Sex Objects Who Don’t Enjoy Sex

Self-objectification, defined.

Laci Green defines self-objectification.

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

But surprisingly, it 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 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. 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 holds similar concerns:

Many young women are now engaged in sex acts with men that prioritize the man’s pleasure, with little or no expectation of reciprocity.

When having sex, these young women may be enjoying themselves, and how nice they look. They may gain a boost to self-esteem as they dwell on their “hotness.”

But they’re not enjoying sex.

A rerun for the holiday.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Women Seeing Women as Sexier than Men
Women Learn the Breast Fetish, Too
Surprises in Indiana University Sex Survey

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 October 12, 2015, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I see many comparisons in my own life to the post above, especially in regards to feeling more preoccupied with how I look for my partner over my own pleasure. When I was younger I had very low confidence in my appearance and that further followed me through the years to by the time I became intimate with my first boyfriend, I was very concerned with if how he thought I looked and if he was happy and satisfied with me. During sex, I definitely felt that half the time I was concerned with how I looked and the other half with how he felt. When that relationship ended I was older and wiser and felt that I owed it to myself to for once think of my own pleasure and satisfaction. It’s unfortunate that many women view themselves only as objects, and once I realized that that is what I was doing I felt disappointed in myself and embarrassed that I allowed myself to disregard my own happiness and pleasure for another. Allowing myself to be comfortable in my own skin and not setting my focus on what my partner thought was sexy about me was extremely empowering and for once I actually enjoyed sex.

  2. While reading this article I was very confused on how I felt about the act of sex and where the pleasure comes from. I have never thought about that subject and now that I read this, I can agree and disagree in some regards. I agree that sex is mostly portrayed for male pleasure by the media and that’s what young people are being taught because there is little sexual education and if there is sexual education it does not include female pleasure and how to obtain it. However, I don’t fully agree that women are now more focused on male pleasure. I think that women may not orgasm every time from sex like men but if need be, there are other ways to obtain this goal. Lastly, I think that men now a days are being sexualized more because of the media and that leads girls to sexualize the men they are intimate with.

    • Men are sexualized more now than they used to be. But the next time you take a drive, also take a look at some billboards and see how often sexy men are drawing your attention to products compared with the number of sexy women. My dad used to live in Las Vegas and I rarely saw a billboard that sexualized men. Chip n dales… And generally I just notice underwear ads every now and then. And we definitely don’t fetishize the male body by selectively hiding and revealing and obsessing over certain body parts.

      I surveyed my women students and asked whether thinking about their body ever affected how they experienced sex and 88 percent said that it did. Almost always, it distracted from sexual pleasure. Because they are so focused on how they look to their partner instead of how they feel for themselves, large numbers are prioritizing the man’s experience. (Been there, done that, myself, without realizing that that is what I was doing.)

  3. Sex should be all about everyone enjoying themselves be it with yourself, someone else or, as long as its been consenting adults however many people you like- No-one said it better than Samantha jones “When I RSVP to a party, I make it my business to come”

  4. Jennifer 'John' Mayer

    I think it is really a shame that some women are apparently becoming too preoccupied with how they look during sex to enjoy it, but on the flipside of that, I think that women who do feel like they look sexy during sex will say it enhances their experience emotionally and sometimes even physically. I do agree though, that learning to not be as concerned with it would be beneficial, as there has been research to prove that women have stronger orgasms when relaxing their abdominals, rather than ‘sucking in’ their stomachs.

    Also, in regards to women being taught to eroticize male pleasure, I’d say that’s partially true. There is an all-gender encompassing notion of pleasing your sexual partner(s). That is part of the satisfaction of any sexual encounter. Women are taught to please men, and men are seen as less of a man if they are unable to satisfy a woman. While I agree that women should learn “enjoy sex” just as much as they learn “have your partner enjoy sex”, I do believe that it is unfair to not acknowledge that the pressure to sexually satisfy goes for both genders.

    • I just surveyed my students on this topic. 88% of them body monitored so much that it distracted from sex. 12% of them said that sometimes it could make sex hotter. So it can heighten the experience, but more often it goes the other way. Just FYI.

      What Jackson Katz is talking about is something that men don’t actually experience: Women getting aroused by feeling the arousal that men have for their bodies. Because we don’t fetishize men’s bodies it can’t go the other way. Well, it can if he doesn’t understand how women’s sexuality works. If the guy believes that women get aroused by looking at his penis, Then it would be possible for him to get aroused by feeling her arousal (Which for almost all women is nonexistent — even though porn will lead men to leave otherwise.)

      But thanks for bringing this up so that I’m can be more clear in future writings.

      You are really talking about something different, which I did survey my students on. Here are the findings (and I only analyzed data for a) straight men and b) women who had sex with men, whether they were straight, bisexual or pansexual.):

      “How much time do you spend trying to do things in the way that your partner wants, compared with focusing on your own enjoyment?”

      Self only: Women 0%. Men 30%
      Partner only: Women 33%. Men 20%
      Equal time for self and partner: Women 65%. Men 40%

      I will be writing up all of the data in a few months after I have surveyed more classes. These are preliminary findings.

  5. This coming a from a Gay man’s perspective I found this article very interesting. Many of my friends are women and over half have a sex positive outlook on women’s sexuality. I would say 75% of these friends have found power in their sexuality beyond just being “sexy” physically. They have found being able to take control in these situations makes them feel far more attractive. In many cases they have said expressing how hard it is to gain sexual satisfaction to their partners has actually switched the focus from the male’s physical pleasure to the female’s pleasure. This is done by playing into the man’s desire to “win” at pleasing his female partner. It then empowers both of them and adds to the overall experience. It also takes the focus away from appearance and redirects it to the actual act. I would be interested in your thoughts about this and whether you would still say it focuses on the man’s power.

    • I just wrote this to someone else, so I’ll just copy my response to Jennifer/John:

      I just surveyed my students on this topic. 88% of them body monitored so much that it distracted from sex. 12% of them said that sometimes it could make sex hotter. So it can heighten the experience, but more often it goes the other way. Just FYI.

      What Jackson Katz is talking about is something that men don’t actually experience: Women getting aroused by feeling the arousal that men have for their bodies. Because we don’t fetishize men’s bodies it can’t go the other way. Well, it can if he doesn’t understand how women’s sexuality works. If the guy believes that women get aroused by looking at his penis, Then it would be possible for him to get aroused by feeling her arousal (Which for almost all women is nonexistent — even though porn will lead men to leave otherwise.)

      But thanks for bringing this up so that I’m can be more clear in future writings.

      You are really talking about something different, which I did survey my students on. Here are the findings (and I only analyzed data for a) straight men and b) women who had sex with men, whether they were straight, bisexual or pansexual.):

      “How much time do you spend trying to do things in the way that your partner wants, compared with focusing on your own enjoyment?”

      Self only: Women 0%. Men 30%
      Partner only: Women 33%. Men 20%
      Equal time for self and partner: Women 65%. Men 40%

      I will be writing up all of the data in a few months after I have surveyed more classes. These are preliminary findings.

  6. I think that a lot of the time, the girl wants to look sexy and good for their guy. And always want to please HIM, when sometimes forgetting her own desires and feelings especially when it comes to the bedroom. They’re always concerned with what feels good to him and trying to look good for him and not really focusing on themselves and what may feel good to them. Men call women “hot” and “sexy” sometimes as apposed to “pretty” and beautiful” and we’ve gotten used to these terms and try to be those type of things for men. When really there’s a huge difference between the two.

  7. Thought provoking indeed. Very true. Sex should be about everyone’s actual enjoyment!!!

  8. I find this article really interesting! I could relate to this even though i am a guy. I always feel that sometimes my partner tends to worry about to much about my pleasure that she forgets that i’m not the only one having fun. I feel as though this problem wouldn’t be a problem if there is a good level of comfortably and trust with each other.

    • And that can be hard to do, But will worth it.

      Another big problem is that women feel like it is their role to be provacative, to excite guy — yet don’t expect the guy to have the same affect on them. And a lot of girls aren’t sure they’re doing it right.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  9. Wow I think a lot of women, especially young adult ones, could completely relate to this blog. I think “looking” sexy is what most women are focused on instead of actually feeling sexy which leads to low self esteem and a less than average sex life. And it doesn’t help that we have ad’s, commercials, movies and porn also showing us what sexy is supposed to look like. I’ve had numerous talks with my girlfriends about how they do uncomfortable things in bed because their boyfriends think its hot and when I ask why they don’t do things that make them feel hot, they either say they want to please him or they say they’d rather just do what he likes to get it over with faster. I think that is a really sad way to look at sex considering we live in an era where sex is for pleasure not simply just for reproduction like it was years and years ago.

    • Yeah, the problem is widespread. And the biggest problem may be that there is such a narrow notion about what’s sexy. Which isn’t necessary at all, cultural ideals vary a lot from place to place.

  10. What I find to be particularly unfair and frustrating is that if you’re an attractive woman, and I mean above average, men immediately see you as a sex object. Plenty of men line up to get in your pants but choose to settle down with average looking women. In our culture, women with great bodies and beautiful faces are used to market endless products and services (especially aimed toward men) to the point that it seeps into their brains that women who are exceptionally attractive are there for their sexual pleasure. Most won’t take the time to get to know you, they just objectify you right off the bat and that alone can put a damper on your view of sex.

    • You bring up another problem. Thanks for that.

    • @ Kris,

      “Plenty of men line up to get in your pants but choose to settle down with average looking women.”

      1) Because MOST people are average. It’s like the Bell curve…80% of the observation are at or near the average. Only 10%-20% of people are truly above or below average. So, it all makes sense to me, statistically.

      2) Most men know that “hot” women are off limits to them.

      3) Most men know “hot” women have been with a lot of men. Most men find this unpalatable. Unlike most women when it comes to caddy men.

      Lastly, what Paris Hilton stated above is indeed correct. When you see an above average woman, you know zippy about her character and/or other qualities. So, while most men would love an above average woman, men (mature and smart men) also are looking for a woman that is loyal, a woman whom they can trust, and a woman whom they feel they can build a family, a woman who genuinely love him for the man he is, and a woman who desires him sexually. Above average women are certainly capable of meeting these requirements. But, it is the requirements that matter most. Not your great looks.

  11. Makes a lot of sense as it is easy for women in this culture to learn of and experience their sexuality through the male gaze. I can see how that would be amplified in the bedroom.

  12. This is a very good, very interesting, very sad fact. And explains why I’m so bad at being sexy. I think I enjoy myself and lose myself in the sex so much that I forget to look sexy and probably make all kinds of weird faces. I like my body, and I like touching myself, and I certainly like to be thought of as attractive, but I think of it as more than just for pleasure, and hope everyone else does too.

    • It helps to be a guy to forget about how your body looks during sex. A lot of women feel like it’s part of their role to be sexy, and either get distracted by it, or feel like they can’t live up to it. It’s a big cause of sexual dysfunction among women. It’s a pretty ironic outcome.

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