Sexual Objectification - Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.
Sexual Objectification is a particular type of objectification which manifests itself in the area of sexual relations. It occurs when any person – including those with Personality Disorders – disregards another person’s feelings, personal needs or dignity and instead focuses exclusively, inappropriately or excessively on how the target can be used to in terms of their own sexual desire or gratification. It is one of the major elements of many forms of domestic abuse, and is also one of the primary causes of crimes including rape, child molestation, child pornography and sexual harassment.
What it Looks Like
- A husband physically hurts or verbally berates his wife and then, without reconciling, expects sexual intercourse at bedtime.
- An individual threatens to hurt or punish their partner if they do not have sex with them or provide sexual services.
- A woman has sex with a friend for whom she has no care or respect.
- A family member engages in rape or incest.
- A boss sexually harasses a subordinate or requests sexual favors from them.
- A parent pays excessive attention towards their child’s sexuality.
How it Feels
The victims of sexual objectification can feel humiliated, devastated, confused and in severe cases, traumatized. Rape and incest victims may suffer from a range of mental health issues including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and eating disorders.
In milder cases, confusion and inner turmoil sets in, as part of you may possibly be grateful the person seems to be attracted to you. You may be tempted to think that you can handle inappropriate attention, or that you can give as good as you get (the classic “no strings”). But engaging on the basis of objectification is no recipe for a happy-ever-after ending. The gratification and confidence is often short-lived as lack of commitment, respect and care for you will eventually show through, and that’s when you can be left feeling used, cheap, discarded and taken advantage of.
And your confidence around potential genuinely loving partners may be shaken if you resign yourself to the idea that, “this is maybe the best that I can expect”.
How to Cope
Domestic sexual objectification is a form of sexual assault and may also include rape. This is a serious crime. The vast majority of such rapes and sexual assaults occur at the hands of close relatives, partners and friends. If this is happening to you, it may be hard for you to think clearly. That’s why it is important to reach out and get help from a caring person from outside the situation who can help you think and see things more objectively, and to report any incidences of sexual assault to a rape crisis line, police or domestic violence shelter.
What we know from the experience of OOTF members is any form of domestic assault or sexual abuse usually continues and often escalates. It is vitally important to get help, support and guidance, and also vital to report it.
What NOT to do
- Don’t keep quiet about the situation.
- Don’t stay in the room with someone who is touching you in a way you do not feel comfortable with.
- Don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter or that you can handle it.
- Don’t retaliate or try to hurt the person who is abusing you.
- Don’t blame yourself or take responsibility for the way another person is behaving towards you.
- Don’t forget about it or assume it is over if the abuse stops. Most abuse patterns are cyclical and most abusers are kind, generous and charming in between acts of abuse or aggression.
- Don’t tell yourself it isn’t sexual assault because you are married or in a romantic relationship with the other person - or because you consented on a previous occasion. No means no, and there are no exceptions to that.
- Don’t stay to discuss it or try to shame or guilt-trip your abuser into treating you right. Acts of abuse are illogical and are often the product of mental disorders. Logic will not solve it.
What TO do
- Quickly, calmly and without drama, leave the room, the house and the company of anyone who subjects you to unwanted sexual contact.
- Immediately reach out for support from someone who cares for you and who understands about personality disorders.
- Get your children, pets and valuables to a safe place too.
- Talk to others who have been in your situation.
- If necessary, call a domestic violence, rape or child abuse hotline, or call the police.