when does sexual attraction become objectification?
October 6, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

when does sexual attraction become objectification?

don't get me wrong... i love having sex with my boyfriend. and we have fun doing other things together outside of the sack. but sometimes i feel like like an object, because he ALWAYS wants to fondle me or tell me that i'm sexy or take all my clothes off. i don't think we've had a "date" in the past few months that hasn't ended with sex.

he's out of town for a month right now for work, and we've been emailing almost every day. (we don't talk on the phone at all, but neither of us are really phone people.) at first it was okay, because we were sharing little stories and said how much we missed each other and such... but now a great chunk of his messages are devoted to talking about how horny he is and how he can't wait to get into bed with me, etc. etc.

to be honest, what was once flattering has now become downright annoying. i like sex too, but i don't want to talk about it all. the. time.

do you think he's just using me? is this normal? how can we work on connecting in other ways so that i don't feel so much like a giant blow-up doll? he's said before that he hopes i know that he's into much more than just my sexy side, but it's getting harder to believe him... since that's not the side he emphasizes.
posted by happyjuice to Human Relations (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

It sounds like you have some needs and desires, while he has different ones. Communicate your concerns to him and see what he says. Beyond that, I'm not sure how helpful it is to identify who's at "fault" here.
posted by smorange at 4:48 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think it is totally valid that you feel like an object. When I am in this situation, I don't necessarily feel like an object, I just feel BORED. (Not to imply your framing or the way you feel about this is wrong, or change it, just telling you mine in case you might relate.) It's like any other topic that I may enjoy, like talking about trains. I enjoy talking about trains and riding on trains, but let me tell you I have met people who are OBSESSED with trains and after the third hour of being talked at about that, I just want them to stfu, quite frankly.

When you start feeling like the amount of fondling or sex or sex talk is too much, I think it is okay for you to just simply say that it has gotten to be too much and you need it to scale back.
posted by cairdeas at 4:50 PM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

how can we work on connecting in other ways so that i don't feel so much like a giant blow-up doll?

Talk to him about how you feel and how you would to see him appreciate some of those other sides.

Makes non-sexual dates. Got to the movies. Go to the museum. Go to the park. Play card or board games with each other or with friends. Take an class together in a subject you're both interested in. Make a meal together. Go hunting and learn how to gut and skin an animal.

The choices are endless and they usually wind up making the sex sexier.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:52 PM on October 6, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm not sure feeling like an object is the issue (though of course i might be full of shit).

We are all objects. A man is an object. A woman is an object. A lamp is an object. It's when we are only appreciated for our form and not for anything else that it becomes a problem, I think.

That said, if theres something you'd like him to be doing that he's not doing, please please please tell him (in a positive way like 'I really like to be touched like this").

Also it is your absolute right to go out with him and let him know that there won't be any sex at the end of the evening. That'd probably be a good way to find out how into the rest of you he is.
posted by softlord at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2012

Don't dismiss your feelings - they're there for a reason.

Start emphasising that you need to do things other than have sex - start initiating more non-sex-driven conversations and activities.

If he doesn't seem to be getting it - a very clear conversation about needing to be valued more than just as a sex partner may be required.

Ultimately, he may not want anything more than sex, but it will at least get you to a point where you will know and you will be able to make a decision from there about whether he's able to offer you enough of what you need.
posted by heyjude at 5:42 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's always talking about his needs and desires as they relate to you, and not asking about or responding to *your* needs and desires, that's shading into objectification. But for that to really work out - especially if you're not in the same place - you do need to actively communicate your needs and desires, too. He can be trained out of objectifying thought patterns, if he's willing.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:46 PM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

like softlord said, i don't think objectification is the issue. it's just a matter of he likes dirty talk like that and you don't. some people like that and get off on it, but you're not one of them.

just tell him you're not into it.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a big red objectification flag to me. If your boyfriend only wants to talk about, think about, and end every interaction with sex, it sounds like he's only around for that reason. I'd be (and have been) disgusted by this kind of behaviour from men.

That said, I don't know your boyfriend or your relationship. Does he pay attention to you when you talk? Does he seem to understand you and care about your feelings? Does he seem respectful of you in other ways?

I agree with other posters that you should talk to him about the fact that this bothers you, try having other kinds of interactions with him, and see where it leads. But if he has nothing more interesting or important to communicate with you than how much he wants to have sex, I would personally wonder if I were in the right relationship. If nothing else, it gets dull and obnoxious.

he's said before that he hopes i know that he's into much more than just my sexy side,

this worries me. I am reading this as meaning that, out of nowhere, without you asking him, he's come out and stated that he doesn't want just sex. I have never met a man who felt it neccessary to tell me this, unasked, and who was also telling the truth.

In my experience, guys who rush to reassure you that they want more than just sex are just telling you what they think you need to hear in order to give them sex. Guys who are actually interested in more than just sex don't need to say it because they're busy, you know, thinking about other things and not always trying to have sex/ talk about sex/ talk about your body/ etc. This strikes me as protesting too much and all that. Of course YMMV and everyone is different etc., but still. I'd be concerned. Take a hard look at how this guy treats you when he doesn't want sex and how you feel around him. Hint: you shouldn't feel like a blow-up doll unless that's your thing.
posted by windykites at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

I knew a guy like this, and it bothered me to no end. The odd thing was we had tons of other things to connect about, and we did - whenever I was the one to bring it up. Everything initiated from his end of the relationship was purely on the sexy-sex-I-want-you-so-much side of things. It got old, I got tired of explaining this to him and also got tired of his reassurance that he of course wanted more than just the sexy-sex. Except his behavior didn't change.

At some point I realized that this relationship was making me feel worse about myself instead of better, as relationships are supposed to do, so I moved on with no regrets. You have to tell him how you feel, making sure he's really present in that conversation and listening to what you're saying. Then if the barrage of sexy talk doesn't let up... You have to decide if staying with him is really worth it.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 6:59 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your last question was about which persons, exactly, your boyfriend is likely to be attracted to...

You didn't by chance drop any hint about your thinking regarding his sexuality, prompting him to now talk about male-female sex (specifically he-and-you sex) constantly, right?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:07 PM on October 6, 2012 [14 favorites]

How old are you, and how long have you been together? When i was 20 I was perfectly happy to be objectified by my boyfriend; now I'm 35, not so much.
posted by goo at 7:27 PM on October 6, 2012

There's some good advice here. I'd suggest that you don't just ask him to do non-sexual things with you, but rather that you take charge and do non-sexual things with him.

The balance in your relationship has to work for you, not other people. If it feels wrong to you, it is wrong, period. It might be that what he is doing worked great for his last girlfriend, or maybe even it worked great for you a few months ago, but times have changed. Regardless, you need to tell him as clearly as you have told us that you need to have your whole person (not just your poon) appreciated and emphasized.

I'm all the time touching my partner and objectifying her, but I think what makes it work for her (and for me) is that she knows with total certainty that it is what is outside of her pants (ie her intellect, her sweetness, etc) that gets me all excited. If it was just crude groping for groping's sake, she would have moved on long ago. That shit just isn't fun for anyone.
posted by Forktine at 8:36 PM on October 6, 2012

Different people have different love languages. Touch can be a significant one, so I understand where your boyfriend is coming from. Personally, I tend not to care about sex too much, but when I fall in love with somebody I want nothing more than to spend the whole weekend naked with her.

You shouldn't make judgements about your boyfriend simply because his love language differs from yours. What you should do is express that his behavior makes you feel objectified, and tell him what changes you need to see in him in order for you to be happy.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:59 PM on October 6, 2012

I had a boyfriend who was kind of like this. Most of my boyfriends haven't been. For some reason, with Boyfriend A I felt uncomfortable about the constant "objectifying," whereas with Boyfriend B (who I've been dating longer) I like it and when we're together we have sex every day. What is slightly different is that personally, I want to have sex with my boyfriend every time we hang out. I still love him as a nonsexual person (and we were nonsexual for a loooong time at the beginning of our relaysh), but I really want to have sex with him. It's just like a fun thing I can't do with anyone else, so I look forward to it. And I really like sex, like maybe too much. BUT, I can still feel steamrolled by someone else if I don't feel like they're considering my desires. I don't think libido is the fundamental cause of difference.

With Boyfriend A, it was just... icky. And the reason it was icky, I think, was that he was into certain sexual stuff that I really didn't give a flip about, and so I got tired of knowing that when we were together he wanted to do that certain stuff even though he knew I was at best lukewarm about it. It was partially my fault for faking and trying to pretend to like it more than I did (though to be fair, I brought up multiple times that I would like to do other things much more often), but really, what irked me was that he so clearly wanted to use me for his sexual pleasure without fully considering mine, and while seeming to be willfully half-conscious of my preferences so he didn't have to accomodate them. Maybe the mere fact that your boyfriend wants sex way more than you, and you feel like you're broadcasting clear "I do not want to have sex right now" signals that he's ignoring, is enough to make you feel like he's inconsiderate and objectifying you. If that's the case, I would speak to him in an honest and upfront way about these specific feelings ("I don't always want sex as much as you, and sometimes I feel like you don't perceive that") and see what happens. If I loved this guy, I would give him a month or two and see how things were going. If he seemed to be ignoring me or kind of shrugging it off I'd probably consider whether we were compatible or not. If things were gradually getting better and he was asking me questions and trying to find a balance, I would keep working on it. That's me though.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:02 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

It may be that he thinks this is what you want to hear, especially if you haven't given him indications to the contrary. Every dude in a relationship with a woman objectifies her to a degree, its a kind of default reaction. By being thoughtful and working at it, we also develop an appreciation for your more subtle qualities.

Point being: He may not only think its okay to objectify you, but that its part of whats making the relation successful, that you desire the ego boost. I think my girlfriend is the smartest, strongest lady on the block, but I'm a little more likely to compliment her appearance because I think its something she values.

If everything else is great in your relationship, he won't mind hearing that you need him to reorient his appreciation of you. Just talk it out!
posted by GilloD at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2012

Complimenting someone's appearance is not objectifying them. You would not tell your bike it looks beautiful in that colour, but you would jump on it without a word and ride it down the street.

If I'm concerned that someone I'm dating is mainly in it for physical reasons, then I just take sex off the table for a short time and see what happens. (I'm really prone to bladder infections, so this is going to happen on it's own eventually for me.) Some guys don't come around, others do. I've been surprised at who bails to be honest, the one guy who did never seemed that into sex, and the one that couldn't talk about anything else was thrilled to hang out, cooking and watching tv.
posted by Dynex at 8:18 PM on October 7, 2012

To me, the behaviours you describe are objectifying. I'd be uncomfortable with that much objectification, and I generally like being objectified.

But what maters is what it feels like to you. You're uncomfortable with it. So tell him that very bluntly and ask him to change repertoire.
posted by ead at 12:48 AM on October 8, 2012

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