taught that they are superior, and that women exist for men, in addition to seeing women as objects and not people. In tribal societies women don’t seem to objectified, and not people.

      And someone else mentioned the ego aspect of sex sells — but of course it doesn’t sell to women in the the way that the phrase is usually meant. Women are much less likely to find half-naked sexy men constantly beckoning to them.

  14. The header pic brings to mind a similar shot in an adult movie I saw in the 1970s, showing the semi nude heroine standing on bed, her neat pair of legs astride in ‘A’ formation, with hero, seated on floor, gaping up. The promotion team of the movie carried the still captioned ‘the angle that wangled an A certificate’, as the movie was certified for viewing by adult audiences only. Those were the days before television and Internet in India and an A certificate issued by the censor board was a sought after tag for commercial success of a movie. The above anecdote serves to explain why women are objectified. Obviously, it helps in attracting male interest and facilitates successful marketing of a product. Female pulchritude is a saleable commodity. It panders to male ego and is a key human interest ingredient in any marketing campaign.

    • OK. But do you think it helps men’s ego because they can feel like a subject vis-à-vis the object? Or because he sees her as offering herself up to him and therein, she lifts him slightly higher than herself — since she is doing it all for him. Or something else?

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