People tend to hear the word “objectification” and think of sexual objectification (and to conflate sexual objectification with desiring someone or being desired, but that’s a whole other rant) but objectification in and of itself just means you’re treating someone like an object. My career as an art model has really solidified my understanding of this.
I have almost never felt sexualized at any of my gigs. There are rules in place at these things forbidding anyone from talking about my body unless they need to, and if they must then they use official terms, never slang. Nobody ever asks the instructor if they’re drawing the reflected light properly on the bottoms of my fun bags, is what I’m saying. The people who draw me might secretly think I’m hot, or not, I don’t know or care. Either way, they treat me like a human being…most of the time.
But then you get the odd artist or instructor who apparently forgets that I’m a person when I’m up there. I work with a couple of instructors who come right up and point at various parts of my body while they teach – like with their pointer-finger very nearly touching me (instructors are supposed to ask before approaching me like that, but not everyone does).
The other day I had a costumed gig and one lady came right up and flipped the hair of my wig behind my shoulder to get a better view of my neck. Didn’t ask me to do it myself, didn’t ask if it was okay to touch me and rearrange my hair.
At that same costumed gig, I happened to be in the middle of a week-long bout with insomnia and was miserably tired so during one of the breaks I curled up in a chair and dozed off. Apparently the way I was sitting looked interesting and artistic because I woke up in a daze to discover that several of the artists were taking pictures of me. While I was off the clock, asleep, and hadn’t given any consent.
This, folks, is objectification: treating someone like a thing to be used for your purposes, with no regard for their bodily autonomy and no acknowledgement that they might have an opinion about what people are doing to them. Sexual objectification is the same thing except the thing you’re specifically using the person for is arousal or sexual gratification of some sort.
Oh, also, at one of my gigs I overheard a woman saying that in England, where she’s from, it’s common practice to measure art models (as in, “which is longer, her calf or her thigh? I can’t tell. I’m gonna go up to her and hold my hands apart right above her calf and then her thigh so I can know for sure.”) The woman was bitching that one time she went to “measure” a model in this way and the dumb, uppity model freaked out and said not to. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “Well, how would you feel if you were nude and a bunch of strangers kept wandering up and putting their hands inches away from your skin and you had to sit perfectly still the whole time?”
I’m really astounded by people’s lack of empathy sometimes.
But anyway, yeah…objectification means acting like a person exists for you in some capacity and doesn’t have a say in what you’re doing to them.
And it’s possible some folks would disagree with this but I would go so far as to say that simply finding someone attractive based on appearance alone isn’t sexual objectification in and of itself, or if it is, it’s not a bad thing. What makes it the bad kind of sexual objectification is when you infringe on the other person’s life or personal space because of it. You can find random strangers attractive all you want, as long as you understand that they don’t exist for you to look at (so don’t stare), aren’t obligated to feel flattered by your pants-feelings toward them, aren’t automatically going to have pants-feelings in return, etc.
I hope this post has clarified the concept of objectification to any of you who may have been confused. It doesn’t mean finding someone attractive, it means literally thinking of them as an object. Kthx.