Mass media exert extraordinarily powerful influences upon the way we think and see the world around us. Unfortunately, media is full of viruses of the mind, which include objectification of humans.
Objectification is a term to describe seeing human beings as objects. Representations show people, not as individuals, but as things to be owned, sold, used, etc., without regard to their personality or dignity. Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person merely as an instrument of sexual pleasure, making them a “sex object”.
Are we living in a culture of sexual liberation as some might argue, or are we being treated and learning to treat ourselves as mere objects?
A plethora of research has found sexual objectification to have a range of negative consequences:
“Sexualized portrayals of women have been found to legitimize or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys,” Hatton says. “Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women.”
As Carole Heldman PHD points out, “Women who grow up in a culture with widespread sexual objectification tend to view themselves as objects of desire for others. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (e.g., clinical depression, “habitual body monitoring”), eating disorders, body shame, self-worth and life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, sexual dysfunction… Beyond the internal effects, sexually objectified women are dehumanized by others and seen as less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women.”
Laci Green highlighted some of these points very well in her YouTube video on sexual objectification:
Are women the only victims of objectification? Of course not. Sex sells and as Lisa Wade notes, men’s sexual objectification is on the rise too. Objectifying men alongside women certainly isn’t progress and the forces behind this ‘equality’ have nothing to do with justice. Unfortunately, market forces under capitalism exploit whatever fertile ground is available.
From Sociological Images
When talking about sexual objectification, it is important to point out the differences between sexy and sexual. If one thinks of the subject/object dichotomy that dominates thinking in Western culture, subjects act and objects are acted upon. Subjects are sexual, while objects are sexy. While most people enjoy being perceived as ‘sexy’ or ‘sexually appealing’ by their loving and caring partners, hardly anyone likes to be perceived as a mere object. We are all humans after all, with souls, minds and feelings.
Sex sells however the purchasing decision is still yours. Choose wisely.
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