I was standing on line at the coat check of some club last night behind two straight guys who were telling stories about their sexcapades. We all narrate stories about our sex lives in some way, but this felt particularly degrading. “Man, she was such a freak,” I heard him say, proud as a peacock. (But why was she the freak?) Anyway, I couldn’t make out the rest, but it was clear he was describing, in pretty vivid detail, the kind of sex he had last night and the girl he did it with. Every time this newly-fucked guy said something his buddy couldn’t believe, he put his hand over his mouth and was all, “Niiiice!”
“Niiiiiiiice, dude. Yeah, hopefully I can score some chicks tonight” the friend said.
I’m not one to moralize anybody’s sex life or even their sexual proclivities, but the one thing I just don’t understand about straight guys besides why they love untucked button-downs so much is how they can get away with the bald objectification of women. How do they get away with the cat calling? How do they not know that cat calling is not okay? Do they really think that this display of masculine prowess is all it takes to get a girl?
Brian, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, was interviewed in sociologist David Grazian’s fascinating ethnography of nightlife and hook-up culture in Center City Philadelphia. To the surprise of no one, Brian described his night out as a “girl hunt.” Full quote below:
Whether I would get any girl’s phone number or not, the main purpose for going out was to try to get with hot girls. That was our goal every night we went out to frat parties on campus, and we all knew it, even though we seldom mention that aspect of going out. It was implicitly known that tonight, and every night out, was a girl hunt (David Grazian, On the Make, 29).
Isn’t there something sinister about seeing the night as an endless quest of searching for “hot girls”? Doesn’t a “girl hunt” seem degrading? I guess the term makes me uneasy because there’s no equality or level playing field in hunting. Some guy is coming to shoot his prey and the prey either escapes or gets shot.
But it turns out that this “girl hunt” is a key metaphor for thinking through the problems with the objectification of women.
Can men be objectified? Sure, but it’s not really the same. Case in point: when the world discovered that Jon Hamm has a like 10-inch cock, and when pics of his flaccid monster dick started floating around the internet, and when people created a Tumblr in honor of his meat, he got mad:
Most of it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it is a little rude. When people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my c–k, I feel like that wasn’t part of the deal [of fame].
So, I guess, welcome to being a woman every day!
When you objectify a woman she is a task. You whittle her personality, talents, accomplishments, hopes, dreams and fears down to tit size and how much of a “freak” she might be in the bedroom. The problem is that it doesn’t work the other away around: men get to tell tall tales about their sex lives and which girl did what where, but when a girl does it she is automatically a “slut.” Stop and ask yourself why that’s the case.
Dads are always the first people to encourage their sons to have sex and to be proud when their sons are finally busting nuts. But girls? Girls are kept on lock down. Girls can’t be trusted with any boy, not because they don’t have sex needs and wants but because culturally women aren’t supposed have sex casually the way men can and do. Every time I bump into this trope on television and in the movies all I can think is, well if guys are supposed to be fucking and women are not, then who are these guys having sex with? Therein lies the hypocrisy, assuming they’re straight.
A successful man who has sex appeal and who looks great in a suit is just successful. But a powerful woman who has sex appeal clearly “slept her way to the top.”
But it’s not just men who objectify women. Women frequently objectify gay men, gay dudes often objectify straight guys, black people and other minorities are also objectified and painfully stereotyped. The thing I hate the most about being a black gay man is that gay dudes of other races automatically assume two things: A) that I must have a huge cock and B) that I am a total beastly top who is EAGER!!! to dominate tiny white asses. The only thing that makes this worse is when non-black folks refer to black dick as the BBC or big black cock. Please do not do this.
If you look at the pattern of people who get objectified, the thing you’ll notice is that the same people who get objectified (women and people of color) are the same groups that are consistently disadvantaged and marginalized in all areas of society and media. They are the victims of oppression and inequality. They are stereotyped in poor taste by the media. So of course it’s not a coincidence that they are also mercilessly objectified, because objectification always makes a person seem less human and more like a task, a robotic thing. Objectification reinforces Otherness.
The difficult thing about objectification, though, is that it is sort of a slippery slope, because desire is all about objectification. Think about the non-human things you objectify: a delicious piece of cake, a sale item at Forever 21, some brand new piece of technology you have to have right now. When you objectify those things you don’t even think about their use-value but what they can do for you in the immediate present, how they satiate some thirst you have at this second.
Objectification dehumanizes and decontextualizes, that much we know. But it’s also fairly narcissistic in the way that it focuses attention on YOUR desires and what YOU want, rather than taking another person’s body and spirit into consideration.