Objectifying and Desiring Aren’t the Same Thing?

Objectification: she's just a body with no thoughts or feelingsWhen I was younger I wondered why feminists complained about sexual objectification. What’s wrong with finding someone attractive, I wondered? 

Now I know that objectifying and desiring aren’t the same thing. But I’ve also learned that plenty of people are confused, like I was. When I talk about objectification I get reactions like:

  • Women do it too!
  • Women check out men!
  • Girls drool over boy bands!
  • Playgirl exists! (Well, it used to.)
  • What’s wrong with desire?!

Sexual attraction is healthy and normal, right?

Right. But attraction is not objectification. To objectifiers a person is more like an object that exists for others’ purposes. Objects have no annoying thoughts or feelings you have to worry about. 

And therein lies the problem. People with this mindset more easily treat others in harmful ways. For instance, I’ve heard men insist that women should do what men want sexually, even if it is emotionally or physically painful. See what I mean?

When I’ve asked my students to write, anonymously, about whether anything like this had ever happened with them one young woman recalled:

I had a boyfriend who constantly begged me to have a threesome. I told him I didn’t want to and that the thought of seeing him with another woman was emotionally painful. But he just kept on and on about it. I kept trying to get him to be empathetic and asked him to try to imagine how hard it would be for me. He never seemed to understand my feelings. I finally proposed having a threesome with me and a cute guy who sometimes flirted with me. I actually had no interest in doing that but acted like I’d be really into it. I just wondered how he would react. Well, that was just horrifying to him. He finally let up about threesomes, but I was shocked at how unable he was to imagine how hurtful it felt to me until it finally occurred to me to turn it around for him.

When discussing a different topic, body image, another woman wrote that:

An old boyfriend of mine sometimes told me I wasn’t sexy enough. If only I had bigger boobs. Maybe I could lose weight. 

He thought she didn’t meet a sexual standard that he thought he was owed to him and he didn’t care at all about hurting her feelings. Only his feelings mattered.

Crimes like rape and sex trafficking also stem from sexual objectification. Her trauma doesn’t matter. Her hopes and dreams are of no account. His gratification or expression of hostility is all that counts.

Unfortunately, women learn to self-objectify too. We are all bombarded by objectified images of women which get embedded in the unconscious, teaching us ever so stealthily that our job is to please men, sexually. That’s probably why so many of us end up agreeing to our partners’ painful requests. Or we can get distracted worrying about how we look, because it’s our job to be visually arousing — even if we are supposed to enjoy sex with partners who do not visually arouse us.

This is what happens in cross-sex relationships when men are taught to objectify and women are taught to be objectified. 

Lusting after your partner is fine. But these harmful behaviors are not.

The first step to stepping out of this damaging pattern is gaining awareness of what objectification is and how we might be — consciously or not — engaging in it.

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 November 5, 2020, in objectification and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 96 Comments.

  1. I found this post very informative and interesting. in my opinion, objectifying usually hurts women and isn’t something done with their consent. Wanting to be found attractive or enjoying sex does not mean that women are asking to solely be looked at or sexually desired with no regard for them as a human being. Like this post described, attraction and objectification are two very different things and establishing that is important. Attraction is normal and healthy, as there is no complete disregard for a person’s personality, life, and character when these feelings are present. 

  2. Objectifying someone is to treat them as an object rather than as a human being. Men and women both help their respective objectification, but women as a lot suffer more negative consequences.
    For Example, Miss universe stands to gain a whole lot more attention than Mr. universe. It’s just the way the cosmetic industry has slanted this. So there’s a lot to be gained by winning Ms. Universe or Ms. world compared to the male counterpart.

    • The real problem with objectification is harm. Not worrying about someone’s thoughts or feelings because they are just an object that exist for your purposes. Who cares if they suffer?

  3. I agree that women also check out men as well and we do it in different ways or maybe the same way as men do it. It seems as sometimes when men do it can be taken as objectifying instead of desiring a woman. Although sometimes men can say things that are very objectifying and are very aware of what they are doing. Although it is completely normal for a man to desire a woman without objectifying her. And sometimes a woman dressing very nice or sexy can be taken as they’re trying to show off when they just want to feel good. Doing those men feel obligated to objectify the woman when others sometimes feel the need to desire her.

  4. It is almost like mens gratification and expression of hostility helps them to easily and with no guilt at all, turn a blind eye to women being living human beings, objectification at it’s finest. This post brings an interesting point to the surface, and that is women now objectifying themselves. This was brought to light with the given example of women constantly worrying about their looks, because we somehow feel the need to be visually pleasing to people. But, I only partly agree with this because I believe most of the time women dress up to feel good about themselves, and do this to feel confident about themselves. Then again, who’s to say we don’t dress up to try and please a man we are interested in? Women probably do a bit of both, but dressing up to look good was not necessarily the best example of women objectifying their own kind. An example of women objectifying themselves would be women who take what a man says about them, and runs with it good or bad, and bases their whole life off of it, when this should not at all be the case because a man has no say in our bodies and our decisions in life.

    • The notion that people dress for their own self-esteem is an interesting one since our self-esteem tends to flow from what what we believe others’ opinions of us are. We even seem to be hardwired to care about other peoples opinion in terms of our own self regard. That can be helpful in that we are less likely to harm others. And of course we do have some control over how much weight we give to others opinions. But ferreting out exactly how much we are dressing for our own self-esteem separate from how others see us is something to think about.

      Also, it’s not all men or all women. It’s patterned behavior. I am a sociologist and we study patterned behavior: what is more typical with women and more typical with men.

      I believe that most men and women are basically good. But our society teaches both women and men to objectify women. We tend to unconsciously internalize that from the time we are small. That’s because we are bombarded with messages from our society that women are the sex objects. And as we are growing up we are absorbing all this without the sophistication of being able to question it. That’s why we need courses in women’s studies and feminist thought generally.

  5. It’s interesting how when people talk about objectification it’s almost always a woman being objectified, the excerpt from the student with the boyfriend who wanted a threesome illustrates this very well because the boyfriend was completely enthusiastic about having a threesome when it was him and two girls but when it was the girl and two guys he was repulsed. This post also brings up that women objectify themselves which is why they end up agreeing to things that they don’t want to do. I think that’s an interesting way to view but I also completely agree with that idea I just never thought of it that way

  6. After reading this article I started thinking about a video of Vin Diesel getting interviewed by a Brazilian Interviewer. She was trying to do the interview but Vin kept cutting her off telling her she was too beautiful for him to focus on the interview. He told her that they should stop the video so he could take her out to dinner. He wasn’t able to go more than a couple words into his sentence without saying how sexy she was although the interviewer looked uncomfortable and kept trying to push though and do her job. I think that is a great case of objectification towards women. He wouldn’t let her do her job and wouldn’t talk about anything else other than how sexy or beautiful she is. It’s really gross.

  7. I think this post heavily relates to the ‘male gaze’, and how it is so different from how us women visualize the world. In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer. I think many males have developed this type of cognitive thinking, particularly from the society that we live in, and have used that in their everyday live. This concept also influences how they portray themselves to their sexual partners, and that’s why they are so entitled to asking and receiving favors out of their partners. I think that men should reflect in solitude about how the perceive others, mostly women, because it’s very frustrating to see women suffering from how men disrespect them. 

  8. I thought this post was actually very interesting. I liked the example of a threesome being used for objectifying women. I think some men believe that there are different rules for them than there are for women. For example, there is a friend of mine who, even though he is in a relationship, is interested in having sex with other people, although he never acts on it. When I asked him how he would feel in an open relationship with his girlfriend where the same rules would apply to her, he became uncomfortable and did not want the same rules to apply to her. It seems like a very similar example compared to the one used in his post. During this conversation I was more focused on his confidence that these women he was sexually attracted to would actually want to sleep with him too, it seemed that he was making the assumption that if the offer was extended they would be more than willing to accept. After reading this post I realize how much he was objectifying women in this moment as well.

    • I’m glad the post helped you to see that.

      Our culture teaches men to object if I women and women to objectify themselves so that it can be difficult to see what’s happening. We unconsciously internalize the culture and it seems natural and normal. The only way to make change is to bring unconscious things out into the open.

  9. I agree with the articles definition of attraction and objectification. And I also agree agree that those are two different things, one is good and one is negative. People should only be attracted to other people but that’s not always the case. Most cases women are objectified, and it has been the way for a very long time.

  10. Very happy I came across this article because this topic Is very important to understand. The explanation of the difference between objectifying and desiring was very well explained. I believe this problem is very common and many women are dealing with this daily. As a woman is scary to see how many women are in situations like this and how they deal with it because they are emotionally attached to their partner, yet the men has no annoying thoughts or feelings as you mention in the article. Situations like this happen a lot when the man feels like they are in control of the women. This happens a lot in the Latino households because men always feel superior to women.

  11. I love how straightforward this explanation is. I’ve personally always struggled with the objectification of catcalling and how it seems to happen to all the women around me. Unhealthy, self-objectification whenever this topic came to light, and I used to purposely try to dress sexier or more enticingly to get hit on. This post and personal reflections have revealed I just want to be seen as desirable by others and myself; I want to be desired as a woman with thoughts, emotions, and ambitions. It’s so incredibly dangerous that topics like these aren’t regularly brought up to young women in school (sex-ed) who are constantly bombarded with objectification in music, TV, and social media.

  12. It’s interesting to see how a lot of these examples are about men objectifying women, I love the examples about how women will objectify men, like boybands and “drooling” over boys, because I had that same initial reaction before reading the article and really reflecting on it. Because the examples of women being objectified are not only in the media or at a distance like a girl obsessed with her crush, the examples are of women with their intimate partners. People in relationships don’t expect to be viewed as an object or plaything to fulfill their partners sexual fantasies (at least i dont expect that) but these women are being viewed this way, instead of real people with needs and feelings. It’s really eye opening to see these differences, because I felt like the people giving their anonymous stories were indeed thinking about their partner’s feelings, but their partners are not viewing them in the same way. Personally for me desire requires feeling like you want to make your partner feel good too, not just lust towards a fantasy, but desire has to be considerate.

  13. You say desire is normal while objectification is not. And objectification is not caring about the person. But how do we measure desire? It sure seems like women desire differently than men generally ha. Like even if you care about the person’s feelings, it seems like it’s easy from a female perspective to see “male desire” as objectifying even if he cares or is aware of a woman’s feelings. I mean seriously, a man can be a gentleman and not display their lusty thoughts. Here comes stating the obvious and forever mentioned, but with how visual men are. That desire is so focused on the body parts. The desire for sex is not just pleasure but very driven because of sexual body parts again.

    And that probably drives the desire for the multiple partners because there are many beautiful women and women look different. So a man not objectifying woman will not want to to disrespect or hurt her feelings, but it can make him have purely physical desires. Seems like the line is blurred with objectifying and desire even for men with good intentions because of how body part geared a man’s lust is. Then again it’s easy to see it that way coming from women since women’s physical lust is not like on steroids like it is for men. It would probably be more understood if women were magically able to see men’s bodies like how men see women’s bodies in a highly sexual way and aroused visually. Women would probably have that same issue with desire and objectification.

    • Well the key thing here is are you harming someone?

      If you get turned on by a body part and you are focused on that in your arousal, but aren’t behaving in a way that is harming your partner, that is OK. The problem comes if you don’t care how your partner might be hurt.

      Now, focusing on body parts instead of the whole person could lead to not caring about the person, but it doesn’t have to.

      Does that all make sense?

      And I don’t think that men are less monogamous than women. There was a study which found out about half of Americans of both genders were monogamous in their preference and the other half of both genders preferred a number of partners. And it was about 5050 male and female in both cases.

      • So if women are less visual than men. What drives women to be almost equal in polygamous desires? Only thing that makes sense for promiscuous like desire is pure physical lust and not the emotional part. If you want love and emotion, you don’t need many women. All you need is one great woman that you love and loves you and you’ll have the emotional satisfaction. If you’re horny for the many beautiful women and their various sexy bodies, it makes sense to desire having sex with many different women. But women aren’t lustful to men’s bodies and body parts like that, so makes me wonder what brings the non monogamous desires? interesting.

      • The researchers aren’t sure why we have this divide but they theorize it’s related to genes.

        Evolutionary psychologists used to theorize that one sex was more successful at reproducing by having many partners — have a lot of kids and a few will survive. While the other was more successful by being monogamous — more resources for a child. Which didn’t make a lot of sense because one sex can’t be have many partners if the other is monogamous.

        Now the theory seems to be that the more monogamous types of both sexes can successfully reproduce by putting a lot of resources into a child while the more promiscuous can successfully reproduce by having a lot of kids. Even though without birth control women are likely to have the same number of kids either way. But I suppose the promiscuous man will widely spread his seeds and pass those promiscuous genes along to children of both sexes.

      • If women are not more monogamous than men. Then why are women most often bothed by casual sex? The most often way ppl have non monogamous relations is from hook ups, one night stands, friends with benefits, fuck buddies, casual dating or like short term relationship. It seems those are mostly or often want guys like or want more or favor than women, because of men being less monogamous than women. And men’s visual lust not wanting to commit to one woman so that he can be free to have sex with multiple sexy women.

      • Well there is more than one way to have multiple partners. You could practice polyamory in which case you have an emotional connection to your several lovers.

        Why are women more desirous of emotional connection? Well, first it turns out that men commonly desire emotional connection too. And maybe these are the more monogamous men?

        Women are also more socialized in that direction compared with men. And something I have wondered about and one of my readers also wonders about is whether it’s just a feeling of more vulnerability to have someone enter your body.

        Here’s a post I wrote on the topic a few years ago: https://broadblogs.com/2011/07/20/women-want-emotionally-connected-sex-why/

  14. This topic that was presented is very important to understand that women have to face every day. Having that feeling that a guy is looking at inappropriate places saying words to you that are uncomfortable could really be traumatizing for women. I believe that this does happen with men but women do not exceed what men do to women. Being able to give a random girl a compliment and being polite is a huge difference between cat-calling and embarrassing women. I feel the general issue is about respect and that it should not be right to call out women and whistling at them just because you think she’s a piece of meat.

  15. This topic is important because women experience both objectification and desire everyday. Walking down the street and hearing a man whistle or cat calling towards you can be uncomfortable. In my opinion, that is a form of objectification. However, if a man were to instead approach me nicely and compliment me as well as make conversation, I would take that as harmless attraction. The reason being, when a man just yells at you from across the street he doesn’t view you as a person rather as an object he wants. Whereas, a man willing to make a conversation is essentially treating you like an actual human being. I see a big difference in the two scenarios and these are just really simple and common interactions that happen everyday in society.

  16. At the beginning of a romantic relation, some women were not ready for sex with their partners but they still acted. Most time, they wanted to please men or were afraid of losing them. In this situation, women regarded their bodies as objectification. In marriages, some women would think they have responsibilities for satisfying the sexual needs of their husbands. As a woman, I hope women would say no when they don’t have sexual desire when their partners don’t respect them enough. Putting hope on your partner, wanting him to change his mindset, isn’t a good idea. You don’t want to be objectified, you should say no when you don’t have sexual desires but your partner doesn’t respect you enough. Many men also care about how their partners feel or “feedback” during or after intercourse. If you always give your right to him or keep silent, he would not understand your feelings about objectifying or desiring.

  17. After reading this I have realized objectification unfortunately is something that almost always comes with being a woman . Every woman I have ever met has had some story whether it was big or small , of a man objectifying her sexually . The sad reality is that even though there has been a shift in this generation of calling out that behavior and consistently reminding men of boundaries , there are still a lot of boys who believe women are only meant for sexual pleasure . If we do not meet those unrealistic standards of the type of body they find attractive , then there is no value to us . That is what they believe .

    When I was 15 I got groomed into a relationship with a man older than me in the military . Now that I am 20 years old I look back and reflect often because there was so much trauma that I endured in this chapter of my life . Despite all the traumatic events I endured in this “relationship “. There was one specific thing this ” man ” did that is something I will never forget . After almost 2 years of going back and forth and him hiding me all the time because he was scared of people seeing him with a 16 year old at the time , He lied to me and had told me he moved to Las Vegas and was on anti depression medication . I decided to be there and help him when he decided to ghost me out of nowhere and I never spoke to him again. Months later I found out through a close friend ( she is not my friend anymore ) in their text conversations , He had reached out to one of my closest friends and was asking her for oral sex and to meet in a hotel . Keep in mind she was 16 as well .When my friend told him everything I went through for him and how good of a person I was that I didn’t deserve anything he did .There was no empathy in him at all , His response to that was he knew I was a good person and the situation we ” ended things ” ONLY sucked because he missed doing sexual things with me . That was the only reason he felt that not talking to me anymore sucked . Just because he couldn’t continue to take advantage of me .

    Unfortunately when I was younger I confused objectifying with feeling desirable / attractive . When I confided in friends at the time I felt off with the things he said / did to me everyone said ” you should be happy an older man like him in the military wants you ? ” When you are younger it is easy to think if a man finds you sexually attractive it means you are desirable . Who wouldn’t want to feel desired ? There is a huge difference between being desired by your partner and being objectified . When the majority of the time the only time he makes you feel loved is when there is sex involved , or when he only tells you he loves you in bed , or only acknowledges you when he wants to have sex , he is objectifying you .

  18. I am so glad to see this post bring the difference between objectifying and desiring to light. I feel like at the moment, many do not realize when they are getting objectified by their partner. During high school, I was dating a boy for about three years and it wasn’t until after our relationship ended that I realized that our intimacy started off as a desire and turned into objectification. When we are so “in love” we are often blind-sided by the truth and it is hard to see that sometimes we are taken advantage of. I’d like to highlight the portion of this post that mentions how women tend to self-objectify too. Many women don’t realize that when submitting to “pleasing her man,” they are placing themselves in the position to be an object. I’d also like to mention that objectification does not always equate to a man objectifying a woman. It is important to understand that objectification does not happen to just one gender or sex. We can all desire different individuals but there comes a line where objectification occurs.

  19. This is really well written! I think you nailed everything about objectification and how men sometimes view women as objects instead of people. Your post inspired me to do a little research on the male gaze as well, and I read a theory that some men have literally rewired parts of their brain to view women as objects. In a little more detail, when you look at an object, it triggers different parts of your brain verses when you look at a person. However, brain scans have shown that the parts of the brain associated with object recognition are triggered when looking at women in some men’s brains. It’s crazy to think that the objectification of women might also occur at a biological level.

  20. Throughout our lives, we’ve unfortunately seen women being used as objects for sexual exploitation. When you’ve been objectified, you start to think about your confusion of your value with your sexuality. From advertisements to billboards, women have been created for consumption of desires to society because they look desirable and perfect. However, nobody’s perfect but when you constantly see all these “perfect” women, men think that we’re supposed to look perfect and they even think it’s just for them too. If a man was asked if they’ve ever objectified a woman, their answer will either be a lie or be honest. The ones that lie are the ones that deny how they see women, they might claim that they don’t objectify them, but deep down we all know their answer. Sexual objectification and sexist attitudes need to become a remnant of the past immediately. The worth of an individual, to any extent or aspect, shouldn’t be determined by their physical being.

  21. Throughout our lives, we’ve unfortunately seen women being used as objects for sexual exploitation. When you’ve been objectified, you start to think about your confusion of your value with your sexuality. From advertisements to billboards, women have been created for consumption of desires to society because they look desirable and perfect. However, nobody’s perfect but when you constantly see all these “perfect” women, men think that we’re supposed to look perfect and they even think it’s just for them too. If a man was asked if they’ve ever objectified a woman, their answer will either lie or be honest. The ones that lie are the ones that deny how they see women, they might claim that they don’t objectify them but deep down we all know their answer. Sexual objectification and sexist attitudes need to become a remnant of the past immediately. The worth of an individual, to any extent or aspect, shouldn’t be determined by their physical being.

  22. I truly think that modern objectification of women is an epidemic. With the rise of social media and the superficial standards about women that many influencers promote, in addition to the vanity of celebrity music videos, shows and movies, I think people have standardized such a view of women. It is also interesting that with the progression of feminism and the various related movements we, as a society, seems to have moved in the opposite direction of progress when it comes to viewing women’s body. The ridiculous standards for women’s bodies reinforced during the Victorian era and prior, in my opinion, stayed virtually the same, which does not reflect well on the direction of modern culture. The ease with which women can modify their own bodies in order to fit these unrealistic standards, I think, also contributes greatly to how much we are really able to resist objectification – many regard personal modification is an easier way out of being viewed as “imperfect”, for example, getting a breast augmentation, as opposed to waiting for the society to change its standards and being an activist for such a change which facing scrutiny from those opposing your views.

  23. Mariafernanda P

    I found this post to be very interesting, as this is something I’ve gone through as well. I’ve been in a relationship where my partner had proposed a threesome more than once. It also emotionally hurt me a lot to think about my partner with another woman in a sensual way. I never supported the idea, nor would I ever ask something like that to the person I choose to be committed to. I felt completely objectified. I asked my partner how he would feel if I wanted to have a threesome with him and another man, and he said he would break up with me. Now, I would never want this, I wanted to see how he would react. Although this can absolutely go both ways, I feel that these tendencies are more common among men than women.

    It makes me wonder, if I decide not to cater to my partners sexual needs, will they still love me? The double standards between men and women in terms of sex in UNREAL. People say that love has lust, but lust has no love. I used to believe this. Love and lust are completely different things. It made me realize that my partners ways of thinking made me feel that I was just “a hole” and that I was not enough for him because he was having other fantasies. Love is patient, lust in impatient. Love upholds, and respects. Lust objectifies, and degrades. There is no love in having a threesome with your partner, that’s lust. Love is selfless, lust is selfish. Love has no lust, and lust has no love! Love gives, lust takes!

    • Thanks for sharing about your experience with this. And I say that if they would leave you because you won’t do something you feel uncomfortable with, and which is objectifying, they really don’t deserve you.

  24. I have often wondered about this as well. I wonder, Why do we as a society find the need to objectify celebrities as well? In media outlets like TMZ or Dailymail, there are constant posts about how a certain celebrity looks (either complimenting or shading them) and have random paparazzi hawk them for pictures. But what do we gain from this? We end up judging these people by how they look and how they dress and fail to acknowledge their humanity in the process. They are just seen as figures for our entertainment, not real people.

  25. There is definitely a difference between desiring and objectifying, unfortunately our society has done a poor job disguising between the two or maybe there hasn’t been a reason for society to disguise between the two if men are the ones who benefit from it. When it comes to gender stereotypes women must be appealing to men and if they are not they face the stigma of not being a proper women. I believe the huge difference between the two is when men objectify women they are looking at her as a trophy as an extension of his success, and our history contributes to this idea for example, women taking their father and then husbands name. However, when two individuals desire one another they want to make that person happy by learning about one another and taking each others feelings into consideration. When someone objectifies someone they don’t consider your feelings they are concerned with what they believe is entitled to them.

  26. There is a fine line between desiring a female and objectifying a female. Desiring females is wanting to have a personal one-on-one connection but also treating her with respect. Objectifying a female is just treating her like an object. For many years females have been used in movies and magazines to objectify females. One movie that comes to mind is “American Pie” which uses females just for a man to get pleasured. If this movie would have been release today it would have a lot of mixed reviews. While taking the Women studies class it has opened my eyes to the harsh reality that women are being misrepresented and not being used to their full potential. Females are more than just objects but they are human.

  27. The blog of “Objecting and Desiring aren’t the same thing”, there’s a difference which made me realize after reading. The fact that was given about “attraction is not objectification”, women do go through more of the consequences compared to men. With the type of behavior that comes to attraction, there isn’t any harm in finding someone good looking but the way of the treatment can reach the measures can be an issue. One experience that would be common for most women would be getting complimented or being called upon, it catches a women attention but the fact from how it’s being said, making it uncomfortable saying or doing after is an issue.

  28. This title caught my attention and I thought I should give this a read and I believe that there is a difference between objectifying and desire. Objectifying to me is being disrespectful towards someone who is human and is seen as an object rather than a human.

  29. There is definitely a difference between objectifying and desire. There is nothing wrong with the express of desire. Expressing desire in a way that treats the person like a human being. Objectifying someone is solely to treating them as nothing more than an object. Considering someone to be less except for the capacity to bring sexual pleasure.

  30. Well written Madam.. You have elucidated the difference between attraction and objectification. The latter doesn’t take into account any feelings of the person who is being objectified. It harms women for sure. Maybe your way of giving examples or scenarios to explain the difference between these two terms does work. Perhaps more awareness and teaching men through scenarios or examples might make men to avoid objectification of women.
    Thank you for sharing..!!

  31. Objectifying and desiring aren’t the same thing?

    Objectifying someone is to treat them as an object rather than as a human being. Men and women both help their respective objectification, but women as a lot suffer more negative consequences.
    For example, Miss Universe stands to gain a whole lot more than Mr. Universe it’s just the way cosmetic industry has slanted this. So there’s a lot to be gained by winning Ms. Universe or Ms. World compared to the male counterpart.
    Desiring is equal is lust or wanting somebody real bad, it is completely normal for both men and women.

    • Many people still seem to have a lot of confusion despite what I wrote here. I think I will have to write it again.

      Here is the distinction between objectification and desire in a nutshell:

      You can have desire with or without caring about the other person and taking care not to do harm. Desire w/care to do no harm is desire. Desire w/out that care is objectification.

  32. Sexy objectification is not only in American society and culture, I think it is a worldwide phenomenon. I was born in an Asian country. For Asian men, women with a thin waist, long legs, and long hair can be called sexy. Sexy objectification is a double standard for women and men. Women must ask themselves according to the sex standard that men think, but men can not objectify sex. In many cases of the derailment, the husband even argued that his derailment was caused by his wife’s “unsexy”. Sadly, many women think that they are not sexually attractive and lose self-confidence when men cheat or man lose their sexual desire with them. In one case included in the article, a boyfriend wants his girlfriend to have a “threesome”. This is actually a very materialistic representation of women. Women must be conscious and realize that they are an independent individual and need to be respected and loved, not pleased. It takes a long way for men to achieve gender equality in sex

  33. This article was very interesting to read and very relatable. I grew up in a Mexican household and although my mom is a bit more modern than others, she does have some views that are old fashioned and objectifying. Because she grew up in an environment where it is all about making sure that your husband is happy, fed and pleased, I grew up thinking this was correct. It took years of retraining myself that this is not at all correct. I have never tried to distinguish the difference between desired and objectified but it is important to note. Your partner should be conscious of your feelings and respect when you say you’re not interested. Men are groomed to believe women are here to serve their wildest dreams and it’s just not realistic. It is okay for men to want certain things but completely wrong for a woman to want the same. 

  34. I feel that a lot of people may be confused at the difference between objectifying and desiring. I admit that I have not thought about it from this perspective yet and it definitely explains the difference much more clearly than I would have been able to. In the quote about a woman that had a boyfriend who begged her to have a threesome, I completely agree that the man was being very insensitive to the topic. I enjoyed reading how, if roles were reversed, he finally somewhat grasped the perspective that she had about the topic, and why it would hurt her. I think he was lacking all forms of empathy toward his girlfriend and was being very selfish when discussing the topic.

  35. I think it is so easy for people to confuse the two “attraction” and “objectification” and very common for people to think they are the same. As you explain, there is a fine line between attraction and objectification because there is a big difference. I think it is very important for people to understand the difference between these two, for example, it is a completely different scenario when people actually try and talk to someone respectfully because of interest, and catcalling someone like they are just a piece of meat or an “object”, it is outright demeaning and should be recognized as so.

  36. I think it takes lots of people a long time to realize the line between these two. People think attraction is attraction, you like what you see, right? But to desire is to strongly want, to wish; to objectify is to degrade said subject into less of a human and more of a plaything for whatever you need/are into. Growing up in the 2000s, there was this “American Pie” influence on lots of movies, and I had always seen women used as this perfect unattainable object, that the unpopular, virgin, male protagonist had to conquer by the end of the movie. It was frustrating to see, even as a child, that it was nowhere near desire, no matter how much sappy music played during the kiss at the end of the movie or the credits.

  37. After reading the article I realized that I myself am quite lucky to only have ever been in a relationship where objectifying each other, and not considering the emotions of the other (especially in sexual situations) is something we both strive to avoid. After reading comments on the blog I feel even more lucky to have avoided this issue in the bedroom, because as a body insecure female I imagine it would have quite a traumatic effect, as it sadly has on many others.
    I really think our ability to be open and talk about so much in the bedroom comes from the fact that my mom made me go to the Stanford Heart to Heart seminars. It was a comfortable anonymous place where they taught you about anatomy and sex, and encouraged asking uncomfortable questions. My boyfriend in contrast was homeschooled and was never supplied with sex education until he met me. I took it upon myself to educate him and while he was SO uncomfortable at first it, eventually led to him being able to have really open discussions about intimacy and what we want from those situations. I really do not think his parents did him any favors by keeping him in the dark because without me, his only sex education would be porn. And while I have no problems with pornography (consensually produced and released of course), it is not sexual education.

  38. There is definitely a line to be drawn between desire and objectification; a line that not everyone sees or even realizes should have always been there. While objectifying someone means to only see them as an object of someone else’s sexual gratification, desiring someone is to see them beyond that as an actual human being with their own thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, it does make sense why some people tend to confuse both ideas or are unable to distinguish between them. As one of the major influences of how people think or are taught to think what is okay and what is not, the media seems to teach us that sexual objectification is okay. I remember watching so many shows where a man would bring a woman over for a one night stand then kick them out by morning, completely disregarding their feelings. Yes, a one night stand might have been agreed upon, but to easily treat them as a toy that you are now done playing with is truly horrifying.

    • You can have desire with or without caring about the other person and taking care not to do harm. That’s it in a nutshell. Desire w/care to do no harm is desire. Desire w/out that care is objectification.

  39. Growing up Asian, there was always a stereotype that I was led to believe that I had to follow along with. I had to be under 100 pounds, but have large breasts; my hair had to kept long; I was meant to be intelligent, but unable to speak my mind or have an opinion; I was taught to cook and clean for my future husband. The feeling of all of this made me feel as if I was not a person, rather a doll that had to be programmed in order to be “loved”. Especially growing up in a primarily Caucasian area, many of the guys had these fetishes to be with Asians, but with no notion to getting to know us or our culture and only to only be seen as objects that will fulfill their every whim.

    • So interesting to hear you spell out these contradictory ideals that are impossible to fulfill, and which probably are part of the reason young women on average have lower self-esteem than young men.

  40. I agree that finding someone attractive is normal but it becomes a problem when you act on it and how you do it. For example, going out in public there’s been a few times when I find myself in uncomfortable situations. I can feel when someone’s looking at me and I’ll try to keep looking away. There was one time I was by myself walking through a group of guys and they began catcalling me. I know they knew I was uncomfortable but they continued to do it. I agree that women also do it but it shouldn’t be a conversation where we point fingers at each other. It should be a conversation about learning self-control and boundaries.

  41. Everything and everyone is being sexualized. Women go through this more than man, maybe because growing up is something we see all over. There is a women walking and majority of the time a man will do a full 180 in order to check her out. It is sad to know that many women feel the need to satisfy a man before satisfying themselves. I fall within that category. I am just happy to be at a point in my life in which I am able to say no. If something does not make me feel comfortable I will say it. However, my body and not having bigger breast has always been an insecurity of mine. I can connect with the second discussion. Even though I might not get breast implants, I have mentioned it to my partner and they are excited about it. But that was just a supposition, I would not do that. His reaction really made me feel more insecure. It made me feel as I wasn’t women enough for a while. Is hard being a women, trying to maintain a decent appearance and trying to be women enough.

    • Since different body types are found attractive in different times and places it’s pretty sad the pressure we put on women. And it ends up suppressing their desire because they can get so distracted, worrying about how they look that they aren’t experiencing pleasure. It’s one of the reasons that nearly half of American women experience sexual dysfunctions like lack of desire. And that turns back on men, to hurt them too. We all lose.

  42. This article is quite interesting and is something I have thought about before. Ever since I can remember I have always been quiet and reserved. I like to keep to myself and I am always lost in thought. I would have people telling me I should smile more, or to look alive, or wake up girl. Once I got older, I started to notice most of the people telling me those annoying comments were men. Every job I had, I had some random man comment on me and my “lack” of expression. Male coworkers would be rude and never smile and they never were complained about or commented to smile. I started to wonder if that was a form of objectification, because I was not there to make them happy, I was there to help them find items in a store. This article put things in perspective for me and I realized that I was being emotionally objectified, and I guess physically because I was not smiling pretty for them. I also remember a time I was helping a gentleman look for the right battery for his car keys and when he approached me and got my attention, I responded by saying yes. I remember the man told me, “wow, I like it when a woman says yes to me.” That comment threw me off and I was speechless. I ended up laughing it off awkwardly and saw a fellow coworker and asked him to take over cause I had to use the restroom, but really, I was just feeling uncomfortable. Innocent comments to some can be considered offensive to others and at that moment I just felt…icky. I guess there are different types of ways someone can feel objectified and not know it right away.

  43. The line between objectifying and desiring has always been quite blurred (if that’s the right term for it) in my life as I grew up. As an Asian girl growing up in a county with a very strong white presence, the ideology of “Yellow Fever” was very familiar to my friends and me. The concept of Yellow Fever in a sociological context (rather than medical) is rooted in Asian fetishism. Or rather, objectifying Asian people by degrading them to the status of their own race. Of course being Asian wasn’t an “object,” but in this context, it really did feel like it. Whenever it was brought up that a non-Asian boy had a crush on me, it never sit well that his history would consist of only Asian girls. They did not like or desire me for me as a person with a personality of my own, but rather because of their baseless assumptions of stereotypes of Asian women.

    • Yeah, the main division is that one disregards the persons thoughts and feelings, treating them like their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. One can desire and care.

  44. Very intriguing question, because it got me to think of definitions and human emotions. Desire is definitely a part of human nature and biology and in a sense objectifying in a very broad scope is just this ~ but when you define objectification as you have done here (and done very well), the difference is clear. Attraction is not objectification. Wonderful post, Georgia.

  45. Well, since I’m posting the day before Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, hope you and your family have a nice time but you and everyone stay healthy. Ok so back to my post. I’ve thought I’ve been this before, but it just confirmed what I swear I’ve know before. I for whatever reason randomly wondered like I think many people do and google questions. It’s interesting how, (I’m generalizing) men are able to have sex without a relationship or more purely for sex compared to women. But yet, even though women are the “emotional, more feeling sex”. It’s men who say I love you in a relationship much quicker than women. https://thevidaconsultancy.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-fall-in-love/#:~:text=Reader%27s%20Digest%20claim%20that%20men,of%20time%20(132%20days).

    Maybe women are more careful because of the hurt whereas men are more impulsive to let g into the relationship, idk. It’s interesting though because it’s almost feels like a contradiction with men. Like society has men in two halves. One side shows men seeming to have less feelings and more about sex physically, the other side shows men are just as much with feelings, love and emotionally connected as women and in some ways more so, yet women are the emotional sex. Men fall in love faster, say they love a woman and remarry faster or harder for men to not be in a relationship after a break up than women. That’s alot of feelings right there

    • First off, happy Thanksgiving! Yes we are being safe and not meeting with other family members this year. but we actually often do that so this is nothing new.

      Actually I have written a bit on this topic. Let me know what you think: https://broadblogs.com/2011/10/17/who-falls-in-love-faster-men-or-women/

      • Yes, but the remarry part too seems to show the emotional side men have or wanting to be connected even more than women. Perhaps because women have more social support too, and men who break up feel more lonely could also be a reason why it’s harder for men to be single after a divorce or break up. But in some ways, it seems like guys are as emotional and romantic as women or have more feelings in other ways

      • Yes, women and men are both human and both have equal emotional needs I believe.

        After divorce women do have more emotional support because their friendships tend to be more emotionally attuned and deeper. When women socialize they are more likely to do face-to-face, going out to lunch or dinner and that sort of thing. Men are more likely to socialize side-by-side, watching or playing sports. Apparently Covid and the inability of men to watch and play sports together is signaling that men need deeper male relationships than they have traditionally had.

        And men are also more likely to lose their entire family when there is a divorce. Most judges award custody based on what is best for the children and because women are more likely to sacrifice careers for their children (as we are seeing a great deal with Covid — women are much more likely to drop out of the workforce to help homeschool their kids) the children are typically closer to their mothers. Which is why “mom and dad” is one of the few times that the female comes before the male in language. Typically it’s men and women, boys and girls, brothers and sisters…

        But one Big reason for divorce is that men have also learned not to listen to women. Wives are unhappy and tell their spouses that they need something different and the men don’t pay attention. And then 80% of divorces are initiated by women. And then like I was saying the men tend to lose their whole families and not have a lot of male support.

        Meanwhile, we encourage boys to keep their emotions close to themselves and not express them. This may have to do with, from the beginning of time, men taking on the hunter and warrior roles. I guess it helps men to act courageous rather than talk about their fears when they are assigned those roles, and to not have sympathy for those they are hunting or warring with.

  46. This is such a great topic to talk about. When it comes to women being an object, this is sorting that many men have done for centuries. They tend always to put women to the side, making them feel like objects, and the fact that they will go ahead and objectify them makes it even worse for us women. For many years they’ve been seen as just someone to please everyone’s needs, even if that means sexually. Whatever feelings they had or felt were always put to the side. This is the reason why in many Latino households, “machismo” happens. As a woman, you aren’t there to please the men and care for his children. You aren’t doing your job as a woman. This is a topic that has been seen for years. And even then, if women were to express themselves in sexual activities, they are looked down upon. Women had to learn to quiet down because if they spoke up, it wasn’t considered “ladylike.”

  47. I think this article was very helpful because when it comes to discussing attraction there are a lot of grey areas between what is objectification and what is not. It is important to mention (as you did) that it isn’t just men who objectify women- women do it too and it is extremely common and somewhat even natural to objectify. I think another important idea that should be mentioned as well when it comes to sexual objectification is the concept of fetishism. In the article when discussing the boyfriend wanting a threesome and pushing the idea, or the boyfriend wishing she had bigger breasts, these can be seen as forms of fetishism. This article overall does a pretty good job breaking down the basic differences and concepts of sexual interests now a days, regardless if it is lust, attraction, desires, etc. I think an important question we should ask is objectification innate or taught?

  48. Very well discussed the two issues. Sexual desire is wanting to have sex with someone. Sexual objectification is considering someone to be worthless except for their capacity to bring you sexual pleasure. Expressing desire in a way that treats the person like a full human being (or at the very least allows for the desired person to gracefully extricate themselves from the situation) is not objectification.

    • Yes, yes!

      A couple people didn’t seem to quite get what I was saying but you put it so succinctly.

    • “Sexual objectification is considering someone to be worthless except for their capacity to bring you sexual pleasure.”

      So…. if I also think you have value in your ability to make me a sandwich, bingo! No more naughty objectification?

      Nobody’s yet defined objectification in a way that has any actual meaning. It’s all clutching at mist. It’s just “you did this and I don’t like it”, which is fine that you don’t like it, but it’s not a meaningful category of “objectification”.

      And why aren’t we talking about “make me a sandwich”=ification?

      • “So…. if I also think you have value in your ability to make me a sandwich, bingo! No more naughty objectification?”

        If such a thing existed it would be called “sandwich objectification”

        Sexual objectification has a clear meaning: treating someone like an object who has no thoughts or feelings for your sexual gratification.

  49. Thank you for providing this distinction between objectifying and desiring. After reading your post, I have gathered that your definition of “objectification” is desire that is acted upon without having consideration of the other person’s feelings. Women who check out men and girls who drool over boy bands are not “objectifying” the object of lust because they aren’t acting on their desire. Am I correct?

    Also, I’m so disgusted to hear that anecdote about the threesome. I often hear stories about men trying to convince their female partners to do a threesome with two women and one man (himself). I hear less often about a woman trying to convince her male partner to do a threesome with two men and one woman (herself). I think this is unfortunately just another symptom of men being taught from birth that they should seek out sexual gratification and that women exist to fulfill their sexual desires. Women are not taught that men are there to please them, so they are less likely to think about having threesome with multiple men.

    • “Women who check out men and girls who drool over boy bands are not “objectifying” the object of lust because they aren’t acting on their desire. Am I correct?”

      No. Drooling isn’t necessarily hurtful and could even be welcome.

      Here are some examples of sex without caring for your partner:

      Why Endure Excruciating Hookups? https://broadblogs.com/2015/06/03/why-endure-excruciating-hookups/

      Why Some Guys Want to Screw You https://broadblogs.com/2014/01/03/why-some-guys-want-to-screw-you-2/

      Or the examples in the post are of one man who say hurtful things to his girlfriend because he views her as inadequate sex objects. The guy doesn’t care about the girls’ feelings.

      Or the other guy doesn’t care how hurtful it is to his girlfriend to keep insisting they have threesomes. Her thoughts and feelings don’t matter.

      Desire is fine. But it can be acted on in either a very positive way or a hurtful way.

  50. An old boyfriend of mine was only 100 pounds and 5’3 and me being an almost 5’4, 130 pound girl, it was hard for me to really see myself fit with him. Our whole relationship consisted of me being insecure because the girl my boyfriend couldn’t stop talking to was only 5’1 and had abs and maybe even 3% body fat. It was hard for me to feel beautiful around him, me being young had meant that I was at a more vulnerable stage when it came to my physical appearance. It was almost like he had known that and taken advantage of it, he knew of my insecurities and made me think that as long as I did whatever he wanted me to then I was beautiful. But in reality, I was already beautiful and had exactly what I needed on my own but because of this relationship it had taken me a long time to realize that.

    • Yes, that is some major objectifying behavior on the part of your boyfriend, not caring about your feelings.

      Luckily, life has many lessons and some of them teach us who to avoid. Relationships are so much happier with non-objectifying men.

  51. my reference to touching i’ll give an example. I was sitting in class next to a girl many years ago and our hands touched although we didn’t grasp hands her hand brushed my wrist playfully and she said” hey”? I didn’t think any of it had I thought like that then I might have been reading more into it than I probably should have but in answer about the whole flerting via touching when you can’t read body language or see facial expression that’s when there might be some form of physical flertatious behaviour to know how people come across as flerty with regards to flerty talk the only way to know for certain is to experience it face to face and in person. role play it because it’s very easy to talk about it and not comprehend it. there’s more comprohention when you experience it I’ve never used terms of endearment even if somebody uses them with me i’m probably more hung up about appropriate time and place i’m probably overthinking things more than I should and i’m making it difficult by what I come out with because this shows serious lack of experiences.

    • Yeah, when you are blind you would need to use things like tone of voice to flirt and to understand if someone else is flirting. And you may be much more attuned to that than someone who has sight.

  52. I’ve heard women insist that men should do what women want in house chores, even if it is emotionally or physically painful.

    Women will never accept the same rules when turned around.

    I’ve heard women insist that women should not do what men want sexually, even if it is emotionally painful for the man.

    Now what?

    Anytime one partner wants X and the other wants NOT X, that’s emotionally painful for one partner, yet you immediately jump to the conclusion that the man is in the wrong. How does that work? Female supremacy? Matriarchy?

    And how come these conversations about “objectification” center around the sacrosanct status of women’s bodies, with never a mention about where 90% of objectification happens in society… women using men as their ATM while never giving any care for their feelings.

    • Doing housework isn’t actually emotionally or physically painful. And another big difference is that the work has to be done and so it should be shared equally. With sex you should both be able to find something you mutually enjoy. And if you don’t, she will lose interest in sex entirely. And leave you.

      But thanks for being “exhibit A” illustrating a man with an objectifying attitude.

  53. I have questions here as I always seem to do with regards to many posts that go up on this topic. I myself have a pretty good idea of what objectification is but desire can go both ways right? we may have good desires but sometimes we might get ideas of desiring something within our heads unhealthy desires? Another question is love and lust to me or what I’ve heard lust has a negative connotation right? My final question before I go and yes i’m sorry but this comment isn’t exactly a comment but it’s full of questions. what is classed as flerting or flertatious behaviour? actions? words? actions being physical? mind play?

    • I really don’t think that lust, it’s self, is a problem. I’m more concerned with whether someone is being hurt.

      Flirting can be a mental thing or physical as far as sending signals is concerned. And really it’s all about whether you’re hurting someone or not.If you are harming — you don’t care about their feelings or thoughts — that is objectifying.

      But I realize I’m not really sure what you mean by physical. Not touching. One might give a look that indicates interest so there is a physicality involved in that , but you could do non-physical things like use tone of voice, or say sweet flirty things, to flirt.

  54. The subject is indeed topical. Desiring and objectification are different aspects. The former is often characterised by finer emotions whereas the latter is an offshoot of baser sentiments tending to treat women as chattel. Perversions insisting on threesomes or sex without regard to partner’s comfort are all extensions of the same crassness. Proper upbringing and grooming of girls and boys from formative age may be the way forward to healthier adult attitudes in later life.

  55. This is a great way to explain it, I particularly like the part about objects having no annoying thoughts or feelings.

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