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Old 09-14-2019, 10:50 AM
Max S. is offline
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What is sexual objectification?


Philosophically, psychologically, and morally speaking, what is sexual objectification and what are the consequences of such objectification?

I did a quick web search for some primers, and found the following:
Inspired by the recent thread in ATMB, "Misogyny and Moderation, again".

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:53 AM
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Max's opinion


To start, after reading the primers I would take a gender-neutral variant of Bartky's definition: sexual objectification occurs when a person's body or body parts are singled out and separated from him or her as a person, and he or she is viewed primarily as a physical object of sexual desire.

I agree with Szymanski et al. in that sexual objectification of women is widespread. This includes "everyday commonplace" objectification, "immersed forms" like modeling or cheerleading, and "extreme forms" such as rape or sexual harassment. I also agree that the stereotypical standard of women's physical beauty in the media is narrow and often unattainable. It has been so in this country since the Gibson Girls if not earlier. I didn't bother checking their citations for those claims. The basic postulate that sexual objectification can contribute to a number of psychological disorders is mostly agreeable to me, although I am bound to be unsatisfied with the methodology of their citations (it is admitted that most of them use "convenience samples of White, heterosexual, upper middle class, undergraduate women").

I don't agree with their proposed criteria for a so-called sexually objectifying environment. They list five core criteria (Szymanski et al, 20-21):
  1. traditional gender roles exist
  2. a high probability of male contact exists (physically speaking, a male-dominated environment)
  3. women typically hold less power than men in that environment
  4. a high degree of attention is drawn to sexual/physical attributes of women's bodies, and
  5. there is the approval and acknowledgement of male gaze
Of these I would throw out all except (a) and (d), then remove gender-specific references. As a counterexample, a group of schoolgirls at an all-girl school could conceivably constitute a sexually objectifying environment, despite the notable absence of males. The girls might bring sexism from home or other environments, and perpetuate the objectification on school grounds.

Hopping over to philosophy, I have more than a few issues with Kantian sexual objectification. Particularly, I do not think the act of sex itself dehumanizes a person; it is possible and hopefully common to have sex without treating one's partner as a mere object of sexual desire. Nor do I believe women necessarily lose their humanity if they freely choose to become prostitutes or concubines (acknowledging that such a free choice is almost certainly extremely rare); nor do I believe that prostitutes are necessarily to blame for their objectification.

I also have many disagreements with MacKinnon, starting with her definition of gender. I can understand and accept the distinction between gender and biological sex. I do not subscribe to the redefinition of the male gender as the objectifier of females, nor of the female gender as she who is objectified by males; surely it must be possible for a male (gender) to respect a female (gender). Using MacKinnon's definition of gender, advocating for a world without sexual objectification is advocating for a world without gender. I am not willing to bend language to that extent. Personally I would rather think of females as those who for the most part act typical of the female sex, and males as those who for the most part act typical of the male sex. Gender identity is like racial identity: to me, an African American or (American) black is a person who for the most part acts typical of Americans descended from Africans. I consider a person's self-identification to be the single most important and accessible "act" in determining race or gender, but self-identification is only one factor.

Perhaps the typical male objectifies females, but there is a lot more to being a male and it is quite possible to do so without objectifying females. Neither would I say being objectified directly determines one's gender: if one behaves like a biological male but is sexually objectified by others, he is still a male. There is a feedback loop in that being objectified can influence one's behavior, but that influence is indirect (even if pervasive and substantial). I do not argue that gender differences in opportunity or outcome are justified by existing societal feedback. But it does not necessarily hold that objectification causes gender. This is all a dispute of terminology.

I do agree with parts of what she calls "dominance" theory, especially as it applies to race. I just would use dominant and subordinate instead of redefining male and female, because ultimately, there are differences in biology between the sexes that produce inequality under a "difference" theory. As I said above, it's a terminology issue, but it took me a good hour and more than a few double-takes to get past the terminology and understand her dominance argument. Critically, I cannot identify this theory with legal egalitarianism, which would be the difference approach; thus, I see a contradiction between dominance theory and the equal rights amendment. That makes for a major contradiction in MacKinnon's position.

More substantially I do not fully agree with her views on sexuality and pornography. While I agree that sexual violence can in fact be sex to some, I do not generalize this phenomena to all males. Personally I think violence is incredibly un-sexy. I think sexual dominance/subordination is un-sexy. I don't think it is unheard of to think of non-violent and respectful sex as sexy. She didn't have any cites for her claims that men by and large think it's sexy to dehumanize and objectify women. I tried looking up some statistics but lost heart (it seems every press release on sexual desires makes some sort of conclusion that isn't supported by the underlying survey). Anyways, my gut feeling is that a good number of people prefer respectful sex, myself included. We don't fit anywhere in MacKinnon's framework of sexuality, and therefore I refute its validity.

Having rejected the above framework of sexuality it does not follow that all pornography must depict violence or sexual dominance, although I cannot deny that some or possibly most does. The pornography which depicts respectful sex does not propagate the objectification of women as objects to be abused, although such pornography may be a product of it. Therefore a blanket condemnation of pornography as contributing to a cycle of gender inequality and objectification in other settings is not in order. Nevertheless, I agree that pornography by definition constitutes sexual objectification. Whether that objectification constitutes a harm to the actress's humanity depends on the particulars.

I do not subscribe to Dworkin's idea that the woman's humanity is injured when a man watches her pornographic media; nor the idea that sexual objectification necessarily causes harm (though it may usually do so). The media is not itself a person, even if the consumer imagines it to be. Any rights that the woman had over her appearance were forfeited when she consented to the production of the media. Therefore the mere consumption of pornographic media, which entails objectification of a woman's image, does not constitute direct harm to the woman herself...

Unless she didn't truly consent. I have no doubts that some pornographic actresses are basically sex slaves. This is one of the reasons I do not watch pornography. I do think that is a problem and I could support more regulation of the pornographic and prostitution industries, and taxes to pay for such regulation. Perhaps decriminalization of prostitution, a law requiring written consent to appear in a commercially distributed pornographic film (and automatic injunctions unless such consent is produced upon victim request), support for unions, and a fast-track for restraining and protective orders and actions against pimps. I would confiscate and destroy pornographic materials depicting nonconsenting women. There are concerns about truly destitute women (I am not assuming poverty is their fault) who feel it is necessary to prostitute themselves, and I don't have an answer for that right now. Such women might find themselves made into sex slaves, but not all pornography is as evil as 1972's Deep Throat. There are today a number of amateur exhibitionists and professional pornographic actors/actresses who are not sex slaves and enjoy what they do. I've heard professionals give interviews on the radio and in lobby-room magazines. They often speak out against sexual violence and how they have and continue to work hard to defend human rights in the pornographic industry. I believe it.

Then there is pornography which depicts women (or men) enjoying pain or humiliation. In these pictures the sex act being shown is itself sexual objectification. That vile pornography which shows actual rape is beyond contempt. Pornographic media depicting imagined rape or humiliation is untasteful in my opinion, but I guess some people are into it. Remember the furor over 50 Shades of Grey?

Some people say that such imagined violence carries over into the real world. I don't know about that one. I couldn't access Assiter or Langton's papers, but I would like to see their rationale (and possibly citations) behind such a claim. Most adults recognize that violence on the cinema screen does not make it OK to commit violent acts in real life. Similarly, I believe most adults can recognize that pretend rape (consensual) is entirely different than for-real rape. Young children of primary school age may not recognize the distinction between reality and fiction but we don't show children violent movies. Hopefully we aren't showing young children violent pornography, either. I sympathize with those who say pornography isn't a huge influence on men's sexual objectification of females, compared with other sources such as television media or peer pressure.

I also agree that females can objectify themselves. This is as common-sense to me as males objectifying females. Sometimes it seems to me that diets and plastic surgery are the tight-laced corsets of our day.

Finally I am sympathetic to the possibility that not all sexual objectification is bad. That is not to say all sexual objectification is good; I disagree with that statement. It's just that it's not necessarily all bad. I'm not much for evolutionary psychology but thinking of someone's body as an object for sex could be natural mating strategy. Temporary objectification while actually having sex isn't necessarily wrong, for example calling for a partner's body part does not necessarily mean you think they are sub-human, and in the context of immediate intercourse you might be forgiven for thinking of your partner as an object of sex. Even couples inflicting pain and humiliation during sex can do so with love, or so I am told.

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:03 AM
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Treating a person as a thing is bad.
Treating a person as a thing for your sexual satisfaction is a specific type of bad.
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Old 09-14-2019, 11:50 AM
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If a definition can actually be agreed upon consequences could be discussed. I have a feeling that the condition is impossible to satisfy. I think we live in a physical universe and that procreation is what biological organisms do in order to propagate genes. So I donít see the fuss about desire.

Are there folks who have anti-social or harmful behaviors and thoughts that are strongly influenced by sexual attributes? Of course.
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Old 09-14-2019, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max S.
sexual objectification occurs when a person's body or body parts are singled out and separated from him or her as a person, and he or she is viewed primarily as a physical object of sexual desire.
Good definition, certainly good enough to anchor a discussion.

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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Treating a person as a thing is bad.
Treating a person as a thing for your sexual satisfaction is a specific type of bad.
I would backtrack on that a bit. Cautiously.

I think it is not necessarily an across-the-board bad thing to sexually objectify a person. There may be a time and a place for it. I would make the same point about power within a sexualized interaction: it's possible that when it is circumscribed to a play space in which is isn't destructive, it doesn't constitute a political / social problem.

BUT:

What seems self-evident to me is that it's a pervasive problem in our society that female people are sexually objectified perpetually, in every time and place; that many have had the experience of being treated as if the entirety of who and what they are is "sex object". Do male people also get sexually objectified? Undeniably. Do male people also get sexually objectified to the point that they are stripped of being viewed as anything other than a sexual consumable? Maybe some do, or at least maybe some do in some certain contexts. That is is less of a problem overall for males doesn't mean it's irrelevant to the male experience, that it isn't a political social issue for some males. But it has been an overarching and defining problem for female people.
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Old 09-14-2019, 05:39 PM
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IMO it's very closely related to consent. Treating someone as an object, even with just words, is wrong unless they're a consenting adult. So don't use objectifying language (or actions, quite obviously) with/against someone unless you're sure they're a consenting adult.
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Old 09-14-2019, 06:08 PM
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Picking DrFidelius's brain


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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Treating a person as a thing is bad.
Treating a person as a thing for your sexual satisfaction is a specific type of bad.
Thanks for stopping by. If you have a few minutes I would love to explore your position. I gather that you define objectification as "treating a person as a thing", and sexual objectification as "treating a person as a thing for your sexual satisfaction".

Do you approach this from a position of virtue ethics? What are your thoughts on the soliciting of prostitution and pornography, for both parties involved? Would you make exceptions in certain cases?

What about fictional characters? Is it possible to sexually objectify a fictional character, who never really was a person to begin with? What do you think about fantasies about real people, where the image of the real person is treated as a thing for one's sexual satisfaction, but the real person themselves is none the wiser? To you, does that count as sexual objectification?

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
IMO it's very closely related to consent. Treating someone as an object, even with just words, is wrong unless they're a consenting adult. So don't use objectifying language (or actions, quite obviously) with/against someone unless you're sure they're a consenting adult.
Things can't consent. So if you're taking into account someone's consent, you aren't treating them as an object (at least not entirely).
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Old 09-14-2019, 06:23 PM
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Re: Consent


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Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
IMO it's very closely related to consent. Treating someone as an object, even with just words, is wrong unless they're a consenting adult. So don't use objectifying language (or actions, quite obviously) with/against someone unless you're sure they're a consenting adult.
First the semantics: if consent is present, is it still sexual objectification? Or are you saying that sexual objectification is not wrong if done with proper consent?

Second, what are your views on pornography and prostitution? Is it possible for one to be "sure" enough that the actress or prostitute is a consenting adult, as opposed to some sex slave? 1972's Deep Throat comes to mind. Do you think it is morally acceptable for consent to be given at all in those industries?

When consuming pornography at least, the person being objectified probably doesn't hear or otherwise know what any specific consumer is saying or doing. Does your moral evaluation of sexual objectification carry over to other private actions such as thoughts?

And then there is the question about fictional characters, who do not exist to give consent in the first place. What do you think about objectifying fictional characters? Is it still wrong?

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 06:27 PM
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Things can't consent. So if you're taking into account someone's consent, you aren't treating them as an object (at least not entirely).
Consent could be obtained before you start treating them as an object; i.e. before tightening the gag.

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 07:02 PM
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First the semantics: if consent is present, is it still sexual objectification? Or are you saying that sexual objectification is not wrong if done with proper consent?

Second, what are your views on pornography and prostitution? Is it possible for one to be "sure" enough that the actress or prostitute is a consenting adult, as opposed to some sex slave? 1972's Deep Throat comes to mind. Do you think it is morally acceptable for consent to be given at all in those industries?

When consuming pornography at least, the person being objectified probably doesn't hear or otherwise know what any specific consumer is saying or doing. Does your moral evaluation of sexual objectification carry over to other private actions such as thoughts?

And then there is the question about fictional characters, who do not exist to give consent in the first place. What do you think about objectifying fictional characters? Is it still wrong?

~Max
Pornography is fine if itís consensual for the most part. I donít think itís proper to do certain actions regardless of consent.
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Old 09-14-2019, 07:06 PM
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Re: Desire


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If a definition can actually be agreed upon consequences could be discussed. I have a feeling that the condition is impossible to satisfy. I think we live in a physical universe and that procreation is what biological organisms do in order to propagate genes. So I donít see the fuss about desire.

Are there folks who have anti-social or harmful behaviors and thoughts that are strongly influenced by sexual attributes? Of course.
It is difficult for me to understand your meaning from so few words. Please correct me if I misread you (and I suspect I have misread you).

I think you are saying it is somewhat natural to view a person as a physical object of sexual desire. What is natural cannot be immoral (?), therefore to view a person as a physical object of sexual desire is not immoral.

I had taken it for granted that acting on sexual desire, though perhaps natural, is not always morally acceptable. To act on other desires ("I want your food because I am hungry"), though perhaps natural, is not always morally acceptable.

For the virtue ethicist, it is usually immoral to reduce another human being to subhuman status. For the Abrahamic and Confucian deontological ethicist, it is usually one's duty to refrain from such desires except towards one's spouse(s). For the Buddhist, it is usually considered virtuous to refrain from all desires whenever possible. For egalitarian deontological ethicists, it is usually one's duty to treat other human beings as equals. For most consequentialists, if we assume sexual objectification causes unnecessary and avoidable harm, it's immoral.

Maybe you don't fit into any of those categories or disagree with my characterization. I would like to hear what you think.

~Max
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Old 09-14-2019, 07:23 PM
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It is difficult for me to understand your meaning from so few words. Please correct me if I misread you (and I suspect I have misread you).

I think you are saying it is somewhat natural to view a person as a physical object of sexual desire. What is natural cannot be immoral (?), therefore to view a person as a physical object of sexual desire is not immoral.

I had taken it for granted that acting on sexual desire, though perhaps natural, is not always morally acceptable. To act on other desires ("I want your food because I am hungry"), though perhaps natural, is not always morally acceptable.

For the virtue ethicist, it is usually immoral to reduce another human being to subhuman status. For the Abrahamic and Confucian deontological ethicist, it is usually one's duty to refrain from such desires except towards one's spouse(s). For the Buddhist, it is usually considered virtuous to refrain from all desires whenever possible. For egalitarian deontological ethicists, it is usually one's duty to treat other human beings as equals. For most consequentialists, if we assume sexual objectification causes unnecessary and avoidable harm, it's immoral.

Maybe you don't fit into any of those categories or disagree with my characterization. I would like to hear what you think.

~Max
I don’t think it’s wrong to think of someone as desirable due to physical attraction. I don’t think it’s wrong to express interest and work to achieve a relationship. I think it’s naive to argue that humans are not animals and largely governed by biology.

I do think where morality comes in is that in a society like ours we have recognized that individuals have certain intrinsic rights and most of our brains have the structure to learn to navigate that environment. Even if those particular rights are difficult to articulate precisely we still generally recognize they exist in some form. So my interpretation of how to act, in so-called meat space, is that one should err on the side of treating others how a normal person would like to be treated.

Example. You are walking with a friend and notice someone with a nice physical feature. You whisper to your friend “hey she has a nice booty!” No harm.

Example 2. You walk up to a woman in a setting where a sexual advance is completely unexpected and invade her personal space and say “hey you got a nice booty!”

I personally think that’s problematic. And in most cases I wouldn’t think that a woman’s approach would be as problematic. Which is probably technically sexist. But that’s ok.

Last edited by octopus; 09-14-2019 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 09-14-2019, 08:29 PM
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What is sexual objectification?


I know it/her when I see it/her.
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Old 09-14-2019, 08:55 PM
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Things can't consent. So if you're taking into account someone's consent, you aren't treating them as an object (at least not entirely).
My point is that "objectifying language" is okay with consent. So is "objectifying action". Such folks don't truly think of each other as objects, because they valued obtaining consent... but they might pretend they do, if that's what they're into. And that's fine, as long as consent is present.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:58 PM
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For the virtue ethicist, it is usually immoral to reduce another human being to subhuman status. For the Abrahamic and Confucian deontological ethicist, it is usually one's duty to refrain from such desires except towards one's spouse(s). For the Buddhist, it is usually considered virtuous to refrain from all desires whenever possible. For egalitarian deontological ethicists, it is usually one's duty to treat other human beings as equals. For most consequentialists, if we assume sexual objectification causes unnecessary and avoidable harm, it's immoral.

Maybe you don't fit into any of those categories or disagree with my characterization. I would like to hear what you think.

~Max
I think what happens between two or more consenting adults in the privacy of their own lives is none of anybody's business. Even with that stipulation plenty can go wrong. Interpersonal dynamics are not always a level playing field. People get hurt. People experience regret. People's emotions are often complex and unpredictable. Trying to classify people's attitudes about sex into well defined philosophical behavioral categories is folly. They may think they are one thing only to discover they are something else under variable or unpredictable circumstances.

To quote Bill Maher: "Doesn't anybody just fuck anymore?"
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:08 PM
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To start, after reading the primers I would take a gender-neutral variant of Bartky's definition: sexual objectification occurs when a person's body or body parts are singled out and separated from him or her as a person, and he or she is viewed primarily as a physical object of sexual desire.
Which is, of course, natural. It's what the animal sex drive is all about. We have to work to overcome it and appreciate our sex objects as people.

Last edited by kirkrapine; 09-14-2019 at 10:09 PM.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:14 PM
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What seems self-evident to me is that it's a pervasive problem in our society that female people are sexually objectified perpetually, in every time and place; that many have had the experience of being treated as if the entirety of who and what they are is "sex object". Do male people also get sexually objectified? Undeniably. Do male people also get sexually objectified to the point that they are stripped of being viewed as anything other than a sexual consumable? Maybe some do, or at least maybe some do in some certain contexts. That is is less of a problem overall for males doesn't mean it's irrelevant to the male experience, that it isn't a political social issue for some males. But it has been an overarching and defining problem for female people.
Many years ago, I once was riding my bicycle with my shirt off and a group of young women in a passing car hooted and hollered at me. It did not embarrass me -- but I can well understand how it would have been different if the genders were reversed.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:19 PM
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XKCD on catcalling.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:24 PM
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I think what happens between two or more consenting adults in the privacy of their own lives . . .
. . . has commercial possibilities yet to be exploited!
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:44 PM
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I donít think itís wrong to think of someone as desirable due to physical attraction. I donít think itís wrong to express interest and work to achieve a relationship. I think itís naive to argue that humans are not animals and largely governed by biology.
Agreeable.

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I do think where morality comes in is that in a society like ours we have recognized that individuals have certain intrinsic rights and most of our brains have the structure to learn to navigate that environment. Even if those particular rights are difficult to articulate precisely we still generally recognize they exist in some form. So my interpretation of how to act, in so-called meat space, is that one should err on the side of treating others how a normal person would like to be treated.
Which "intrinsic rights", even broadly described, do you think are in play when we discuss sexual objectification?

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Example. You are walking with a friend and notice someone with a nice physical feature. You whisper to your friend ďhey she has a nice booty!Ē No harm.
I believe you imply that there is no harm because the "someone with a nice physical feature" did not hear you. Is there a right not to hear judgement of one's physique while out walking? I don't think so.

A better example might involve you whispering to the friend, "hey, that's a nice booty!". The lack of a personified possessive pronoun makes it more clear that we are discussing sexual objectification. Do you still think no harm has been done? I think you will answer the same way.

But there are other forms of communication besides speech. There is something in feminist thought called gaze whereupon the simple expectation that one is being looked at for scopophilic purposes creates a power dynamic that shapes one's thoughts and actions. If you and others in society commonly look at a class of people (eg: women) for aesthetic purposes, and make small remarks to friends about others' figures, that builds a social expectation that the class will be judged by their looks. The effect on members of the class is that they are under societal pressure to look good, especially when they are in public; they feel exposed and constantly monitor their appearance. This is a peer pressure and I have no doubt that a number of surveys of women confirm that women at least feel that their appearance is social currency. The assertion is that such pressure is a factor in certain harmful behaviors such as body shaming and anxiety.

The open question would be whether it is possible to prevent such harm while adhering to a rights-based moral framework. I've put a couple hours of thought into this over the past couple weeks. So far I haven't made any progress.

I was thinking, maybe there's a right to control one's image? I mean it makes sense when talking about private photographs and such. But that argument doesn't make sense when walking out in public, where the presumption of privacy and control over one's image fade away. I think there was a court case about the privacy of one's home not applying when the paparazzi takes a picture from a public vantage point.

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Example 2. You walk up to a woman in a setting where a sexual advance is completely unexpected and invade her personal space and say ďhey you got a nice booty!Ē

I personally think thatís problematic. And in most cases I wouldnít think that a womanís approach would be as problematic. Which is probably technically sexist. But thatís ok.
Part of me can only concur with your condemnation of Example 2. It cannot be wrong to objectify a person to their face merely because it is unexpected; this creates a causal loop that goes back to the dawn of humanity and possibly earlier, when the first expectations of social interaction between the sexes emerged, probably by force. You are, in essence, saying it is right because it has always been right; it is wrong if it has always been wrong. Even worse, your logic fails to take a side when one person thinks a sexual advance is appropriate for the venue, and the other disagrees.

But on the other hand I agree with you, because when I think too much about it I believe the basis of morality is pure might.

~Max
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:31 PM
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Sexual objectification is when you treat someone entirely according to their sex appeal (or lack of it), instead of like a person.

People are sexually attracted to each other, it's normal. When you see someone at work, or checking out a library book, or going for a jog, you shouldn't also assume they are looking for your feedback on their sexiness.

Even when you're doing the dance of courtship, even if you're mainly interested in sex, you have to remember you're dealing with a person and treat them as a person (who might not want to have sex with you).

People are people. Sometimes people have sex. People aren't sex toys, nobody exists for your amusement.
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Old 09-23-2019, 10:55 PM
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Sexual objectification is when you treat someone entirely according to their sex appeal (or lack of it), instead of like a person.

People are sexually attracted to each other, it's normal. When you see someone at work, or checking out a library book, or going for a jog, you shouldn't also assume they are looking for your feedback on their sexiness.
And your opinion on their sexiness has no bearing on how well they're doing their work, or their library browsing, or their jogging, or whatever. Requiring somebody to meet arbitrary standards of "sexiness" in any activity not directly related to sex appeal, as you note, is also sexually objectifying them.
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Old 09-24-2019, 02:38 PM
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So many questions! And none of them easy. Of course, in a medium such as an internet forum and particularly in one so pedantic and quarrelous as SDMB it is impossible to give an answer that will satisfy most, but why not try?
Your last sentence of your post is correct. Everything stems from “might.” Might takes many forms but basically the law of the jungle is the ultimate law. However, society seems to function much better when the concept of intrinsic rights is promoted. What these rights are happen to be disputable and ultimately axiomatic and ironically can only be enforced by violence. The subject of intrinsic rights is vast and what they are isn't settled. But a few of the properties that these rights suggest is that humans have value, an intrinsic dignity, and sovereignty over themselves.

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Which "intrinsic rights", even broadly described, do you think are in play when we discuss sexual objectification?
Dignity. In the framework of an intrinsic right discussion humans have the right to not be reduced to an object. What constitutes reduction to an object is an endless debate.

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I believe you imply that there is no harm because the "someone with a nice physical feature" did not hear you. Is there a right not to hear judgement of one's physique while out walking? I don't think so.
A better example might involve you whispering to the friend, "hey, that's a nice booty!". The lack of a personified possessive pronoun makes it more clear that we are discussing sexual objectification. Do you still think no harm has been done? I think you will answer the same way.
It may seem contradictory and ultimately everything at some point is contradictory or circular in nature but I don’t think one has the right to not see or hear something that causes offense. What’s the point of free speech, free press, free religion, freedom of assembly if the only things that can be broadcast or believed in are universally approved of? That precondition makes any necessity of a guarantee of liberties to be superfluous.

I also don’t think that the concept of intrinsic rights is as robust and universal as many would naively believe it to be. Which is why it is very counterproductive to undermine the concept for short term partisan advantage using farcical and disingenuous arguments and demanding adherence to illogical double standards.

Harm done? Miniscule. There is harm done if one considers that act of vocalizing that particular sentence to be objectification. However, in a framework that includes intrinsic human rights the cost to suppress speech is far higher than the cost of objectifying free speech. So from both an utilitarian or a libertarian view point comments such as that while less than ideal are natural. Biological law is still supreme and reproductive strategies are essential. If you don’t propagate the species all of this nonsense is moot anyways.

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But there are other forms of communication besides speech. There is something in feminist thought called gaze whereupon the simple expectation that one is being looked at for scopophilic purposes creates a power dynamic that shapes one's thoughts and actions. If you and others in society commonly look at a class of people (eg: women) for aesthetic purposes, and make small remarks to friends about others' figures, that builds a social expectation that the class will be judged by their looks. The effect on members of the class is that they are under societal pressure to look good, especially when they are in public; they feel exposed and constantly monitor their appearance. This is a peer pressure and I have no doubt that a number of surveys of women confirm that women at least feel that their appearance is social currency. The assertion is that such pressure is a factor in certain harmful behaviors such as body shaming and anxiety.
Sexual capital is a real thing. Many women use it shamelessly. Sometimes, I think the loudest howling about a particular form of capital comes from those who possess the least amount of that capital. Is it fair? Life isn’t fair. It never will be. Should efforts be made to mitigate some of the largest negative outcomes from the hand life dealt you? As long as those efforts aren’t overly counterproductive I don’t see why not.

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The open question would be whether it is possible to prevent such harm while adhering to a rights-based moral framework. I've put a couple hours of thought into this over the past couple weeks. So far I haven't made any progress.
I was thinking, maybe there's a right to control one's image? I mean it makes sense when talking about private photographs and such. But that argument doesn't make sense when walking out in public, where the presumption of privacy and control over one's image fade away. I think there was a court case about the privacy of one's home not applying when the paparazzi takes a picture from a public vantage point.
Part of me can only concur with your condemnation of Example 2. It cannot be wrong to objectify a person to their face merely because it is unexpected; this creates a causal loop that goes back to the dawn of humanity and possibly earlier, when the first expectations of social interaction between the sexes emerged, probably by force. You are, in essence, saying it is right because it has always been right; it is wrong if it has always been wrong. Even worse, your logic fails to take a side when one person thinks a sexual advance is appropriate for the venue, and the other disagrees.

But on the other hand I agree with you, because when I think too much about it I believe the basis of morality is pure might.

~Max
It’s not possible to eliminate harm regardless of moral framework. Furthermore, the definition of what is objectification and what harm it imposes is very difficult. On a personal note, when I was dating my wife-to-be part of the purpose was to see and make a judgement on a variety of traits that I felt were important to long term compatibility and child bearing. Is selecting for intelligence, emotional stability, risk tolerance, ambition more or less objectifying then selecting for hip size or color of eyes? If it is objectification I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Last edited by octopus; 09-24-2019 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 09-24-2019, 03:07 PM
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Neo-Puritanism
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Old 09-24-2019, 03:34 PM
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Neo-Puritanism
Sexual objectification is Neo-Puritanism? What?

~Max
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:12 PM
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If it is objectification I donít see anything wrong with it.
You could have just posted this sentence and saved yourself 29 minutes and half an Adderall.

Also: The "If By Whiskey" fallacy.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:24 PM
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You could have just posted this sentence and saved yourself 29 minutes and half an Adderall.

Also: The "If By Whiskey" fallacy.
Whatís the adderall for? Care to elaborate?
  #29  
Old 11-12-2019, 01:58 PM
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Harm done? Miniscule.
I will admit that by all accounts, the act of whispering some sexually objectifying language to a male friend does not directly harm the woman who you are objectifying if she does not hear you. The principal concern which I was leading to is that repeated acts, mere whispering among boys and men, can create a societal pressure for girls and women to conform to a certain image; that this pressure is scientifically correllated with tangible harms such as body shaming and anxiety.

Assuming that the correlation is causation, the mere act of objectifying women, even behind their backs does, en masse, indirectly harm girls and women.

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However, in a framework that includes intrinsic human rights the cost to suppress speech is far higher than the cost of objectifying free speech. So from both an utilitarian or a libertarian view point comments such as that while less than ideal are natural. Biological law is still supreme and reproductive strategies are essential. If you donít propagate the species all of this nonsense is moot anyways.
This is something I want to explore. Let's say that the aggregate cost of sexual objectification of women in society is a reduction of the female life-span by some ten years (I just made that up). The proposal is that people stop objectifying women outside of appropriate contexts, such as dating, sex, maybe performing arts, depictions of datin/sex/performing arts, etc. The enforcement mechanism would be social rather than legal, much like a racist today might quickly lose friends or a job by expressing blatantly racist sentiments.

So on the one hand society embraces the freedom to objectify women in all contexts, but the female life-span is reduced by about ten years. On the other hand we could have "normal" female life-spans, but in non-sexual contexts people might find that society chills their freedom to objectify women.

That's a trade I'm willing to make, and as such I will be teaching my future-children that it is wrong to sexually objectify women in non-sexual contexts. So wrong that sometimes you have to do something about it, like tell the person to stop.

How do you approach this hypothetical?

~Max
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:03 PM
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I will admit that by all accounts, the act of whispering some sexually objectifying language to a male friend does not directly harm the woman who you are objectifying if she does not hear you. The principal concern which I was leading to is that repeated acts, mere whispering among boys and men, can create a societal pressure for girls and women to conform to a certain image; that this pressure is scientifically correllated with tangible harms such as body shaming and anxiety.

Assuming that the correlation is causation, the mere act of objectifying women, even behind their backs does, en masse, indirectly harm girls and women.


This is something I want to explore. Let's say that the aggregate cost of sexual objectification of women in society is a reduction of the female life-span by some ten years (I just made that up). The proposal is that people stop objectifying women outside of appropriate contexts, such as dating, sex, maybe performing arts, depictions of datin/sex/performing arts, etc. The enforcement mechanism would be social rather than legal, much like a racist today might quickly lose friends or a job by expressing blatantly racist sentiments.

So on the one hand society embraces the freedom to objectify women in all contexts, but the female life-span is reduced by about ten years. On the other hand we could have "normal" female life-spans, but in non-sexual contexts people might find that society chills their freedom to objectify women.

That's a trade I'm willing to make, and as such I will be teaching my future-children that it is wrong to sexually objectify women in non-sexual contexts. So wrong that sometimes you have to do something about it, like tell the person to stop.

How do you approach this hypothetical?

~Max
Being polite to save half the species from an early death doesnít seem that rough of a trade off to make.
  #31  
Old 11-12-2019, 02:16 PM
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Being polite to save half the species from an early death doesnít seem that rough of a trade off to make.
That's what I was thinking, too. I believe this is pretty close to the consensus position of most feminists. I have no doubt some would go further, though.

Obviously I made the ten year thing up, but the APA/Counseling Psychologist paper in the OP does list studies showing harms correlated with sexual objectification.

I wish we had some women who could come and weigh in on this topic, because it seems like you and I are eye to eye.

~Max
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:35 PM
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I think what happens between two or more consenting adults in the privacy of their own lives is none of anybody's business. Even with that stipulation plenty can go wrong. Interpersonal dynamics are not always a level playing field. People get hurt. People experience regret. People's emotions are often complex and unpredictable. Trying to classify people's attitudes about sex into well defined philosophical behavioral categories is folly. They may think they are one thing only to discover they are something else under variable or unpredictable circumstances.

To quote Bill Maher: "Doesn't anybody just fuck anymore?"
I don't believe I ever responded to this. What do you think about octopus's example, where a woman is walking in a park and one bystander says to another, "hey, that's a nice booty!" Or if it matters to you, in one hypothetical the woman hears the remark, and in another she doesn't.

~Max
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:57 PM
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That's what I was thinking, too. I believe this is pretty close to the consensus position of most feminists. I have no doubt some would go further, though.

Obviously I made the ten year thing up, but the APA/Counseling Psychologist paper in the OP does list studies showing harms correlated with sexual objectification.
Women already live longer than men, at least in the West and in societies with the same standard of medical care. Due, I expect, to reductions in maternal mortality (and other things as well).

But ISTM that to at least some extent, sexual objectification is built into the male brain. Men are more visually oriented when it comes to mate selection, and are generally the sexual aggressors, in the sense that they are the pursuers more than they are the pursued. And that is reflected by the fact that they sexually objectify women more often, and in general. To what extent we can eliminate that tendency thru social pressure is not a settled question.
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Being polite to save half the species from an early death doesnít seem that rough of a trade off to make.
It doesn't seem like a bad trade off to me either, but that is different from expecting men to not objectify women. I am talking about something mentioned earlier, where I see a woman with some sexually appealing characteristic, in a non-sexual context like she is browsing books in a library, and I react as I do, with the mental observation of "nice [sexually appealing characteristic]". I don't try to hit on her, since I am too old and too married, but I am having the objectifying thought nonetheless.

But I am polite, and I don't stare or say anything or do anything to make her uncomfortable - I just appreciate. That is what I would call "being polite", and I don't see how that harms her. Or I don't see how the harm is avoidable. If it adds to social pressure or body shaming or whatever, much of the pressure is coming from the fact that many of the markers of female attractiveness are nearly universal - the waist to hip ratio of 1:3 and clear skin and nice teeth and so forth. Maybe there are some societies where those are not markers. Not many, though - for most people/men, most of the time, there is (probably to some extent biologically-based) agreement on what constitutes an attractive woman.

So I expect that social pressure to be polite, or to be a gentleman as I would put it, is as far as can reasonably be gone to reduce the harm of objectifying women, in the sense I am using.

A gentleman doesn't ogle, he would never approach a woman unknown to him, unless he can guess - correctly - that such attentions would not be unwelcome. That's part of the onus of being the sexual approacher rather than the approachee. You have to guess right and take your chances. If you get caught staring, you are suitably ashamed, and you learn to do it better next time.

Is that fair to women? Maybe not. Is it fair to men? Same answer. Tough beans - it's how the occasionally awkward, often entertaining, and ultimately rewarding courtship dance happens. Look, but don't touch (or stare). And you need a level of social awareness to be able to determine who you may and who you may not approach. Saying "I will wait to be approached", for men, is part of what makes for incels - or at least an unproductive dating life.

Regards,
Shodan
  #34  
Old 11-12-2019, 03:10 PM
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I don't believe I ever responded to this. What do you think about octopus's example, where a woman is walking in a park and one bystander says to another, "hey, that's a nice booty!" Or if it matters to you, in one hypothetical the woman hears the remark, and in another she doesn't.

~Max
I don't think that censorship of what two consenting adults say to each other about another adult is desirable. In any number of scenarios one can correct/admonish the other if the comment is inappropriate or crosses a line. Or not. In no scenario would it be appropriate to make that comment to the party about whom the comment is made, because that certainly crosses a line of appropriate behavior in polite society. Even if the third party might welcome the comment as a compliment, it's still too much a presumption to make. As with so many things in life, best to err on the side of civilized social conduct.

But isn't this already something the majority of functional and well adjusted adults familiar with? Sure, plenty don't follow generally accepted social patterns of behavior. We recognize them as assholes.

In short, we're wired to appreciate each other in sexual sense. We are not wired to behave like assholes. Not most of us, anyway.
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Old 11-12-2019, 03:19 PM
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But ISTM that to at least some extent, sexual objectification is built into the male brain.
Well, sexual objectification is built into the human brain, and in fact into the brains of all species that practice sexual selection. Why are, e.g., male birds and fish growing all those colorful fins and feathers and so forth except to stimulate female birds and fish into regarding them as sex objects?

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I am talking about something mentioned earlier, where I see a woman with some sexually appealing characteristic, in a non-sexual context like she is browsing books in a library, and I react as I do, with the mental observation of "nice [sexually appealing characteristic]". I don't try to hit on her, since I am too old and too married, but I am having the objectifying thought nonetheless.

But I am polite, and I don't stare or say anything or do anything to make her uncomfortable - I just appreciate. That is what I would call "being polite", and I don't see how that harms her. Or I don't see how the harm is avoidable.
I don't see how it harms her either, unless of course you are letting your "appreciation" impair your ability to cope with whatever non-sexual role she may be engaged in.

Namely, if you're just a discreet peek-sneaking bystander mentally and undetectably objectifying a fellow library browser, that's one thing. But if, say, you're interviewing candidates for a job in the library, and your "appreciation" of one of them is so distracting that all you remember about her is her great [sexually appealing characteristic], then arguably your reaction is harming her even if you managed to keep her from being aware of it or feeling uncomfortable about it.

In circumstances like that, you don't get to just shrug and say "oh well, the male brain is wired that way and the harm is unavoidable". If sexually objectifying women gets in the way of your interacting appropriately with women in non-sexual contexts, then you should be removed from your interviewing job (or whatever it is you're supposed to be doing in those contexts) in favor of somebody who can handle such situations more competently.

Last edited by Kimstu; 11-12-2019 at 03:23 PM.
  #36  
Old 11-13-2019, 06:49 AM
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Note that the idea that men are more visually stimulated than women might not be accurate at all. Men might just be more willing to say so:
In conclusion, the present study provides comprehensive metaanalytic evidence that the neurocircuitries associated with sexual arousal do not differ in men and women independent of their sexual orientation. Visual sexual stimuli induce activation in the same cortical and subcortical regions in both men and women, while the limited sex differences that have been found and reported previously refer to subjective rating of the content.


Intuitively, this is also borne out by our lack of strong sexual dimporphism.

Last edited by MrDibble; 11-13-2019 at 06:54 AM.
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Old 11-13-2019, 09:36 AM
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Well, sexual objectification is built into the human brain, and in fact into the brains of all species that practice sexual selection. Why are, e.g., male birds and fish growing all those colorful fins and feathers and so forth except to stimulate female birds and fish into regarding them as sex objects?
I think you're missing the salient point. Objectification doesn't lie with considering people as potential sexual partners ; but rather exclusively (or primarily) as sexual partners/eye candy. The notion that your sexual attraction to someone overrides other context between the two of you.
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Old 11-13-2019, 01:59 PM
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I think you're missing the salient point. Objectification doesn't lie with considering people as potential sexual partners ; but rather exclusively (or primarily) as sexual partners/eye candy. The notion that your sexual attraction to someone overrides other context between the two of you.
Actually I think Kimstu addressed that in the second half of the post.

~Max
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Old 11-13-2019, 03:19 PM
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Related to the topic:

Episode of Mythbusters where they prove that a woman having larger breasts can earn bigger tips at a coffee shop.

Funny thing is they find out even women tip a large chested woman more.
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Old 11-13-2019, 04:53 PM
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Related to the topic:

Episode of Mythbusters where they prove that a woman having larger breasts can earn bigger tips at a coffee shop.

Funny thing is they find out even women tip a large chested woman more.
To bring this on topic, what do you think are the psychological, philosophical, or moral implications of adjusting the waitress's tip on account of her breast size? Do you think that is sexual objectification?

And of course, Mythbusters did not undertake a rigorous study. The clip linked shows one female barista collecting tips over three days, working the same shift with the same clothes. The first two days she collected $72 with an average of 90c per customer. The third day she augmented her breast size and collected $98 with an average of $1.23 per customer.

I mean, that is trivially a scientific experiment; but without many, many more trials I wouldn't use Mythbusters to support wide reaching psychological, philosophical, or moral propositions.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 11-13-2019 at 04:56 PM. Reason: formatting; is that objectification?
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Old 11-13-2019, 06:58 PM
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Actually I think Kimstu addressed that in the second half of the post.

~Max
They did. Apologies for jumping the gun.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:16 PM
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To bring this on topic, what do you think are the psychological, philosophical, or moral implications of adjusting the waitress's tip on account of her breast size? Do you think that is sexual objectification?

And of course, Mythbusters did not undertake a rigorous study. The clip linked shows one female barista collecting tips over three days, working the same shift with the same clothes. The first two days she collected $72 with an average of 90c per customer. The third day she augmented her breast size and collected $98 with an average of $1.23 per customer.

I mean, that is trivially a scientific experiment; but without many, many more trials I wouldn't use Mythbusters to support wide reaching psychological, philosophical, or moral propositions.

~Max
Well to be honest I dont think a university could get away with a study like this so its going to be hard to reproduce.

Is it sexual objectification? Yes. We are humans and certain things excite us.

As for me I know I'm more apt to buy something from an attractive woman than any man.
  #43  
Old 11-15-2019, 07:54 AM
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Pornography is fine if itís consensual for the most part. I donít think itís proper to do certain actions regardless of consent.
Sentence #1: Does ""the most part" refer to "fine" or "consensual".

Sentence #2: Wow. What kind of improper actions are you considering here?
  #44  
Old 11-15-2019, 08:22 AM
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Sentence #1: Does ""the most part" refer to "fine" or "consensual".

Sentence #2: Wow. What kind of improper actions are you considering here?
I'm not octopus, but if I understand his post I agree with it.

"The most part" refers to "fine". Most but not all consensual porn is fine.

"Improper actions" would be sado-masochism, degradation, faked rapes, that kind of thing. I would say "immoral" rather than "improper". Also note the absence of any reference to making it illegal. Things can be immoral without being illegal, and even if the costs of making them illegal outweigh the benefits.

I am judging other people's tastes and actions, and finding them immoral. I do that sometimes. So do most if not all people.

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  #45  
Old 11-15-2019, 12:33 PM
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Is it sexual objectification? Yes. We are humans and certain things excite us.

As for me I know I'm more apt to buy something from an attractive woman than any man.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that I run a business that sells things to men like you, who (and this is another assumption) are "more apt to buy something from an attractive woman than any man". I've got all the best marketing people who tell me female salespersons will make me more money than male salespersons because they are female.

Put aside sexual discrimination laws and I'll tell you right now, I'm going to discriminate against men when hiring salespeople. Would you agree?

~Max
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Old 11-15-2019, 12:38 PM
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I don't believe I ever responded to this. What do you think about octopus's example, where a woman is walking in a park and one bystander says to another, "hey, that's a nice booty!" Or if it matters to you, in one hypothetical the woman hears the remark, and in another she doesn't.

~Max
Let me ask you a similar question. Instead of "nice booty", what if one bystander said to the other "nice hat"?
  #47  
Old 11-15-2019, 01:42 PM
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Let me ask you a similar question. Instead of "nice booty", what if one bystander said to the other "nice hat"?
Assuming the reference is to an actual hat, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

~Max
  #48  
Old 11-15-2019, 02:26 PM
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Sentence #1: Does ""the most part" refer to "fine" or "consensual".

Sentence #2: Wow. What kind of improper actions are you considering here?
I think there are certain acts that a person can't consent too. Now, I can't write that in a way that would be universally accepted or even entirely consistent but I'll give an example. That German cannibal case is an example of not being fine regardless of consent. I don't care if someone consents to being eaten. I think it's immoral. For the most part... There are always corner cases.

But any sort of pornography that leads to significant and lasting damage to the person I think is immoral.

Last edited by octopus; 11-15-2019 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 11-15-2019, 03:00 PM
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I'm not sure which corners of the internet you lurk, but I feel relatively confident in saying that live dissection porn is not readily available.
  #50  
Old 11-15-2019, 03:09 PM
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But any sort of pornography that leads to significant and lasting damage to the person I think is immoral.
Excepting sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy? If consent is given?

~Max
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