We live in a world where it is honestly believed that we can objectify sex without objectifying women.
We’ve given sex the identity of causality, prevalence, and commonality. We undercut and undervalue one of the most important things in human relationship. It can have a negative and draining impact, a life-giving and loving impact, or a traumatic impact. The only thing that is certain is that there will always be an impact. So why do we pretend it doesn’t?
As tacky as I’ve always thought it to be, I’m going to define sexual objectification according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s feminism:
“Objectification is a notion central to feminist theory. It can be roughly defined as the seeing and/or treating a person, usually a woman, as an object.”
The definition goes on to list the ways in which women are objectified:
instrumentally, denial of autonomy, inertness, fungibility, violability, ownership, denial of subjectivity, reduction to body, reduction to appearance, and silencing.
To parallel with their basic definition, the objectification of women arises when women are viewed as a tool of functionality rather than a human, denied self-determination, denied agency in a situation, given treatment as a disposable, denied boundaries, given treatment as a medium of exchange, viewed without a personal narrative, reduced to the identity of their body parts, reduced to the identity of their appearance, and silenced as an inanimate.
We see this all around us in media, retail, and entertainment. So what has our response been? We would like to say we have countered it with something opposite and potent…but we haven’t.
Some would say we have effectively countered it with feminism. That would be wrong.
Feminism tells us we should have sex with no consequence, no commitment, and no obligation to emotion. You can’t blame anyone for inventing this solution. We have been made desperate by the image society has painted us. We reject the image and instead turn to its twin sister.
Making sex a casual, non-committal, merely biological “adult play” is just as bad as allowing screen-writers to form our sexuality from afar. Picture this:
A woman meets a man at a bar, they have small conversation, she leaves with him, sleeps with him, then leaves the next morning with no obligation. This is what feminism celebrates.
Here is what is really going on:
A woman meets a man at a bar, she is denied a personal narrative, reduced to the identity of her body parts and appearance and taken home by a man who does not know her boundaries. She then leaves the next morning (disposed) and is replaced the next night by another woman (like a medium of exchange.) Her face and name then become something silent in the background of her body. The only thing she has kept ownership of is her self-determination and agency in the situation. But really, her agency in the event was only giving up her self-determination.
She gave some of the most sacred pieces of her identity to someone who could not even see her.
And this happens over and over again until that lack of self-determination carries her further than she can handle alone. She is objectified.
I’m offering a counter solution. If we commit sex to a sacred place in our minds, we will treat sex as sacred.
It is so important that in order for a man to gain access to it, he MUST hear a woman’s narrative, voice, and identity. He has no choice but to accept her boundaries and realize how irreplaceable she is. He will be unable to blur her among faces because he will only see and know hers so well.
SHE always obtains self-determination and HE always obtains self-determination because time and virtue allowed it. It is the most sacred thing a couple can commit to together. If it’s not together, then it’s not equality. If it’s not personal, it’s objectified. If we label it as non-committal, it doesn’t make it so. Our emotions and bodies commit to it whether we give them permission to or not.
So, in the name of equality, autonomy, and humanity, let’s give sex a better place in our books.