The Cost of Sex Addiction: The Objectification of Women

Reclaim Sexual Sanity:  Find Recovery Now by Calling 212-673-5717 for an Initial Consultation.  See www.sextreatment.com for 35 full-length articles about sex addiction and for details about my private practice.

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“I’m looking at you right now in a sexual way whether you like it or not.  Never mind the fact that I don’t know your name, care to know your name, or have any idea of who you are.  I don’t really care about you.  You serve as an object for my sexual pleasure.  I only care about how sexually aroused you can make me feel.”

This is how a former client who was in sex addiction counseling described the way he used to look at people when he was heavily into his sex addiction.
This is a process called sexual objectification.

From Wikipedia:  “Sexual objectification refers to the practice of regarding or treating another person merely as an instrument (object) towards one’s sexual pleasure, and a sex object is a person who is regarded simply as an object of sexual gratification. Objectification more broadly is an attitude that regards a person as a commodity or as an object for use, with little or no regard for a person’s personality.

The objectification of women involves the act of disregarding the personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities of a female; and reducing a woman’s worth or role in society to that of an instrument for the sexual pleasure that she can produce in the mind of another.

Sexual objectification occurs when a person is identified by their sexual body parts or sexual function. In essence, an individual loses their identity, and is recognized solely by the physical characteristics of their body. The purpose of this recognition is to bring enjoyment to others, or to serve as a sexual object for society.

Psychological consequences

Research indicates that objectification theory is valuable to understanding how repeated visual images in the media are socialized and translated into mental health problems, including psychological consequences on the individual and societal level. These include increased self consciousness, increased body anxiety, heightened mental health threats (depressionanorexia nervosa, bulimia, and sexual dysfunction), and increased body shame. Therefore, the theory has been used to explore an array of dependent variables including disordered eatingmental healthdepression, motor performance, body image, idealized body type, stereotype formation, sexual perception and sexual typing.

Sexual fetishism can be considered sexual objectification when a person is assigned or adopts the status of the fetish object.   In BDSM activities, even though it is consensual, subjecting a submissive to erotic humiliation can be regarded as sexual objectification.”

A recent study found that showing men pictures of sexualized women evokes less activity in the area of the brain that becomes active when we think we are looking at an entity capable of thought and planned action. Other studies have found similar results. When men see body shots of women as compared with face shots, they judge women to be less intelligent, likeable, ambitious and competent.

A new study by Kurt Gray and colleagues in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, states that research into mind perception has found two dimensions along which we tend to categorize others: agency (the capacity to act, plan) and experience (the capacity to feel emotions). A robot, for example, is high on the dimension of agency but low in experience. It can think, but it can’t feel. When we see flesh, on the other hand, we tend to see experience but not agency—an entity capable of pleasure and pain but not necessarily the sharpest or most useful tool in the shed.

Objectifying Women

The American Psychological Association (APA) in its 2007 Report looked at the cognitive and emotional consequences of sexualization and the consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. The report considers that a person is sexualized in the following situations:

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appealor sexual behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness(narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/orsexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

For girls and young women in particular, the APA reports that studies have found that sexualization has a negative impact on their “self-image and healthy development”.  They reported the following:

Cognitive and Emotional Consequences

Studies have found that thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals may disrupt a girl’s mental concentration, and a girl’s sexualization or objectification may undermine her confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.

Mental and Physical Health

Research has linked sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.

Sexual Development

Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

 In Reality, Nobody’s Perfect

Sexual objectification involves taking the humanity from a human being and turning her into a need-satisfying object.  Objectifying tries to turn real people into fantasy women who are either degraded or idealized like a goddess.  Either way, the woman isn’t seen as a whole, capable person.

Not only can objectifying women distract you from real issues in your real life, it can also turn you off to potential intimate partners.  The dating pool becomes limited when you’re only willing to relate with someone who looks like a porn star.

“Lately, it seems like I can’t accept any imperfection in the women I meet.  I’ll start talking with a really nice girl at a bar.  She’s cute and has a great sense of humor, but I’m not really interested.  She’s not a ‘ten’.  She has flaws.  Her boobs are too smal, her waist too thick, her thigns too wide.  Porn has created a gap between the kind of woman I enjoy being with and the kind of woman I can sexually desire”, says a client of mine.

Skills Deficit

Another client reported:  “I treated women as sex things.  If she turned me on I’d talk with her; if she didn’t, I would ignore her.  I began to see attractive women as possible sexual conquests.  I didn’t realize there’s a big difference between using someone for sex and sharing a sexual experience with them. I’m very sad about that.”

Intimacy, love, or real friendship were foreign to him when he was in his addiction.  It took everything he had just to hold himself together and to get his needs met.  He saw all people, but especially women, as potential need-satisfying objects.  If people were seen as objects, others have no needs or wants. 

Sex addiction is, after all, an intimacy disorder.

Dorothy (Uncharacteristically) Discloses

Now for a more personal reflection.  I’ve suffered from sexual objectifation from when I was a young girl until I turned somewhere in my mid-fifties.  When I was 12- years- old, I woke up one morning with a 36-C cup!!!  My life immediately changed.  I didn’t understand why men were looking at me in the way that they were.  Having been raised Catholic, I immediately thought there was something shameful about me.

Men, especially male teachers, continued to look at me in that way – a way that frightened me.  No one, however, asked me to the senior prom.

While I’ve never been a sex addict, I did misuse sex.  When I worked in the theater, it was always the directors.  When I worked in the business world, it was a senior vice president.  It was as though I knew I really didn’t “count” as anybody real and substantial, so I used sex as a way to magically “extract” power and status that I perceived I would never have.

Recovery changed all that.  I came to realize what my true talents and skills were and learned to base my self-esteem on ways that I could use them to validate myself, rather than being validated by the glares of older, powerful men.

Then I entered the clinical field and things really changed.  Social work school was almost all females.  During six years of psychoanalytic, I was really able to consolidate myself as a clinician and, in my own analysis as a whole being.  Only then was I able to  reclaim my own power as a person and a human being.

I’m heterosexual.  I do, however, have a great appreciation for woman.  As I have no sexual interest in them, when I’m in need of solace, comfort and understanding, I go to them.  Women are such beautiful creatures, emotionally, spiritually, aesthetically, intellectually and physically.
I feel sorry for the millions of men who can only see women as body parts.  They’re really missing out on something special.
If you’re interested in treatment, contact me at dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com for a free 30-minute session.

See http://www.sextreatment.com for 30 articles on sex addiction

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