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Busting the Myth of Sexual Objectification

Busting the Myth of Sexual Objectification

Objectification has been offered as an explanation of many ills in sexual relationships, sexuality in media and commercial sex. The term is derived from the ethics of Immanuel Kant and later popularized by Marxist and feminist culture critics. It is most often used in contexts that criticize or condemn sex work or pornography. Objectification has been often presented as the primary reason, why some sexual practices or depictions should be morally condemned. 

The criticism has also been extended to casual sex and uncommon sexual practices like sadomasochism, which have been seen as shallow or unrespectful towards one’s partner. Even if the term has been popular in feminist discourses about sexuality, it has critical philosophical flaws. The common usage of the term 1) misrepresents the relation between body and intentional agent, 2) puts moral weight on a quality that is morally neutral, and 3) relies on sentimental rhetoric that conflate the term unfoundedly with exploitation. Because of these philosophical faults, the common usage of the terms has biased the understanding of the bodily nature of being and sexual relations within these discourses. 

My critique of the term is based on philosophical analysis of the relation between body and conscious agent using the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Martha Nussbaum as the foundation of my argumentation. I also look into the moral condemnation of sexual objectification, which tends to be based on false assumption about the moral nature of the objectness of the body, and also on moralist account on what can be reckoned among moral wrongs. As a result, objectification can be seen as a useful philosophical tool in understanding human body and sexual interaction, but it cannot be used in itself as a basis of moral condemnation of any sexual activities.

Speakers: Tommi Paalanen
Areas of Interest / Categories: Media, Philosophy