There was a video I watched a few months ago (that I can’t find, otherwise I’d link to it) of a woman giving a lecture about women and objectification. She spoke at length about the perils of sexual body imagery, and how the cultural trend of the sexualization of women is destroying the psyche of women and girls everywhere. At the end of the lecture, she removed the make-up she was wearing as a final statement against contemporary beauty standards.

But if dressing “sexily” turns someone into a sex object, then how come dressing stylishly doesn’t make someone a “stylish” object? Or someone who dresses in skinny jeans and plaid a “hipster” object? Or someone who removes their make-up at the end of a lecture a “feminist” object? There is a discrepancy in there somewhere that concludes that only when someone exudes sexuality does it make them an object.

Jean-Paul Sartre suggests that we can only ever relate to people as objects, so to consider one aspect objectifying over another is moot. I tend to agree with him. Have you ever ran into a professor while you were in a grocery store? Did it seem a little… weird? Or your doctor, or maybe an employee from the butcher shop that you routinely frequent? When you see someone outside of the context that you’re used to them in, it tends to make people uncomfortable. The reason is because you’ve objectified them in relation to their profession: the teacher object, the doctor object, the butcher object; when they don’t coincide with the object into which you’ve made them, it weirds you out a little bit.

Maybe you think this only relates to the simple relationships in our lives, but think of your dad. Imagine running into him at a strip club. Or your sister being at a strip club in a slightly different context. This obviously doesn’t work if your family is very open about their relationship with the peelers, but say they aren’t. You would feel uneasy, and part of the reason would be because you can’t grasp your relationship with those people outside of the context that you’re used to them in. Being at a strip club does not coincide with how you have defined the Dad object. You can say your dad would never do such a thing, but how can you actually know that?

It’s impossible to grasp the consciousness of another human being, so all we really do is just guess based on the evidence of that person’s actions, come up with a little box that we assume that person fits into, and presto chango, that person is now an object that we can comprehend. That’s how it works.

So the problem isn’t objectification, and the problem isn’t objectifying a person down to the simplest of terms because we do that with our teachers and doctors and butchers. So all that seems to remain is the sex. Awful, dirty sex.

The biggest targets of controversy when it comes to the objectification of women are pornography and prostitution. These are women (and some men) that get paid to have that awful, dirty sex, and that’s apparently terrible. When one adult purchases a service from another consenting adult, money exchanges hands, and then both of them leave happy, that is the greatest sin of all. I’m talking of course about capitalism, which is a horrible economic system and should be abolished to make way for glorious communism. Selling sex is peanuts in comparison.

So outside of the inherently flawed nature of capitalism, these two acts are unhealthy because some guy is getting his rocks off. Which is… actually considered very healthy. And so long as he can separate fantasy from reality, his perception of women shouldn’t change. Most people don’t actually freak the fuck out when they discover their teacher doesn’t sleep in the school, neither would somebody be so surprised that the acts going on in pornography or in an escort’s bedroom don’t exactly line up with reality.

Or is the problem that prostitutes and porn stars degrade the very nature of sex by keeping it out of the realm of harmonious love? They’re not melding two souls to become one in the most physically intimate act that love and passion can create. And if that’s your idea of how sex should be, that’s fantastic. Honestly. But when you impose your own beliefs of how sexuality should be practiced on an entire culture, doesn’t that seem a little… phobic? Their sex doesn’t affect you in the slightest, and you should get over it.

So objectification is normal, selling things I will grudgingly admit to being fine, sexual release is healthy, and non-intimate sexy times is a-okay. So what’s the problem?

The problem is when sexual objectification occurs outside the realm of sexuality. When it’s used to sell cars, or beer, or things that have absolutely nothing to do with getting a hard-on and doing something with it. When it is literally everywhere you look. When the world is swamped with the image of the sexualized woman, when you have to go out of your way to find a woman in the media that isn’t sexualized to some degree, *THAT* is the problem. The world needs a variety of imagery so that people can see that there is more to being a woman than just a vagina on display, but we don’t need to devolve to puritanical dogma to achieve it. You certainly don’t need to throw out the heels and nylons. Even birds flaunt their plumage from time to time, but they’ve got amazing singing voices too.