It was difficult to read Matt Saccaro’s article At What Point Does Being a Heterosexual Male Become Objectifying Women? here on Thought Catalog. He seems to be self-flagellating for feeling physically attracted to women. I kept poring over the text, looking for some sign of satire, but finding nothing. Could this man possibly be so turned around that he’s ashamed to notice the physical assets of a woman he’s dating? Does he really think feminism calls for complete denial that we even inhabit bodies at all?
When you’re on a date, part of the goal is to determine attraction. For people who enjoy sex, romantic relationships involve a lot of interaction with your partner’s body. It’s important for that to be a pleasant experience. How would you know if you’ll like it if you’re afraid to even look at it?
In the context of a date, assessment of physical qualities is expected. It’s an environment where two people have chosen to come together to determine whether or not they’d like to crawl into the same bed someday or maybe make pancakes or go camping or have a bunch of kids together and get a dog. It’s not the same as walking down the street and leering at a stranger’s ass. This is someone who has invited you to (discreetly) take a peek and who will be doing the same.
Feminism talks about objectification not to scare heterosexual men from being attracted to women’s bodies, but to prevent things like street harassment, harmful media imagery, and the systemic trivialization of women in the world of power and influence.
If you want to know when you’ve crossed the line into objectification, take a look at the emails from Epsilon Iota, littered with references to bitches and rape. This is misogyny. This is a real attitude that exists in the world. This is what we fight.
When a group of influential men agree that women are nothing more than receptacles for cocks and semen, then we have a problem. Then we have the pervasive belief that women are lesser beings, dumb playthings to be used and discarded—a belief that allows men on success trajectories to bond with each other. They pat each other on the back and share stories of conquests as they rise into their rightful place of financial and political power.
Feminism fights against “men” like that and men who yell on streets and the media’s insistence that we should be stick figures with big tits. It fights against language that reinforces these beliefs. It fights against the oppression of women as second-class citizens in other parts of the world and human trafficking and sex slavery.
Feminism does not fight against men noticing their dates’ bodies. It is not intended to shame you for your natural feelings of attraction. What you do with them and how/if you choose to articulate those feelings matters. But looking in the context of a date? No. You’re human. Stop beating yourself up.