Friday, March 25, 2011

More on Objectification (Sex vs. Romance)

In my lexicon, 'objectification' is a dirty word. Not because of what it implies, but because of how it's used. The concept of objectification is frequently used by people to denounce and discredit the male sex drive. The truth is, objectification is a healthy aspect of male sexuality, and it does not preclude the possibility of, nor indicate a lack of interest in, romance. And even in those cases where romance is not present, one simply cannot jump to the conclusion that some kind of slight is being perpetrated against the "sexual object" involved. This is another case of using the example of rude men, blaming their sexual desires, and then criticizing all men for expressing those desires, instead of singling out the rude behavior, and recognizing that nice men can 'objectify' without hurting anyone (including their pride or respect, provided they are properly educated about the process of 'objectification').

Honestly, I sometimes feel guilty about my sex drive, because it is one aspect about me that seems to be decidedly masculine (probably because of my hormones). I don't feel guilty because I think there's anything wrong with it, though, I feel guilty because it seems to undermine my attempts to identify with my feminine side. But even so, my sex drive is not exactly typical, as the goal seems less to be satisfaction (i.e., sexual intercourse), and more the experience of the desire itself, and how it makes me feel. I guess you could say I prefer the pursuit to the capture. Further, the 'stimulation' I seek is far more often of an intellectual nature than a physical one. On the one hand, I feel as if I were almost sexually attracted to romance, because I am far more intoxicated by the concept of love than sex alone, yet, I cannot deny that I have a fundamental interest in sex, and that my interest in love carries something of an underlying sexual fervor to it. An eroticism that strides the valley between romantic love and pure sexual lust.

Another thing that I find curious is that I am highly attracted to visual stimuli. Which is something that, in my experience, I have noted is a far more masculine than feminine trait. But getting back to the concept of objectification, I can look at a girl, either in person or at an image, and be stimulated (quite strongly) without requiring any sort of personal involvement, or having to "know" the girl. And I fail to see how this ought to be construed as an inherently negative thing. The stimulation enriches my experience, and it doesn't in any way cause me to harm the trigger of that stimulation (the girl). Yes, I think that sex within the context of love is (much) better than "impersonal sex", and it is an ideal to strive for, but I don't see that that means that "impersonal sex" (or something as simple as impersonal stimulation) should be outright avoided.

After all, if that were the case, I would hardly get any satisfaction in life, and I think many other men (if not women, too) would be in that same boat. I've been looking for years for the right girl to 'give' myself to, and even when I thought I had found her, it turned out she had absolutely no reciprocal interest in me. Furthermore, even if I do find her someday, I don't believe that 'saving' myself for her will naturally make it a better experience. I fell for that trick many years ago. If anything, I should be getting more practice so that when the big day comes, I'll be a seasoned pro. 'Learning the ropes' with your life partner may be a great experience, but it works much better for the couple who meets in high school (or earlier), than for the person who doesn't find his match until much much later (or not at all); we're not all that lucky in love - and why should we waste half or all of our lives not experiencing pleasure just because we haven't found the "perfect" person to share it with yet?

But there is another thing that makes me cringe when the topic of 'objectification' comes up. And it's the implication that only someone who takes the time to get to know a person then earns the privilege to think sexual thoughts about them. This is all nice and romantic, but it's not practical. We can't control who we have sexual thoughts about, nor is it humane to expect people not to indulge their sexual desires unless they've found a soulmate, or only within the context of committed relationships. It's a conservative sexual idea that stems from the belief that the only "pure" sexual thoughts are those that are directed towards your married partner (if that).

The fact is, I'm not a social butterfly, and I'm not the most skilled at interpersonal communication. For me, getting to know a person is extremely difficult, and even more so when you add the intimidation factor of talking to someone I am actually attracted to. Should I then be subjected to sexual frustration as a result of my lack of interpersonal skills, or should it not be acceptable that I indulge in harmless "objectification" from time to time? I derive great pleasure from (ethical) voyeurism, and I see no reason why that should be taken away from me. And then we come to the question of diversity. It'd be nice if everyone had an easy enough time finding someone they really like (and who really likes them back), and had an easy enough time getting to know them, but not all of us are on a level playing field. We all have different abilities and different desires, and we live in different ways. What the moral stance on 'objectification' suggests is that there is something wrong with somebody who indulges their sexual desires without getting to know somebody intimately first. It is a subjective value judgment, and it is discriminatory.

A lot of people would like to say that because I have a strong interest in erotic photography (and you can easily substitute 'pornography' here, though it makes your defense harder - pun intended), it means that I don't respect women. Well, that's ridiculous. And saying that demeans the value of that photography, and everything it means to me. And just because they can make comparisons to 'objects' that are used and discarded doesn't mean it's immoral for me to go on 'vainly' glorifying the visually aesthetic beauty of feminine sexuality.

See, I have a guilt complex about the fact that I'm more comfortable looking at girls than talking to them (and it's not because I don't care about them as people). I'd prefer it to be the other way around, but I still don't think I should be made to feel guilty about being this way. Which is what happens every time somebody cries "objectification!"

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