I just read this: "having a poster or wallpaper of a girl up, you are objectifying a woman and her body. Plain and simple. Odds are… you have it up simply because you like the way she looks in a bikini or just completely naked. Guess what… Women. Are. Not. Objects. And be conscious of where your eyes wander as a woman walks by. Change that behavior."
One considers certain women (or men) as sexual attractive and fantasies with their bodies. There is no force initiated, and it does not interfere with his life goals. It would be improper?
asked Jul 31 '13 at 10:21
“Sexual objectivication” is an anti-concept, meant to obliterate the difference between a perfectly normal tendency and a malicious intent, lump them together, and then evaluate them morally as the same, as if a normal young man with a healthy libido is morally equivalent to a serial rapist. The people who spew such nonsense are despicable.
I can only speak for myself here – I don’t presume to know other people’s psychology – but I consider myself to be a normal male.
There is always a potential sexual connection between two people, depending on how attractive each is to the other, the nature of which changes over time due to a number of factors – how well they know each other, changing standards of attractiveness, age, maturity, etc. A young man’s “wandering eyes”, when encountering a heretofore unknown female, merely reflects the fact that there’s nothing known about the female beyond a physical presence he can actually see. At that moment, She. Is. An. Object. A human object, but an object nonetheless. As with any object encountered, eyes tend to gravitate toward that part of the object that captures the interest of the observer at that moment. In some cases, that area of interest is a sexually-suggestive body part. So what? In normal circumstances, it is not a sign of disrespect, and certainly not a sign of malicious intent. In that situation, without knowing anything at all about her, what else would capture the young man’s interest, if he’s a normal, healthy male? There is nothing wrong with that.
Notice how this issue is never brought up in the reverse scenario, or in the context of homosexuality. It is directed exclusively at heterosexual males, as though a man’s role in a heterosexual encounter, or even the encounter itself because a heterosexual male is involved, is inherently evil, and the evil is committed even before the act takes place. There IS something wrong with that.
With all that said, however, since the objects we’re dealing with are human, we have to recognize standards of common courtesy, and also realize that antagonizing or insulting other people is not something one should do intentionally in most circumstances. Since it’s sometimes considered rude to look at an unknown woman’s sexually-suggestive body parts, and it does sometimes offend women when men do that, I would advise my male friends to refrain from looking as much as possible. It’s the polite thing to do.
And that’s the level at which this issue belongs. It’s a matter of courtesy and consideration, with no deeper moral significance than that.
As for the poster, the woman, presumably, voluntarily posed for the picture, knowing full well that it would be stared at, and that she could possibly end up in some young man’s sexual fantasy. So what? That’s the purpose of the poster in the first place. She voluntarily posed for the poster, and he voluntarily bought it. There is nothing wrong with that, either.
answered Dec 16 '13 at 14:04
Roger Theriault ♦
The quoted passage sounds like a perfect echo of the Catholic view of sex, which Ayn Rand discussed in a 1968 talk at The Ford Hall Forum, reprinted in The Voice of Reason, Chapter 8, "Of Living Death" (pp. 46-63 in the Meridian paperback edition). She describes the Catholic view as follows (p. 47):
For centuries, the dominant teaching of the church held that sexuality is evil [even sexual enjoyment within a marriage], that only the need to avoid the extinction of the human species grants sex the status of a necessary evil and, therefore, only procreation can redeem or excuse it.
Analyzing the Catholic Church's position on birth control, as set forth in the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, Ayn Rand writes (p. 47):
Dealing with the subject of birth control, the encyclical prohibits all forms of contraception (except the so-called "rhythm method"). The prohibition is total, rigid, unequivocal. It is enumerated as a moral absolute.
On p. 56 the article presents a long excerpt from the encyclical claiming, in part, that contraception makes sex too routine and mechanical, leading a husband to lose respect for his wife and to regard her "as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion." Ayn Rand answers this as follows (p. 56):
I cannot conceive of a rational woman who does not want to be precisely an instrument of her husband's selfish enjoyment. I cannot conceive of what would have to be the mental state of a woman who could desire or accept the position of having a husband who does not derive any selfish enjoyment from sleeping with her. I cannot conceive of anyone, male or female, capable of believing that sexual enjoyment would destroy a husband's love and respect for his wife -- but regarding her as a brood mare and himself as a stud, would cause him to love and respect her.
The article concludes by pointing out that today's era is in "moral crisis approaching a climax" (p. 63):
The core of the issue is Western civilization's view of man and of his life. The essence of that view depends on the answer to two interrelated questions: Is man (man the individual) an end in himself? -- and: Does man have the right to be happy on this earth? ... Neither an individual nor an entire civilization can exist indefinitely with an unresolved conflict of that kind.
One may object to prominent public display of a naked or scantily clad girl as treating a serious subject too casually, but the passage quoted in the question criticizes concern with sex as such, and with women as sex objects, i.e., as instruments of men's selfish enjoyment.
Update: DIM and Feminism
A comment asks:
...despite their M2 origins in Marxism, are the modern feminists an example of M2 or a variant of D?
If I understand DIM correctly from my study of it so far, one would need to know a lot more about "modern feminists" in order to judge definitively whether they represent M2, D2, or D1. It is also possible that they represent none of the DIM modes, i.e., they are too narrowly concrete-bound and eclectic to express any particular cognitive mode consistently. It is also possible that the "modern feminist" category as a whole is comprised of a mix of individuals and/or enclaves of different DIM modes all lumped together under a single broad, vaguely defined "umbrella" category. In briefly checking various Wikipedia topics such as "Neofeminism" and "New feminism," I've learned that the Catholic Church has been promoting a variant of "New Feminism" of its own since about 1979, though still emphasizing women's role as child bearers and mothers.
Update: DIM and Sex
A further question raised in the comments concerns the view of sex typically associated with the major DIM categories. I don't recall seeing this specifically discussed in Leonard Peikoff's book, The DIM Hypothesis, but I can project what the three major views probably would be. Although this is only my own attempt to project how DIM might apply to sex, there are scenes and characters in Ayn Rand's novels that illustrate each view, even though all of her writing occurred prior to the identification of DIM by Leonard Peikoff.
The M2 and D2 descriptions above are just opposite sides of a false alternative. The 'I' description rejects the false alternative itself.
DIM also recognizes two mixed modes, M1 and D1, as mixtures of M and I or D and I, respectively. I am not currently prepared to project how the above M2, D2 and 'I' descriptions might work out in regard to sex in the M1 and D1 modes of cognition. Since many different forms of M1 and D1 are possible, I would expect to find many different variations in the corresponding views of sex, but all reducing in essence to mixtures of M and I or D and I.
Further discussion of different views of sex was offered by Ayn Rand in her 1964 interview in Playboy magazine. Refer, also, to the topic of "Sex" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, and to Francisco's talk with Rearden in Atlas Shrugged, on the meaning of sex (reprinted in FNI, pp. 109-112 in the Signet paperback edition).
Update: Sexual Gaze
Another recent Answer has posted additional information (without much analysis) about an article on "The Objectifiying Gaze Toward Women." The most revealing observation that I found in the quoted abstract is the following:
To elicit the gaze, we asked participants (29 women, 36 men from a large Midwestern University in the U.S.), to focus on the appearance (vs. personality) of women....
Are the results of an explicit request to focus on appearance rather than personality really surprising?
I've also noticed that a very attractive woman can often induce others to look more at her face, eyes and hair than farther down, just by the kinds of clothes she wears -- clothes that tend to hide and de-emphasize her overall body shape, and perhaps even make her hip area appear fat, like a pear-shaped body form. Yet the very same woman can also make herself look incredibly more "hourglass" than "pear-shaped" just by a different clothing outfit that fits differently. It all comes down to how she wants to be noticed.
Ayn Rand offered a similar observation in her article, "Thought Control" (The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol III No. 1, discussing anti-obscenity laws):
[W]henever a young man shaves or a young girl makes up her face, or either of them puts on attractive clothes, it is done for the implicit purpose of arousing sexual thoughts and desires—which does not mean the intention of rushing to bed with every stranger, but merely the wish to be admired, to receive a tacit acknowledgment of one's sexual value qua man or woman. This type of acknowledgment creates the heightened interest, the excitement, the color, the personal enjoyment in human relationships with the opposite sex. There is only one ideology that would condemn it—the ideology that opposes man's enjoyment of his life on earth and holds sex as such to be evil—the same ideology that is the source and cause of anti-obscenity censorship: religion.
This article, in turn, refers readers to Ayn Rand's earlier article, "Of Living Death," for "a discussion of the profound, metaphysical reasons of religion's antagonism to sex."
As a concrete example of what the "objectification" protesters referenced by the questioner are trying to achieve, I post without further comment an abstract of an article entitled: My Eyes Are Up Here: The Nature of the Objectifying Gaze Toward Women
Tip o' the Hat to "The Daily Caller."
Further excerpts and commentary from "The Daily Caller" below:
Researchers have offered a definitive report into the science of the male “objectifying gaze” in the December 2013 volume of “Sex Roles: A Journal of Research” (Volume 69, Issue 11-12, pp 557-570).
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/12/08/liberals-want-to-stop-men-from-checking-out-women/#ixzz2n5D4ci7p
For a more high octane denunciation of this Leftist Feminist Hobby Horse in a particular context, I recommend the following YouTube video by Maddox.
The notion of "Sexual Objectification" has so much baggage associated with it, it is hard to know what is meant when someone discusses it. The meanings range from “a man having any sexual interest at all in a woman” to “a man considering a woman not as a person but as a mere sex object”. There is clearly nothing wrong with some things that are considered by some to be “Sexual Objectification”. However, there are also some things that are considered “Sexual Objectification” by some that are problematic. Accordingly, I will address some of the things that have been posited as “Sexual Objectification” below, without attempting to cover the gamut.
Taking Note of the Appearance of Others
The physical appearance of other people is one of the many aspects of who they are, and it is simply a fact of reality. There is nothing at all wrong with you taking note of this fact and/or evaluating it, any more than it is wrong to take notice of and/or evaluate any other fact. Thus, to the extent that those who decry "Sexual Objectification" are opposing the noticing of and/or evaluation of the physical appearance of others, they are clearly off their rockers.
Valuing Sexual Attractiveness
Moreover, sexual enjoyment is a good and wonderful thing, and there is nothing wrong with a person valuing sexual enjoyment. The physical appearance of others is obviously linked to sexual enjoyment. One component that contributes to the sexual enjoyment we experience with our sexual partners is how pleasing their physical appearance is—all other things being equal, the more pleasing our partner’s physical appearance to us, the more sexual enjoyment we have. Many of the people we meet are potential sexual partners, and thus it is perfectly rational to value their physical appearance, as it potentially could contribute to your sexual enjoyment should anything develop between you in the future. Moreover, not only does our sexual partner’s physical appearance contribute to our sexual enjoyment with them, you can obtain a small measure of sexual enjoyment merely by viewing the physical appearance of an attractive person, even if they never become your sexual partner. Thus, even if you are not “on the market” for a new sexual partner, it is still perfectly rational to value the physical appearance of others. Thus, to the extent that those who decry "Sexual Objectification" are opposing the valuing of and/or taking pleasure in the physical appearance of others, they are clearly wrong.
Valuing Only Sexual Attractiveness
However, the physical appearance of another person is only one aspect of who they are. It is wrong to ignore the other aspects of who a person is (such as their personality, beliefs, character, skills, etc.) or to give more importance to physical appearance than is its due. It is always irrational (i.e., wrong) to ignore facts of reality or to misevaluate them. While it is fine to place some value on the physical appearance of another person, people have a lot more value to offer you than just their attractiveness. Thus, if attractiveness is the only thing you value about a person, then you are missing out on a whole lot of much more important values. In essence, you have put on a set of blinders, and you will only be worse off for it. Thus, to the extent that those who decry "Sexual Objectification" are opposing the phenomenon of valuing only physical attractiveness of a person to the exclusion of the other values the person may offer, then they have a valid point.
De-Personalization of a Person or Class of Persons
Moreover, if the only aspect of another person (or a whole class of people) that you notice is their physical attractiveness, there is a real danger that you would stop seeing the other person (or class of people) as a person (or as people). Some of the most important parts of what make a person a person have everything to do with their mind and little to do with their physical appearance. If you strip everything but physical appearance away, what is left is really not a person, but rather a “flesh sack”—i.e., an object. Thus, if you consistently take conscious notice of and value only the physical attractiveness of a person (or class or people), you will probably start to view them less and less as a person(s), and more and more as merely a body that happens to be attractive or not as the case may be. Such de-personalization of other people is clearly not a good thing, especially when it is an entire class of people (e.g., women) that are depersonalized in your mind. Much of the oppression that has historically befallen various groups was facilitated by such de-personalization. Thus, to the extent that those who decry "Sexual Objectification" are opposing the reduction of people to only their physical appearance to the exclusion of the other aspects of who they are, they have a valid point.
The question raises the issue of observing images that depict a person solely to obtain sexual pleasure from observing the person’s physical appearance.
As already noted above, there is nothing wrong with obtaining sexual pleasure from observing someone’s physical appearance, so if there is something wrong with observing the image it cannot be merely that the purpose is to obtain sexual pleasure.
On the other hand, it was also noted above that one shouldn’t value only physical appearance of a person or reduce a person down to only their physical appearance, and there is a fair question raised about whether or not this is occurring in the case of the poster. It may be argued that the observer is not valuing the other aspects of who the girl in the poster is beyond her appearance, and is not seeing the girl in the poster as a whole person.
However, this objection ultimately fails. The poster on the wall is not a person—it is a poster. The poster has no values to offer the observer beyond its appearance, and thus the observer is not missing out on any values by focusing exclusively on appearance. Moreover, there is no danger in de-personalizing the poster, since it isn’t a person.
It is true that the poster includes an image of a person, but I don’t think this changes the forgoing analysis—the person whose image is depicted in the poster is presumably not someone the observer knows (or will ever know) personally, and thus there is still no reasonable likelihood of the observer missing out on other values the girl has to offer by focusing only on her appearance, as he never would have obtained those values anyway. Moreover, as an unknown and not-reasonably-likely-to-be-known person, the girl is already de-personalized to the observer to the point that his focusing only on her appearance cannot depersonalize her any more. Aside from knowing in general that she is a human, the observer knows nothing about her—she is not a person to the observer, just an image of a person.
A more interesting objection may be that the repeated and routine observation of such images by a person may train them over time to start to see all women in the way the observer sees the images. In other words, the objection may be that a person who gets used to focusing only on the physical apperance of a depersonalized female body will, when they encounter actual women in person, focus only on their apperance and view them as depersonalized objects. If this objection were true, then it could be a problem. However, I have not seen any evidence establishing that such "training" actually occurs.