Sex Object vs Sexy vs Sexual

Many people think that “sexual objectification” and “sexy” and “sexual” are all the same thing.

They’re not.

Here’s a quick primer:

Sexy vs Sexual

When my students talk about “being sexual” they are sometimes actually talking about looking sexy.

Women who look sexy must also be sexual, right? Not necessarily.

Paris Hilton once quipped,

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.

Some of my own students have made similar comments.

Someone can be both sexy and sexual, but they are not the same thing.

Sex Object vs Sexy

Many think that “sex object” is the same as “sexy” and that “sexual objectification” is the same as “desire.”

Nope.

I was once confused on this, too.

“Sexy” creates sexual desire. And sexual desire is perfectly normal and perfectly fine.

But sex objects exist for someone else’s purposes and pleasure. Their thoughts and feelings don’t matter.

That can cause harm: when you objectify you push your partner to do things she doesn’t want to do. You complain that she’s not sexy enough because you don’t care that her feelings will be hurt. You lust after other women and it makes your partner uncomfortable… and it makes the woman you’re staring at uncomfortable, too.

If you objectify you don’t care about others’ feelings and you cause harm.

Sex Object vs Sexual

Since sex objects exist for someone else’s purposes and pleasure, and their thoughts and feelings don’t matter, a sex object may be doing sex acts but feel no pleasure herself.

In fact, I once wrote a blog post called “Sex Objects Who Don’t Enjoy Sex.” Check it out!

Someone who is actually sexual is enjoying herself, not just existing for someone else’s purposes.

Sometimes men objectify their partners. And sometimes women objectify themselves. Either way, it’s a problem.

I hope this clarifies!

Related Posts

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 25, 2017, in objectification, sex and sexuality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. thanks for breaking this down. It can get confusing for sure. I think it’s problematic that from a young age so many girls are taught to relate to their sexuality as object, so for many that’s their first reference point.

  2. The differences between sex object, sexy, and sexual are nonexistent for many people. In a patriarchal society we are constantly bombarded with images of a masculine concept of sex that depict sexy, sexual, and sex object as the same thing. All of this leads to the common misconception that a sexy woman immediately also embodies a sexual plaything for others and that she herself is a fiercely sexual being. Likewise, it also depicts men as one-sided sexual beings that also cannot distinguish sexy, sex object, or sexual in themselves or others. In a society that is increasingly celebrating more sides of love (personal, familial, romantic), we should also focus on celebrating different sides of sex. Being sexy is simply a personal characteristic in someone that elicits desire, there is no action upon it, it is simply the passive action of being attractive. Sexual refers to a persons sex drive, how they choose to act on their sexual desires. Sex object is the most different and malignant of the three terms because in this case it involves others perceiving and acting upon another passive recipient. This last term views the sexual object as just that: an object. Viewing another person, man or woman, as an object seems to provide the viewer with the idea that the person objectified has no choice and is only there to provide whatever the objectifying person wants. In conclusion, I believe that it is of utmost importance that everyone understands the enormous differences between these terms that the ideas that inhibit them. Through understanding, maybe then we can reach a safer and more gender equal society.

  3. This was a perfectly timely post for me Georgia ~ I was thinking up a post in which I would shoot some suggestive photos, a step away from my usual work it and it also had me wondering how others would feel (mainly my mom, three sisters and close friends). And then when I touched down in HK and was able to get on WP, I read this post of yours and nodded. Sexuality and sexy can be a tribute and is who we are as a race. Great post. Fantastic post. Wishing you a great weekend ahead.

  4. That is true. Sometimes men treat women like an object, and a big problem is some women are willing or accepted to be object themselves. I fell historical backgrounds by the influence of these aspects. Men had dominated women for a long time as a sexual slave or Not having a right. Some people might still think it’s natural for them to be able to treat women objectively. I have been confused about the differences between sex objects, sexy, and sexual. And it’s not just me. Many people can’t clarify these. Therefore when I look for a sex object or sexy pictures online, they show all women’s pictures: with bikinis, makeup. That fact shows how much people regard women body is sex objects, and it is really sad. Knowing these differences is the first step toward changes our view. I believe that will lead to gender equality.

  5. Women sometimes in order to make them valuable, they will dress them very hot. Laterly, they are enjoyable to dress hot. I don’t think it is a problem. But the most important thing that avoid to be a slut is don’t objectify themselves. Sometimes men want women to dress sex, but sometimes I think there are females dress them sexy for engaging males. There are many typical cases that women get money or Cocci bags after they sleep with a man. Even though both of the man and the woman are willing to do this kind of thing, but it’s not called morality. But everything will make sense if it is existing. I don’t think this kind of situation will stop, but I think this kind of situation will become less and less when more and more people are chasing feminism.

    • Basing your worth on being a sex object will backfire! Women don’t develop themselves. They get used and abused and lose whatever worth they thought they had by their 40s if that is all their self worth is based on.

Thoughts? (Comments will appear after moderation)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: