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Sexual objectification is objectification of a sexual partner, that is, seeing them as a sexual object, and their sexual attributes, without due recognition or respect for their existence as a living person with emotions and feelings of their own. Typically it involves disregarding personal abilities and capabilities such as intelligence and problem solving skills, and viewing them in terms solely of attributes relevant to a role as sexual plaything, such as physical attractiveness, submissiveness and gullibility.

Mass media, advertisement and lately reality TV are accused by some cultural critics of promoting these values while in the process of promoting goods and services.

Objectification of women

Over centuries women have been objectified, meaning they have been treated as objects valued mostly for their physical attributes, rather than human intellect. The internalization of objectification, especially in women, is argued to lead to negative psychological outcomes. Women are often evaluated according to their bodies, oftentimes being subjected to what is called "the male gaze".

  • Girls' understanding of the importance of appearance in a patriarchal culture may contribute to feelings of fear, shame, and disgust that some experience during the transition from girlhood to womanhood because they sense that they are becoming more visible to society as sexual objects (Lee, 1994).
  • Young women are especially susceptible to this objectification as they are often taught that power, respect, and wealth can be derived from one's outwardly appearance (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
  • According to Anne Koedt, women have been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men; they have also been seen in opposition to men, making men the subject and women the object (McCann and Kim, 2003)


In some circumstances, sexual objectification is also the fetishistic act of regarding a person as an object for erotic purposes. Allen Jones' sculptures Hat Stand and Table Sculpture, made in 1969, which show semi-naked women in the roles of furniture, are clear examples of the depiction of the fantasy of sexual objectification, or perhaps a social commentary on the disparities women face in public discourse. (This particular interest, a form of sexual bondage that involves making furniture designed to incorporate a bound person, is also known as "forniphilia".)

A desire to be objectified occurs in many men and women's sexual fantasies. Objectification for fetishistic purposes may for example provide erotic humiliation for the person so regarded, whether male or female. As with most sexual activities, it is generally viewed as abusive if it is not part of a consensual arrangement, such as in BDSM play.

See also

  • Statuephilia (aka pygmalionism, agalmatophilia)
  • Human ponyplay
  • Robot fetishism


  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Lee, J. (1994). Menarche and the (hetero)sexualization of the female body. Gender and Society, 8, 343–362.
  • McCann,Carole R. and Kim, Seung-Kyung. (2003) Feminist Theory Reader. Routledge, London. P. 243.
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