This could be a photo of Bob's "better half". According to Bob. [It was found here]
Let us begin today with an essay on white heterosexist objectification, just so we can ground what follows in some studied reality. Here is the essay. It was found *here*. Following the references, please keep reading. We get to Bob eventually. Really, we do.
The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in the Media
Kacey D. Greening
AbstractExtensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female objectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002). Thus, the primary goal of this study is to examine the prevalence and implications of the dismemberment of women in our society. The secondary goal is to suggest that the negative consequences of dismemberment are comparable to the negative consequences of objectification.
IntroductionKilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies. Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise. In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected. Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages. Of course the ads are only symbolic of dismemberment, but the symbolic imagery creates nearly the same effect. This study highlights the nature and implications of objectification and requests a similar exploration of the nature and implications of dismemberment advertisements. It is important to note that advertisements are not the cause of the problems, per se, but they contribute to them by fostering an environment in which the selling of women's bodies is seen as acceptable.
The Prevalence of ObjectificationSexualized messages permeate American culture. The most prominent means of transporting this sexualized female identity is through the mass media. Female objectification was once thought imponderable but, through a growing body of research, this belief has been proven wrong. The existence and the implications of female objectification have recently been explored. Empirical studies have indicated that women are overwhelmingly targeted more for sexually objectifying treatment than men (Gardner, 1980; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; Henley, 1977; Van Zoonen, 1994).
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) coined the term, objectification theory, which suggests that our culture socializes girls and women to internalize an observer’s perspective on their own bodies. When young girls and women internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies, they live much of their life in the third-person. This is called self-objectification. In other words, females learn to be more concerned with observable body attributes rather than focusing on non-observable body attributes such as feelings and internal bodily states. Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) suggest that appearance monitoring, which is present in self-objectification, can increase shame and appearance anxiety and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. These experiential consequences may contribute to the development of several mental health risks, including eating disorders, unipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction. The subsequent studies attest to the negative implications of objectifying the female body.
Figure 1: Example of Objectification Figure 2: Example of Objectification
The Implications of ObjectificationKuring and Tiggemann (2004) conducted a study consisting of 286 undergraduate students (115 men, 171 women). Participants were recruited from Psychology courses at the Flinders University of South Australia and participated in the study for course credit. Participants were administered a questionnaire that contained “measures of self-objectification and self-surveillance, measures of the proposed consequences of self-objectification (body shame, appearance anxiety, flow and awareness of internal bodily states), as well as the outcome variables of disordered eating and depressive mood” (301). The study found that self-objectification leads to self-surveillance that, in turn, leads to body shame and appearance anxiety and in both greater disordered eating and more depressed mood. This finding is only true for women. Contrarily, men experienced much lower levels of self-surveillance. However, the men who presented evidence of self-surveillance experienced increased body shame and appearance anxiety. It is noteworthy that men showed no presence of self-objectification, thus suggesting that women are overwhelmingly more likely to experience self-objectification and self-surveillance. The rare cases in which men experience self-surveillance, similar emotions and reactions are present (Kuring & Tiggemann, 2004).
Fredrickson, Noll, Quinn, Roberts, and Twenge (1998) found that self-objectification contributed to disordered eating directly. Seventy-two undergraduate women at Duke University participated in this study for partial course credit. Participants were tested individually in one-hour laboratory sessions. The participants were administered the Self-Objectification Questionnaire, which required them to rank the order and the significance of 12 body attributes by how important each is to their physical self-concept. In addition, an indirect measure of body shame was administered because emotion theorists have argued that shame is difficult to assess directly, in part because individuals may feel ashamed of being ashamed. To circumvent this difficulty, the self-report measure targeted the motivational and behavioral components of shame such as the desire to hide, escape, turn away, disappear, or become smaller, as well as the desire to change the failed aspects of the self (Fredrickson et al., 1998). Their hypothesis posits that anticipated body shame encourages women to participate in disordered eating. Oftentimes, women who engage in disordered eating are attempting to maintain or gain body satisfaction and avoid the dreaded experience of body shame. Their hypothesis received support. Thus, it can be safely assumed that our culture’s practice of sexual-objectification of the female body has profoundly negative effects on women, and disordered eating is only one of many.
Furthermore, it is imperative to note a study conducted by Baker, Towell, and Sivyer (1997). This study investigated the role of visual media by examining the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and abnormal eating attitudes in visually impaired women. Body dissatisfaction and abnormal eating attitudes are frequent effects of our culture’s promotion of an unattainable beauty ideal. Sixty women were recruited for this study (20 were congenitally blind, 20 were blinded in later life, and 20 were sighted). All subjects were aged between 20-35 years. The Body Shape Questionnaire was administered to measure the level of concern about body shape, and the Eating Attitudes Test was used to determine attitudes towards eating. The results revealed that congenitally blind women had significantly lower body dissatisfaction scores and more positive eating attitudes compared to women who were blinded later in life and sighted women. The results indicate that visual media may play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating (Baker et al., 1997).
In a study conducted by Gettman and Roberts (2004), a state of self-objectification was induced in a sample of 90 women. The participants were enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a Colorado public university. First, they were asked to unscramble manipulated sentences. While one group was primed with body competence, the other group was primed with self-objectification. Then, three questionnaires were administered to the participants. The first questionnaire consisted of questions about shame and disgust, which were drawn from research conducted by Tangney and colleagues (1996). The second measure was Dion’s Appearance Anxiety Scale. The third measure was the Appeal of Sex Scale. The results demonstrated that the self-objectification prime led to significantly higher levels of appearance anxiety. It also led to a decrease in the appeal of physical aspects of sex. This is the first piece of evidence that lends support to the prediction that objectification contributes to sexual dysfunction (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Perhaps sexualizing and objectifying women actually decreases their sex drive rather than increases their sex drive. It is possible that the words used in the self-objectification prime activated a sense of being “on display,” which may have caused women to feel self-conscious in regards to their performance. Masters and Johnson (1970) identified self-consciousness and “spectatoring” as key barriers to women’s comfort with sex. In addition, the shame and disgust many women experience about their bodies may shape their sexual attitudes and experiences. This argument received support through this study in which a negative correlation was present between shame and self-disgust and the appeal of physical sex (Gettman & Roberts, 2004).
In relation to intimacy and sexuality within male and female relationships, Brooks (1995) discussed the effects of the centerfold syndrome that is defined by five principal characteristics: voyeurism, objectification, trophyism, the need for validation, and the fear of true intimacy. Brooks mentioned several possible causes of the centerfold syndrome such as biology, instinct, and survival of the fittest. However, it is exceptionally interesting to note that of all the possibilities mentioned, Brooks found the socio-cultural explanation to be the most probable. Brooks claimed that the centerfold syndrome is a product of the way in which men have been taught to think about and experience relationships, intimacy, and sex. The widespread sexualization of women in our culture easily lends itself to the adoption of the Centerfold Syndrome. Men are not the only ones who have adopted this harmful attitude towards relationships, intimacy, and sex. Women can just as easily adopt a negative self-image and attitude, perpetuating the negative stereotypes about women, sexuality, intimacy, and relationships (Brooks, 1995).
The Dismemberment of Women in the MediaIndeed, the objectification of women is evident in our society where women are constantly sexualized, but the dismemberment of women has yet to receive the consideration and exploration it deserves. Kilbourne (2002) suggested that the dismemberment of women is a monstrous problem in advertising. Dismemberment ads focus on one part of the body, e.g., a woman’s breasts. Typically, dismemberment ads employ female body parts for the purpose of selling a product. Dismemberment ads promote the idea of separate entities. These ads overtly and covertly encourage a woman to view her body as many individual pieces rather than a whole. Dismemberment ads leave many women feeling that their entire body is spoiled on account of one less than perfect feature. If a woman has less than satisfactory legs, then her potential for beauty is spoiled. In other words, if every body part is not flawless, then the possibility for beauty is ruined. As previously mentioned, girls and women are conditioned from a young age to view the body as a “work in progress” or something in constant need of alteration. Instead of being satisfied with their body as a whole, they concentrate on what separate entities they lack. Many women compare their bodies and sexuality to the eroticized images that are plastered on billboards and television and in magazines and movies (Kilbourne, 2002).
Figure 3: Example of Dismemberment Figure 4: Example of Objectification
The dismemberment of women, in addition to the objectification of women, have serious repercussions including, but not limited to, body shame, appearance anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders. The impossible ideal of female beauty saturates our American culture, and reparations are nothing short of dire necessity. Thus, the ambitious goal of this study is to suggest that the dismemberment of women in the media produces negative effects comparable to the negative effects of objectification. In other words, dismemberment is as equally damaging as objectification.
Measuring the Effects of Dismemberment
through the Use of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale
McKinley and Hyde (1996) developed the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (OBCS). The OBCS has three components: body surveillance, body shame, and beliefs about appearance control. The first element of the OBCS is body surveillance, the degree to which women view themselves as an object. The feminine body has been constructed as an object to be looked at. This construction encourages women to view their bodies as if they were outside observers. Psychological research has proven that there are negative implications for constant self-surveillance and self-objectification (McKinley & Hyde, 1996; Fredrickson & Noll, 1997; Gettman & Roberts, 2004; Brooks, 1995). The second element of the OBCS is body shame. This encompasses the internalization of cultural beauty standards. Sadly, when women experience internalization, the beauty standards appear to originate from the self, and many women believe that the attainment of these standards is possible, even in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary. The internalization of cultural beauty standards promotes body shame, body dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The third element of the OBCS is appearance control beliefs. The OBCS relies heavily on the underlying assumption that women are taught to believe that they are responsible for how they look and have the ability and obligation to alter themselves when necessary. Convincing women that they can achieve the impossible beauty standards of our culture can have very negative effects. There are certainly instances in which a woman has no control over her appearance, and if this is the case, the woman feels like a failure (McKinley &Hyde, 1996).
Thus, it is imperative to conduct research in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the effects of dismemberment advertisements. Future research should employ the use of the OBCS to examine the differences and similarities between objectification effects and dismemberment effects. It is likely that women exposed to dismemberment ads would score just as high, if not higher, on the OBCS, particularly the body shame component and the appearance control beliefs component than women exposed to objectification ads. Recall the history of objectification studies, for there was once a time when objectification was thought to be immeasurable and powerless. Now, after much diligent research, it is evident that objectification is measurable, and objectification does have an impact on women. Further research must be conducted to examine the effects of dismemberment in advertising.
SummaryUndoubtedly, the sexualized portrayal of women in the media has significantly negative outcomes. These negative outcomes are not only affecting adult women but also young girls. Females are buying cosmetics and beauty products at increasingly younger ages. Recently, researchers have begun exploring self-surveillance, body shame, and disordered eating tendencies in preadolescent females and found that girls as young as seven are showing signs of disordered eating and self-surveillance (Good, Mills, Murnen, & Smolak, 2003). The media affects some women in subtle ways (unconsciously), and other women are affected in a more direct way (consciously). The problematic representations of women in the media deserve our immediate attention, consideration, and research. Future studies should include: further exploration of the relational barriers between men and women, the centerfold syndrome and its effect on human intimacy, the appeal of physical sex to women and its relationship to the dismemberment of women in the media, the relationship between dismemberment ads and body shame and body dissatisfaction, the relationship between dismemberment ads and eating disorders, and the relationship between dismemberment ads and depression.
*All images were retrieved from Scott A. Lukas’ Gender Ads Project website: www.genderads.com
*Copyright statement: All rights reserved by the Undergraduate Research Community.
ReferencesBaker, D., Sivyer, R., & Towell, T. (1997). Body Image Dissatisfaction and Eating Attitudes in Visually Impaired Women. London: Division of Psychology, University of West Minister.
Brooks, G. (1995). The Centerfold Syndrome: How Men Can Overcome Objectification and Achieve Intimacy With Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fredrickson, B., Noll, S., Roberts, T., Twenge, J., & Quinn, D. (1998). That Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-Objectification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269-284.
Gettman, J., & Roberts, T. (2004). Mere Exposure: Gender Differences in the Negative Effects of Priming a State of Self-Objectification. Sex Roles, 51, 17-27.
Good, L., Mills, A., Murnen, S., & Smolak, L. (2003). Thin, Sexy Women and Strong, Muscular Men: Grade-School Children’s Responses to Objectified Images of Women and Men. Sex Roles, 49, 427-437.
Kilbourne, J. (2002). Beauty and the Beast of Advertising. Retrieved March 12, 2005 from http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/article40.html.
McKinley, N., & Hyde, J. (1996). The Objectified Body Consciousness Scale: Development and Validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181-215.
Roberts, S., & Fredrickson, B. (1997). Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173-206.
Tiggeman, M., & Kuring, J. (2004). The Role of Objectification in Disordered Eating and Depressed Mood. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 299-311.
* * *
So a feminist blog, Penny Red, had a post about sexual objectification and the artist Katie West. It made me think of a great conversation I'd had about this subject a few years ago, about women and the struggles around the male gaze, men's sexual objectification of young women as a political act, and young women living in a society permeated by rapism, and containing terrorists and other men, known as rapists. Some rapists aren't terrorists. Some are boyfriends who get drunk and get sloppy and drunkenly, with rage simmering, do something violating and then are deeply apologetic and do the work they need to do to make sure that NEVER happens again. So far I only know one het man in that category.
I wrote to her. Below my reply, are some comments by a guy named Bob. Pay attention to the theories Bob puts forth for why his objectification of women happens. They will tell you a lot about the lengths to which men go to excuse their politically oppressive and violating behaviors. He doesn't speak only for himself. There are many men who argue as he does. You will and won't believe what he says. If it weren't serious it would be a parody that patriarchy-deniers would claim was made up by radical feminists to make men look especially stupid. But, alas, Bob does that work for men. And no radical feminist writings have EVER crossed his path, from the sounds of what comes out of his mouth, or, rather, his fingers. Ok, enough intro. Here's my story about the conversation I had, and we'll go from there.
[My reply to the feminist blogger:]
Like you, I have spoken with tons of people, mostly heterosexual women, but plenty of lesbian women, some genderqueer folks, a few trans people--pre-, non-, and post-hormone treatments and/or surgeries, lots and lots of het boys and gay men. Most of those folks have been white, but probably most of my deeper conversations have been with women of color. I remember sitting on a the floor of a white woman friends' apartment. She hadn't yet come out as lesbian. Two of her white female friends were sitting before me on a couch, relatively close to one another. I'd come over and realised I hadn't really had the time to get to know these two women: one was my friend's roommate, and the other a female friend of both my friend and the roommate, who was lesbian identified at the time but later met and married a man. All these women are working to middle class, and still in their twenties. At the time of this conversation they were in their early to mid twenties.
My friend--now a lesbian woman--I'll refer to her as Kate. The roommate, a bisexual woman, I'll call Donna. And their friend, once a lesbian and now with a man, I'll call Jody. So this was my first real "sit down let's talk for real" talk with Donna and Jody. (Needless to say, these aren't even close to their real names!) These two young women sitting before me were what WHM supremacist society has deemed "pretty", meaning things that are always misogynistic, racist, classist, heterosexist, ageist, and ableist as hell: western or southern euro appearing features, one slim/thin, and one who was neither heavy nor tiny but worked at being slimmer perpetually. Jody was blond--always a plus inWHM society, tragically. Neither allowed any hair on her face or underarms or legs as I recall. Both had "not-short" hair. Jody pulled it all back in a rather care-free ponytail. She also didn't likely have much facial hair and didn't have full eyebrows, but the other woman, who was darker complected, did, and she plucked them to make them very thin, especially as they extended towards her temples. She also spent more time figuring out what to do with her hair. While the blond woman, Jody, didn't appear to dress forWHM society, it was clearer Donna did.
Both women are very smart, with vast intelligence and wonderful senses of humor. Donna had a crush on Jody, and Jody was unsure of how to handle that, as she wasn't wanting to take their friendship into romantic or sexual realms. These are two extremely humane, good-hearted people, not without their wounds, of course. Donna had a problem with alcohol, not a massive one, and was dealing with a recent rape, which seemed to have destroyed something in her. It created this internal separation or exacerbated one, creating a need to put some of her memory, experience, feelings, awareness, in a psychic pod, with a hard, thorny shell. She wouldn't let anyone in there, most especially herself. So there was a kind of tension in her that she tried to carry as invisibly as possible through an often clueless social world. I'll add that once Jody met the man she was going to marry, she no longer wore her hair in a ponytail. It was clearly cut professionally in a particular way, far more in keeping with the strictures of WHM supremacist society's wants and needs of her to be visually "pleasing".
Jody seemed, outwardly, less wounded by men, more relaxed in herself, but not without significant struggles--one was whether or not to come out to her family. Perhaps she was more at ease in her ways of being but she tended towards using her intellect as a fortress. I am pretty sure, from other conversations, she was also a survivor of some form of sexual violence/abuse at the hands of one man at least much earlier in life. It is hard to know how that altered the trajectory of her path. I know that surviving sexual violence when I was a boy propelled me into that dissociated, partitioned off mode of being. There were feelings I wouldn't go near, and there were lots of triggers. So managing to get through social days was sometimes exhausting, and I really didn't even know why for many years. These two women were far more self-aware than I was when in my twenties. FAR more. At least Donna KNEW there was stuff about being raped she couldn't go near yet. Hate for her perpetrator was one thing she wouldn't allow to even be an option. But I hated him for doing that to her. And I still do. And I've never met her ex-boyfriend/rapist which makes having a simple set of feelings for him very easy indeed.
It all boils down to this sticky syrup: both Donna and Jody have to wake up each day and figure out how to present themselves in such a way to not be scorned by men or other women, and not be immediately registered as "sex things for men". Now we know there are men who will register women this way no matter their appearance. And that fact that rapists go after females from a few months old to way closer to 100, means it's not exactly "a look" these guys are trying to take possession of as much as it is a gender. They both said that they try on many clothes and interrogate themselves in a mirror: "Is this too tight or too lose?" "Does this show the shape of my breasts too much, or reveal too much of them? Do these jeans make me look fat, or make my butt look big, or make my butt too pronounced?"
The questions are a running inner dialogue, as they described their inner world that is in an almost constant state of anxiety or insecurity due to that outside world of men, and some women, who can be cruel to women who don't appear the way women of a certain class and ethnic group, of a certain region and religion, and sexuality and age, are expected to look. After the clothes there's the shoes: shoes that look good or feel good? Then make-up? Does my skin look good today, so that I don't have to wear foundation? Do I have any zits? Do I look tired? How to mask all this and also mask my own terror, my own desire to not be quite so transparent, emotionally. How to put on the right amount of mask.
I could relate to most of what they discussed, with the exception of the matter of the shoes. (Oh, and I've never had to "do anything to" my fingernails, other than trim them. And barely even that with my toenails!) But the incessant body interrogation and critique, the constant concerns about how others will "receive me" in the social world, both strangers and acquaintances, and especially intimate partners, was pervasive and, in their own language, oppressive. And they knew that oppression was imposed by patriarchy. But what to do? Dressing down, wearing loose fitting clothes all the time was neither desirable nor necessarily functional. Tight-fitting clothes carried their own issues.
I realised, as I so often do, that heteromen who are not partnered to a woman, or who did not grow up being observant of female family members, have no clue at all. And even when they have a clue they somehow assume that this daily regimen is fine for women, desired, wanted. Heteromen think "She obviously LIKES going through all this, even though she complains about it. If she didn't like doing it, she wouldn't do it."
BAM! Heteromale privilege, all naked and ugly.
* * *Enter Bob.
Bob is a commenter at the feminist's blog. He came into this conversation responding not to me, but to the feminist I had written to as well. He was perturbed by her assessment that the pornography industry overwhelmingly objectifies women for men's pleasure. She had wondered why there isn't as much pornography that does exactly the same to men. Bob replies as follows (these are comments on the feminist's blog post):
Are we living on the same planet here? You don't seem to get the slight lack of demand for skin-mags of young fit men (excluding the bi/gay section). Every day I (and lots of other het men) have an intensely strong urge to find sex, preferably in lots of women. I'm sorry, I just don't see the rampant "I want to shag any woman" situation happening with women (with their chosen gender, obviously) on a daily/hourly/minutely basis. You mentioned you've been the teenager who noone on the planet would shag (or words to that effect). Bullshit. I would have, and I know lots of men who would have too. You just couldn't find them. The problem is, yes, that daily demand for sex. It drives us blokes to, er, want sex. We want more sex. Again, in 6 seconds time (apparently) I'll still want more sex. If I've just had sex, I'll be ok for a bit, but I'm quite happy for more sex pretty soon. And it's the same tomorrow, and the next day and so on until I'm dead.
Meanwhile, I've just finished a conversation with a 60 year old woman. She clearly doesn't want sex and isn't interested. On the flip side there are loads of 60 year old men who do want sex. Can't you see the slight disparity here in demand for female objectification? And on the supply side, to objectify myself I have to use wit, charm and my smile. Admittedly a shave and a nice shirt doesn't hurt, but by and large it requires a lot of mental effort and not much physical effort. On the flip side a woman can be an object simply by, well, being. Because of the troubles of my past, I hate living in a sexualised world. I hate the daily urge. I hate my constant want. I don't have a choice but to objectify women. I'm sick of the sight of breasts. Indeed, I hate them. However, in a few minutes time/the next time a woman comes in/tomorrow morning, I will crave them like a starving man craves food. That's why most pron is made for men and there aren't skin-mags of boys.
The feminist blogger replies to Bob: Bob/lawtears - yes, you DO have a choice about whether or not you objectify women, and your pointless anecdata about women somehow 'not being as sexual' as men is repulsive, misogynist and just...well, wrong, really. I'm sorry that 'things in your past' make you hate the sexualisation of contemporary culture, but really, with an attitude like yours, you're contributing to it. Bob replies to the blogger:
I'm sorry, I just don't see it. Maybe you've missed what I've said or not understood. I've just yet to see that in front of me. And the objectification is not really a choice. What you do with that objectification is the choice you do have as a male. But my testicles don't let me have a choice as to whether I find women attractive or not. And how is my attitude contributing to the sexualisation of culture? I feel as though you've misunderstood what I've said.
An Anonymous Feminist commenter then said...
Oh, Bob, how I love it when men barge into feminist conversations about objectification and start droning on about how perpetually horny they (and their teeming testicles)are. Guess what: most women like sex, masturbating, and pretty, naked people of their preferred gender too. Some of us masturbate every day, too! (without finding it such a joyless, Sisyphean task that we have to go onto feminist blogs and whinge about it).I am sick of people using women's putative disinterest in casual sex as 'evidence' of a lack of interest in sex in general (often citing the appallingly designed and frequently quoted study in which attractive males and females approached members of the opposite sex on the street and asked if they wanted to have sex; most women declined while most men accepted, which is hardly a suprising outcome given the disproportionate risks to person and 'reputation' to women in such a scenario as compared to men, not to mention the respective likelihoods of achieving physically satifsying sex with an unknown partner.) As long as there is a double standard whereby men's reputations are improved by sex and women's are damaged,where women's sexual subjectivity is considered either titillating (if they are attractive) or revolting and punchline-ish (if they are not), as long as women continue to sexually assaulted at shockingly high levels, many women will feel that the social and physical risks of openly seeking sex outside a relationship are too great. People of both sexes largely want to have physically satisfying, safe (in the sense of not risking being raped and/or murdered by their chosen partners)sex with people to whom they are attracted.
Furthermore, finding people attractive, seeking out images of people you find attractive, even commenting on people's attractiveness is not inherently objectifying, so please stop acting as though the Scary Feminist Sex Police are going to confiscate your wankmags.
A guy replies to Bob. His name is Mark. Mark said..
Bob - "But my testicles don`t give me a choice as to whether I find women attractive or not."
Isn`t there is a difference between finding someone attractive and viewing them as a sex object? I`d say there is more of a choice about the latter than the former. Let`s accept that some mish-mash of cultural and biological forces leads us to find some people sexually attractive and that it is pretty difficult for us to control such feelings. It doesn`t follow that our reactions to those feelings will neccesarily be to objectify those we find attractive. Living in the interconnected modern society, the vast majority of us have recieved training in empathy from an early age and (the more sensible among us) have learned from market interactions the value of strangers. Due to this, the danger of succumbing to the narrow familial-neighbourhood based allegiances of early times and the corresponding fear or objectification of those who are outside of our group, has receded. Unfortunately, as modern types, we also have to contend with the harsh, human-as-animal logic that has become so popular of late.
IE - there is no higher purpose than continued survival and that the kinder emotions are at best irrelevant and at worst terrible weakness. All activities that aren`t somehow related to animal, sweaty sex are wasted time. I`d suggest that the difficulties you are experiencing are the result of accepting the above as a given, in a seeingly disconected modern world. However, despite it`s deep attractions, "human-as-animal" is a choice, not an inevitable truth of life. There is no rationality to the creed of survival, any more than there is to anything else. Our sexual feelings do not take precedence over other peoples humanity. Reject survival, embrace pride.
Bob replied to the feminist commenter and said...
Ok, let's not talk about sex. Let's try an analogy, ie, tv. Say I watch tv all day long. Meanwhile, my female flatmate just watches some choice tv some of the time. Who's the tv addict? Who's got the 'serious' interest in tv? One of them doesn't care that he doesn't have a real life (ie job, friends etc), the other does. So who's got the greater interest in tv? And why doesn't this analogy hold? Besides, the risks to person are simply different. Women risk pregnancy, disease and a damaged reputation. Men risk theft, disease and fatherhood. Possibly I know rougher women than you, but snogging a guy/feeling his arse is a good way to locate his wallet. Some semi-classy heroin addict (perhaps a harpist) can easily get into a mans house/pants, find his stuff and know his routine in order to empty both. Not often talked about, but it does happen.
"As long as there is a double standard whereby men's reputations are improved by sex and women's are damaged"
Hmm, yes and no. I'd say this statement is a little last generation. The younger women of today don't seem to be to bothered about sexual rep. And let's face it only an idiot would really think that one's rep is improved by a shag. Mind you, there are lots of idiots out there, so maybe there's something to that. "please stop acting as though the Scary Feminist Sex Police are going to confiscate your wankmags" Presumably you havn't read the recent obscene pron acts that went through parliament. Hopefully labour will get booted out soon and it won't get any worse. Thanks for your reply.
Bob also replied to Mark. Bob said...
Mark: "Isn`t there is a difference between finding someone attractive and viewing them as a sex object?" By Dworkinian standards, apparently not. By other women's standards, it varies so wildly that you can't draw a line anywhere. Some like it and encourage it, some don't and hate it. And it's not like it's obvious. I've met women who have worn low cut tops etc and yet they hate the attention. WTF? Well, perhaps we could re-read pennyred's article again. "human-as-animal" is a choice, not an inevitable truth of life. There is no rationality to the creed of survival, any more than there is to anything else." I can't say I completly agree. My drive for sex is entirely genetic and not really a choice. And it is rational. It's what's been selected as the best way to spread my genes. I'd recommend "Why sex is fun" by Jared Diamond (I think) for more info on this. Bob lawtears6"hotmail.co.uk
Mark replied to Bob and said...
The drive for sex may well be entirely natural, but the idea that pandering to this drive is the sole purpose of our life, is a social construct. Also, the idea that any behaviour which leads to the spread of our genes is rational and any which doesn`t isn`t, is just another pernicious myth. 2 questions. 1) Do you really consider Genghis Khan to be the greatest man who ever lived and the model on which we should all base ourselves? 2)In the long, long term, (which is the only term which really matters) do you suppose that anything we do makes a blind bit of difference? It doesn`t matter how many children I have - in the end it will be as if I never was and my genetic line will be extinguished. On this basis, it`s completely irrational to live your life in the hope of propagating your genes - a task which is doomed to absolute failure. Take pride in the values with which you were raised, try to live in a way which you think is good, take pleasure in the beauty which is around us. This is all we have. As an Englishman, I view the promotion of the worst and most animalistic of humankind as the best and most rational, as an ideology of pure, ugly, idiocy.
I have to admit i'm really puzzled by this post. you're linking katie west as an artist to a larger phenomenon - that you feel that women must show t&a to be taken seriously. I agree with the last part and while there are a hundred different examples (sexual harassement cases, tina fey's makeover, the attention on zadie smith's looks, amanpour drooling, the fat husband thin wife sitcom duo..you're a feminist, i'm sure you know more than me) of this dynamic i just don't see a connection between katie west and that? i mean, i don't like her work to be honest, i don't consider it really art- it makes no statement to me. but it is ethically produced pornography, she shoots, models, distributes it herself- which i think is great! and i guess it sounds like you're saying you wish instead of her doing that kind of work you wish she....painted landscapes/did performance art? again i think of it as porn so i just don't know if that's a valid criticism. (although i like non-emo porn) but then, i am a sex worker so i don't hate the industry really, i just want to reform it. also i was surprised to see you reproduce and empathize with the rage behind that quote, it just struck me immediately as rape apologism and i felt really gross when i saw it. it's a reason i don't really bother with non sex worker feminist spaces since i sort of fear that old you brought it on yourself stuff just as much as from randos.
At this point, I decide to reply to Bob. So I said...
@Bob, I'll respond to some of what you state above.
re: Can't you see the slight disparity here in demand for female objectification? And the objectification is not really a choice. What you do with that objectification is the choice you do have as a male. But my testicles don't let me have a choice as to whether I find women attractive or not.
Sexual objectification is a decision, an action taken by someone in relation to someone else. It isn't an automatic out-of-your-control reflex. Slow down your mind. You see someone and THEN you think about objectifying them and THEN you do. Even if that all happens in half a second. So you can learn to recognise that process and interrupt it, if you wish to. Passing along a message from women friends: they are damned tired of men like you and your eyes being on them as if you want your testicles near them too. Grow up. Your speaking like you're thirteen years old. You staring at any woman is a choice. You control your own staring, yes? Not your gonads. Your conscious mind does: your will. Please practice not looking at people you wish to objectify for that brief (or longer) sexual thrill.
Objectification is an act of violation and volition not determined by anything other than your will to do it, or not. Trust me, you can live well without sexually objectifying women. Honestly. my testicles don't let me have a choice as to whether I find women attractive or not. I'll go out on a limb and suggest that your brain isn't located in your testicles, Bob. And your will to objectify women, and the social permission that exists for you to do it a lot, isn't either. You find women attractive, in large part, not due to nature but due to what society has taught you is a consumable beauty object.
Patriarchy and capitalism drive your desires far more than your genes ever "thought" possible. If your mind is determined by your testicles, as you put it, you'd find women with hairy armpits, relaxed breasts, hairy legs, no make-up, dirty hair, and ample weight, large thighs, visually appealing, because, according to you, women would be visually appealing to your "natural" heterosexual self. Do you really think your testicles track what industrial society mandates women to do to make themselves "attractive"? Why are women not allowed to have facial hair when most women, naturally, have facial hair? I don't believe society handed your testicles a memo saying "I know you are programmed to find that 'cave woman'-look really hot, but, hey ballboys, this is 2010, and women with shaved armpits, legs, and crotches are all the rage.
Corporate pimps and advertising executives determine what you find "hot" far more than genes. Your testicles don't determine your actions, and believing so is a raper's excuse to do what you willfully want to do, but aren't willing to be responsible for. Do you really want to portray yourself as that mindless and soulless?
Let's try an analogy, ie, tv. Say I watch tv all day long. Meanwhile, my female flatmate just watches some choice tv some of the time. Who's the tv addict? Who's got the 'serious' interest in tv? One of them doesn't care that he doesn't have a real life (ie job, friends etc), the other does. So who's got the greater interest in tv? And why doesn't this analogy hold?
Because women aren't a tv. That's what doesn't hold. They are actual human beings who get to not want your p0rn-trained and objectifying eyes on them. Stop looking at p0rnography for two months. Then you'll see how much that influences you to objectify women.
By Dworkinian standards, apparently not. By other women's standards, it varies so wildly that you can't draw a line anywhere. Some like it and encourage it, some don't and hate it. And it's not like it's obvious. I've met women who have worn low cut tops etc and yet they hate the attention. WTF? Well, perhaps we could re-read pennyred's article again.
Andrea Dworkin never critiqued men appreciating women's humanity, including the beauty of their individuality as people. She critiqued men blaming their actions on their testicles, as if their testicles called the shots. She critiqued beauty standards that are tyrannical, heteromale supremacist, and dehumanising. So, get this: if different women like to be treated differently, then ask how any one woman you are socially engaged with wants to be treated, and then treat her accordingly.
How's that? My drive for sex is entirely genetic and not really a choice. And it is rational. It's what's been selected as the best way to spread my genes. I'd recommend "Why sex is fun" by Jared Diamond (I think) for more info on this.
Stop imbuing your gonads with a mind, please. It's really annoying, inaccurate, and is actually what antifeminists blame feminists for claiming as "a truth" when feminists I know claim exactly the opposite: you, sir, are fully responsible as an adult for each and every one of your actions. You can make socially respectful choices. You aren't driven by your genes or your genitals. Really, you're not. Listen to your scrotum.... and notice it isn't saying anything. And I left Bob with some reading to do, from another post at my blog titled: How objectification silences women: the male gaze as a political muzzle.
Bob has not replied. This is typical avoidance. Or maybe he got bored with this discussion and went out to objectify some women because his balls told him too.
What I want the reader of this post to note is that men, overwhelmingly, are the ones who claim they "have no choice" in how they look at women. They make all manner of references to "men's sexual nature" as an unchanging and fixed matter, fixed by genes or hormone ratios that apparently aren't impacted by environment. This would be plausible if it weren't a complete misunderstanding of how genes and hormones work. Neither is fixed. Genes are responsive to environment, and hormone levels vary widely among men who demonstrate similarly objectifying behaviors.
In her book on Pornography: Men Possessing Women, Andrea Dworkin took on the whole obnoxious field of "sociobiology" demonstrating quite clearly how it is a seemingly legitimate science but in fact is patriarchal CRAP dolled up to look like it is objective reasoning and research. It isn't, but it has taken hold, such than when people speak of atrocities, far too many people reply, "Well, that's human nature! It'll never change." I guess we shouldn't look too closely at the evolution of science and how white men's understandings of "human nature" have changed dramatically over the eras. That would just confuse the dear white boy sociobiologists.
Patriarchy-deniers love to make the stupid claim that feminists pick and choose from reality only the bits that reinforce their arguments. For one thing, this implies feminism has not been rigorous and exhaustive in its research and methodologies. It implies a sort of intellectual laziness on the part of feminists. As well it implies a wish to be self-delusional. Folks, how much more delusional does it get than denying there even IS such a thing as male supremacy? How much denial does it take to pretend patriarchal societies don't exist, and that, in fact, women hold most of the power. YES, men actually say whole sentences to this effect! And when men do admit they do some "bad" things, they blame it on their testicles! And who is claiming to be logical?
It's the ballboys, of course.