One thought on “What is sexual objectification?

  1. The attempts to define objectification I’ve come across generally intensify rather than lessen my confusion about what it really is. The definition used in the linked article, along with all the others I’ve come across, is worded in a way that reminds me of Kant’s Formula of Humanity. According to the author, objectification consists in “representing or treating a person like an object (a non-thinking thing that can be used however one likes).”

    The issue is that it is profoundly unclear what it means to treat X as (or like) Y. Does it mean doing to X only what you do to Y? If that’s the case, then virtually no one is guilty of violating the Formula of Humanity, or of objectifying anyone, since pretty much everyone does things to and with most people they encounter that they would hardly ever do to or with an object or mere means. Even the people who commit the worst kinds of wrongs talk to their victims, ascribe them beliefs and emotions, and so on — though of course, that is not to say that they take seriously what those they wrong say, think or feel — even though few of them, I assume, would do such things with objects.

    This is by no means the only way in which you could interpret the notion, but from what I can tell, it is extremely hard to do any better. Am I simply suffering from not having read enough of the literature? Can anyone point me to a book or article in which someone formulates a clear definition of objectification from which it unambiguously follows (maybe once some other assumptions are adduced) that things like “treat[ing] a sexualized person’s body as a canvas” and “show[ing] only part(s) of a sexualized person’s body” are sufficient for objectification?

Comments are closed.