A great question came up in the #dating-and-relationship-courage thread recently
What is the difference between physical attraction and objectification? Because people always say they don’t like being objectified, but finding someone aesthetically pleasing is natural, right?
"Attraction" is something you FEEL for someone/thing
"Objectification" is something you DO to someone/thing
Attraction springs naturally from someplace inside ourselves. Call it the soul, psyche, subconscious, etc. but whatever you call it we can agree that it just seems to show up out of nowhere. Therefore we must always be as attracted to someone/thing as we feel.
But if you treat people like OBJECTS, or tools, or "as a means to an end rather than the end itself", THEN you are objectifying them.
Is that always a bad thing? NO! People can mutually consent to objectify one another and that would be fine.
Think of a pick-up soccer/football or basketball game at the park with a bunch of random strangers. In this situation you are looking to have fun by playing the game. It doesn't matter WHO you play the game with. All the other players are simply a means to the end of playing the game. They are serving the function of mere objects to play with/against.
And since everyone agrees that this is ok, you can all have fun together. The mutual objectification is not a negative thing.
However, I specify "random strangers" above for a reason...
If you start to actually become friends with those people, now a new layer has been added to the situation. Now you're not only having fun by playing the game, you are having MORE fun by playing the game with those specific friends. At this point you've stopped treating the other players only as objects for your end goals, and instead you seek them out for their personalities and other traits.
As you can see from the example above, you're going to get better results if you can treat the objects of your affection as multidimensional human people rather than just objects. It gives you more reasons to do the things you want to do.
Just like with thoughts, you only have partial control of your feelings. It usually feels like the feeling just shows up on it's own, and then we can attempt to control what we do with the feeling.
Do we try to ignore it? Do we shame ourselves for having it? Do we appreciate it?
When it comes to an authentic, age-appropriate, feeling of sexual attraction for someone there's no reason to feel shame for it's existence.
If you've heard my "sexual attraction is not impure, in fact it's the MOST pure" rant then you're familiar this concept.
In most cases, there's no need to try to ignore the feeling either. You can feel it fully and go on with your life without taking any actions on the feeling. We do this all the time when we see an attractive woman pass by and we are unable to approach her for whatever reason. Or when you DON'T buy the latest game system even though you really want to play *Smash Bros Ultimate*...
But if the feeling prompts you to do stupid things, NOW it's time to take some action to prevent harming yourself or others.
I already know there are plenty of people attracted to my wife. I'm totally fine with this fact. I'm actually proud of it and I think it's fun seeing guys compliment her and demonstrate their affection for her in socially acceptable ways like dancing, fun conversations, sometimes even buying her little "this made me think of you" trinkets or whatever.
Basically, non-threatening behaviors that reinforce friendship without disrespecting her relationship with me.
Now, if someone felt that their affection for my wife was reason enough to try to convince her to leave me, or even to have a more intimate friendship with them than would be appropriate, then that person would have to be unceremoniously kicked out of our lives.
The main reason is not their level of attraction - it's their lack of self-control. Be as attracted as you like! But also BEHAVE. If you can't behave that tells me you can't be trusted and if I can't trust you then there's no basis for friendship.
Problems arise when people believe that the mere existence of a strong emotion is enough reason to assert themselves in situations where either they do not belong, or where the behavior is inappropriate.
When you guys are out there following my advice to authentically express your desires and attractions for people, I'm NOT telling you to do any of those things listed above. In fact, we are trying our best to avoid even the possibility of being accused of such things! And the best way I've found of doing this is direct, honest communication (which often requires *courage*!).
Are there some people out there who are so socially maladjusted or raised by their parents so poorly that they would misinterpret a simple expression of attraction as a threat? Sadly, yes there are.
But fortunately they are the minority - as a decade's worth of both mine and your (my entire student body) experiences can attest to. Most often the people we approach appreciate our polite, complimentary nature and even if they're not interested in dating us they frequently accept the compliment and allow it to brighten their day. Very often we even receive compliments in return and explicit request to "keep doing what you're doing".
So my advice is to not live your life in fear of the anti-social few who would have illogical and uncharacteristically negative responses to an authentic, polite compliment. Doing so would be too paranoid and end up hurting you and limiting your opportunities and life experiences.
It would be letting the terrorists win! (Any time you're giving in to messages that keep us from treating each other like humans you are letting terror win - never forget that humans evolved to be social animals!)
I know that most of the members of *The Courage Community* would never even DREAM of consciously objectifying someone in a way that caused them harm. You folks are good people and the fact that you're a member here demonstrates that you care enough about your fellow humans to learn how to avoid making those kinds of mistakes.
But allow me to offer you a little guide to your internal moral compass for those times where the objectification might be subtle or hard to discern...
[NOTE: For this blog post we're not considering the philosophical debate about the existence of altruism which can show that we're ALWAYS acting from our own self-interest. Instead, we're keeping it simple by looking at the timeframe: if you're looking to do short-term trades of favors for specific outcomes then you are objectifying. If you are taking actions in accordance with your own personal virtues such that you do not require an immediate or specific payback then you are being kind.]
Ok, so now we know when objectification is bad or does not work to get us what we want.
But how can we tell when it MIGHT work and where it would be more appropriate?
As is often my answer, it all depends on DEMOGRAPHICS!
What environment are you in? And what type of person is in that environment?
If you are in a highly sexually charged environment where the implication is that people go there to meet other people for hookups, well I'd say it's fairly safe to assume the other people are looking to objectify you as much as you want to objectify them.
There do exist venues and events that are extremely sex-positive, or even sex-forward. In places like that, one of your sexiest lines could be "I would objectify you so hard right now..."
I just tried this on Lilly a second ago and she loved it! LOL. Keep in mind how extremely socially/sexually emancipated she is though... it's unusual, but also not so rare that you can't find more women like her if you know where to look.
What about regular clubs/raves/festivals/etc.?
First off, community memebers already know my opinion on clubs/bars in general - that it's a lie when they imply you are supposed to be going to these places to find sexual partners. They exist to sell drinks - not for any real benefit to you.
That said, if the environment is high-intensity and sexually charged enough (foam parties inside cheap, shitty venues are a fantastic example...) then it's fair to assume there are at least a few people inside who are actually looking for some low/no-investment mutual objectification.
Just keep in mind that being as direct as my example line above will mean that you'll ONLY be attracting that minority of people who want exactly what you want, and scaring off the rest.
But if all you really want is no-strings-attached fun based purely on physical attraction and nothing else, there's nothing to feel ashamed about, just make sure you're being honest, direct, and in agreement with whoever else is involved.