A great object can be a great subject too.
The argument in favour of sexual objectification is the very same in favour of homosexuality, it doesn’t need anyone’s endorsement in order to exist and it will not disappear because of anyone’s disapproval. It can only be hidden, the way some Islamic society do by turning women into walking anthropomorphic tents. To end it therefore would mean to end sexual objectification then would mean to end or severely limit all human interactions especially those between individuals of the opposite sex.
It goes without saying that we exist in this world as objects and that we are not formless shapeless spirits, so it is obvious that the issue is not with the objectification itself, most of us cannot remember the faces of bus drivers or street cleaners let alone care about their personalities and lives as long as they do their jobs properly and fit into their roles, they are nothing more than a utility for us, and that’s okay, why should you be forced to know and care about every detail of the life of strangers you meet? The problem people have with sexual objectification is not with objectification, we are all objects to each other, instead it has to do with its sexual aspect.
The criticism to sexual objectification comes in two forms, that it is unfair to those who are being sexually objectified or that it is unfair to those who are being less sexually objectified. One of my favourite attacks on unfairness comes from George Orwell who laments how poverty had robbed a girl of her youth and femininity and how it was apparent just by looking at her that she knew what was happening to her,
“At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her—her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever-seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us,’ and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her—understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.” – George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
Was the unfairness is due to Orwell’s attitude towards sexuality, that is to say his assumption that a woman would want to be young and pretty, or was it due to her material? What should have been changed, you can’t say that both should be changed because when the one is changed the other becomes irrelevant, for instance if the assumption that a woman would want to be young and pretty is removed then there is no reason to attempt to change her material conditions, but the problem of course is that it doesn’t work the other way around, when the material conditions of young women in Britain changed they did not cease to be sexual objects, one explanation is that it is the men’s fault that women still prefer to be sexually attractive (which is another way of saying sexual objects/sexually objectified) because men have most of the power. The point that I am trying to make is that the ‘male gaze’ is male and female sexuality. Half a year after the of the second world war and the nation of Japan had been utterly devastated Ango Sakaguchi wrote in his essay “A Discourse on Decadence” which is a defence of decadence wrote that: “Within the space of half a year, the girls who sent off their men with such brave hearts, will have grown increasingly businesslike about the task of bowing before their husband’s memorial tablets, and the day is not far off when their chests will find room for the faces of other men. It is not that humans have changed. Humans have been like this all along, and what has changed is only the surface of things.” “During the war, writers were prohibited from telling love stories about widowed wives. Military and political leaders feared that such stories feared that such stories would lead to moral degeneracy among widows. It was the design of the military politicians to prevent war widows from being incited to decadence, no doubt wishing to have them live their remaining lives in nun-like devotion to the husband’s spirit. The military had a most sensitive understanding of corruption, and the fact that they should go to the extent of contriving such a prohibition was a result, not of any lack of understanding of a woman’s heart, but rather of all too clear a knowledge of it.”
I am afraid that these calls for less sexual objectification will only ever be able to hide it and badly at that turning us into hypocrites much like the Japanese leadership during the last war. In both cases an affront to human sexuality was made for ideological purity.
The unfairness of sexual objectification stems from the fact that people are treated differently according to their appearances in all interactions including sexual ones. The solution proposed to this problem is to reduce ourselves to out thoughts and feelings and whether you like it or not that is not going to happen. Virtue-signalling by proclaiming how you would never judge people by their appearances and that neither should others do it is useless. The correct response is to try and adjust one’s appearance according to how one wishes to be treated and let others make the choice of how they want to treat you. It is argued that that many women have to work very hard to maintain a sexually desirable physique and that is indeed, quite true, but my answer to that is “so what?” They like everyone else are free to do what they like, if they want to be sexually desirable (objectified) then they may have to work for it, if they are fine with not being sexually desirable that is quite fine too. So far I have mostly talked about women who feel they are not sexually desirable (sexually objectified) but what if women who are sexually desirable/objectified do not like the way they are treated? Well, to them I have to say that there are worse fates than theirs.
To me it all seems an attempt to guilt trip men for their sexuality and nature, for liking women according to their experiences even though women often do the same and judge men according tot her economic security which they can provide which is fine too.
Human nature isn’t infinitely malleable, this does not of course mean that we must tolerate every kind of human behaviour but I don’t think it is possible to substantially modify what we are sexually attracted to let alone to abolish its preferences and therefore discrimination, every kind of discrimination is allowable and practised in the sexual marketplace, the principle being that in exchange for allowing others to discriminate against you, you get to discriminate against them. Unless you are willing to let the principle be suspended for you then do not attempt to suspend the right to give consent of others by trying to induce guilt in them. I for one do not feel guilty at all of my sexual preferences and standards of beauty and will not apologize for them. If you have a different standard of beauty that’s fine but don’t expect others to like it just because you do. In some cases it is even worse, with people pretending to have different beauty standards to guilt other people into liking them. Sexual objectification is what humans do when are they are free and if they are not free they will still do it just not openly.
One last topic I want to touch on, is that a great object can be a great subject too, this is a false dichotomy, just because something is an object that doesn’t mean that they are not a subject too. For instance if a man was looking at a picture of a beautiful woman with lust in his eyes, who of the two is affecting is affecting the other? Who is acting upon whom?