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Sexual objectification

Allen Jones - erotica - feminism - sexual fetishism - gender - human furniture - model - object - paraphilia - pornography - Pygmalion - sex - sex symbol

Pygmalion and Galatea () - Jean-Léon Gérôme

Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner (1982) - Ridley Scott

Francesco Biasa advertisment
image sourced here.

Illustration by Hajime Sorayama


A person regarded primarily as the focus of sexual attraction. --AHD [Dec 2004]

  • Sexual objectification is, in some circumstances, 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. (This particular interest, a form of sexual bondage that involves making furniture designed to incorporate a bound person, is also known as "forniphilia".)

    Some feminists have long argued that traditional attitudes to women in many societies constitute non-consensual sexual objectification of women.

    A desire to be objectified occurs in many men and women's masochistic sexual fantasies. Objectification for fetishistic purposes may 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. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification [Oct 2004]

    Oppononents of the sex industry

    Opponents of the sex industry argue that it is exploitative (particularly of young women), that it is morally damaging to society, and that cheapens sex and encourages sexual objectification of women. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_industry [Jun 2005]

    Story of O [...]

    One view of the novel is that it is about the ultimate objectification of a woman. The heroine of the novel has the shortest possible name, consisting solely of the letter O. Although this is in fact a shortening of the name Odile, it could also stand for "object" or "orifice," an O being a symbolic representation of any "hole." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_of_O [Jun 2005]

    Feminism [...]

    When feminists speak of "sexual objectification", they knowingly or unknowingly refer to the Hegelian metaphysic, without which "objectification" seems an odd choice of word. The ethical postulate of egalitarianism remains as the one remaining moral absolute, unchecked by social constructionism, or the notion that all discourse is about power. Thus, a concern that no one be treated as a Hegelian object becomes a paramount concern of neo-Hegelian idealists. Moreover, by accepting a strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, issues of language and usage were seen as important political foci. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject-object_problem#As_it_relates_to_language_and_power [Jun 2005]

    Sex objects in advertising

    Background: Barbara Trees’ research suggests that pornography involves multiple levels of oppression and violence (1997c). Dworkin’s global understanding of the problems with pornography sets a clear agenda for agents of change working for a free gender society. Trees’ work illustrates the profound levels in which pornography works to attack the social fabric of society, even outside the realms of sexuality. Her indication is that the mere presence of pornographic materials in the workplace, in her case the construction trades, allows males to force females out of the industry. Donnerstein and Linz’ analysis of different types of pornography and negative depictions of women may surprise some individuals who believe that only extremely violent and sexual depictions of women, such as smut films or Hustler type magazines, cause an increase of violence against women (1997d). In fact their study indicates that exposure to media depicting women in degrading and subordinate situations, even if not explicitly sexual or violent in nature, will lead to increased violent behavior of men against women in society.

    Focus on the Ads: The following ads all share one thing in common-they view women as base, without any meaning other than a sexual one. Consider just one ad, number 61, and focus on the dehumanization related to the imagery and context of the ad. Would anyone want her or his daughter or son represented as the women are in ad 61? If you can answer no to this question, consider joining the fight against sexism in popular culture. --http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/pages/sexobject.htm [Dec 2004]

    In science fiction

  • A quick survey of science fiction films reveals a paucity of meaty female roles: In the early days of the genre, most sci-fi leading ladies were granted the role of Love Interest or Saucy Sidekick, but rarely given liberty to actually kick butt. Soylent Green went so far as to refer to women as "furniture" (they came with the apartment), and the one enduring sci-fi heroine, Barbarella, still spent more time worrying about getting laid than catching villains. -- Janelle Brown in http://dir.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/08/19/scifi_babes/index.html


    Now and throughout history, pejorative language has played a major role in the longstanding victimization of women. This study employs a comprehensive classification of degrading categories -- deficient human, subhuman, animal, parasite, disease, inanimate object, and waste product -- as a framework for analyzing the demeaning words invoked to justify man's inhumanity to women. It concludes with observations about how this pernicious anti-female lexicon of derogation is part and parcel of a pervasive seamless shroud of anti-life rhetoric called upon to rationalize violence against other victims (born and unborn) in contemporary society and in times past. --William Brennan, Ph.D., Female Objects of Semantic Dehumanization and Violence http://www.fnsa.org/v1n3/brennan1.html [Dec 2004]

    Sex symbol [...]

    A sex symbol is a famous person, male or female, who is found sexually attractive by the general audience. The term was first used circa 1911.

    The movie industry played an important part in the rise of sex symbols. It disseminated images of beautiful people around the world, especially in the time of silent film, when there were no language barriers. One of the first sex symbols was the Danish actress Asta Nielsen in the 1910s and 1920s.

    Although movies are still important, sex symbols nowadays are often created by television in general and soap operas and music videos in particular. Many "supermodels" of the fashion industry are also regarded as sex symbols.

    Sometimes sex symbols can even be people who are not physically attractive, but possess other qualities that make them desirable. For example, powerful political figures such as Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld have often been admired as sex symbols. As Kissinger himself once put it, sometimes "power is the greatest aphrodisiac." Even Adolf Hitler was regarded as a sex symbol in Nazi Germany. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_symbol [Jun 2004]

    Depiction of Women in Advertising

    Italian advertisement, leather brand?

    Women are not only portrayed in decorative senses in advertising (Wiles 1991), but too often they are portrayed as less-than-human objects—humiliated and subjects of violence. These ads establish the problematic dimensions of gender and sexuality in western society. Quite simply, for those who deny the problem, have a look at these ads. None of these are harmless! -- Dr. Scott A. Lukas, http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/pages/dehumanize.htm http://www.genderads.com/gender.htm [May 2004]

    Some people never learn! Some of these companies have been producing disturbing images of women for years. We thought it would be nice to separate these advertisers into a class of their own. Sort of a class with no class. It's fun around here when someone new makes it into the Offender Hall of Shame. We send them this fancy certificate and add them to the list.

    These are advertisers that year after year after year make money using limited and often demeaning images of women in their advertising. Unfortunately, many consumers buy products from these companies without realizing that their dollars actually help perpetuate negative imagery of women. By inducting these companies into the Offender Hall of Shame we encourage you to boycott them. We also challenge these companies to get out of the Hall of Shame, though we aren't sure what kind of good behavior would reverse the damage (it's sort of that 3 strikes and you're out thing....)

    It may not seem like a big deal for these companies to get a little certificate from About-Face, but we have a feeling this is not a list they'll want to stay on for long. Please think twice about spending your hard earned cash with these companies and don't be shy about contacting them.

    Hmmm, doesn't anyone ELSE make a pair of jeans...

    Brands [...]

    • Bebe
    • Calvin Klein
    • Cesare Paciotti
    • Diesel
    • Dior
    • Francesco Biasa
    • Gucci
    • Guess
    • Sisley
    • Versace

    Themes [...]

    • Alcohol
    • Body Parts
    • Competition
    • Dummies/Dolls/Mannequins
    • Emaciation
    • Magazine Psuedostories
    • Misc
    • Sex
    • Surgery
    • Tobacco
    • Violence against Women
    • Violence against Men
    • Weight Loss
    • Women of Color
    • Women with no Clothes
    • Young Girls
    --http://www.about-face.org/goo/archive/ [Sept 2004]

    Robot fetishism [...]

    Robot fetishism is the name popularly used to describe a fetishistic attraction to humanoid or non-humanoid robots or people dressed in robot costumes. A related fetish is agalmatophilia, which involves attraction to mannequins or statues. A common fantasy related to these fetishes involves transformation into a robot, mannequin, or statue.

    It is sometimes referred to by the initials ASFR, from the alt.sex.fetish.robots newsgroup.

    Robot fetishism can be viewed as a form of erotic objectification.

    The gynoid in Fritz Lang's film Metropolis can be viewed as an early example of the robot as fetish object. Frank Zappa's classic concept album Joe's Garage dealt with robot fetishism as a sort of perversion where the protagonist, "Joe", sinks into a life of sexual confusion and meaningless experimentation. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the android, Data, was the object of sexual desire more than once up to actual sex and he was extensively programmed with numerous sexual techniques.

    The fetish artist Hajime Sorayama is notable for his depiction of robots as erotic objects. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_fetishism [Jun 2005]


    One of the earliest and most successful of the new crop of hardcore American pornographic films. Its convenient plot introduces three female robots (played by nubile young ladies) who, upon command, can and do perform all sex acts known to man. After 40 minutes or so of athletic and lustful cavorting, the male protagonists tire; but, in a sombre subversion of the genre, the girl-robots cannot be stopped, and the men die in a fit of excrutiating sexual exhaustion. --Film As a Subversive Art (1974) - Amos Vogel

    La Femme Objet

    La Femme Objet is the story of a science fiction writer who is completely addicted to sex. He needs it from morning to night and cannot be in the presence of a woman without making love to her, whether she is asleep, in the process of washing the dishes, or anything else. The story begins with his girlfriends Sabine (Helene Shirley) leaving him, telling him as she parts that she wants to live and his demands are literally killing her. The next girlfriends suffers the same fate, as does the secretary he hires and a woman who is designing sets for the movie adaptation of his latest book. Realizing that no living woman can satisfy him, he sets up a laboratory in the basement and builds a true to life, remote controlled robot woman- his "female object" (Marilyn Jess). At first life is good, as the stunning, busty blonde robot can not speak- and wouldn't complain if she could- and satisfies his every sexual whim. He ironically observes, "She is more feminine than any woman I have ever known".

    However, as time goes on, something goes wrong with the experiment. The robot begins to develop a personality of its own, and refuses to obey his commands. Soon she is out of control, screwing the mailman, his ex Sabine, and anyone else who comes by the house. The writer does not have the heart to destroy her, but he decides to make another robot to replace her nonetheless- this time a gorgeous ebony creature. But, once again, our man has miscalculated. It is not long before his blonde robot has seduced his ebony creation, and soon neither is obeying his commands. In fact, he is now outnumbered in his own home, and as the film ends he finds that it is now he who is obeying their commands and satisfying their desires. He has became "le homme objet"- the male object. --Steve Genier, http://www.cinema-nocturna.com/nd_pussytalk_review.htm [Jun 2004]

    Blind Beast (1969) - Yasuzo Masumura

    Blind Beast (1969) - Yasuzo Masumura [Amazon.com]

    A blind sculptor kidnaps an artists' model and imprisons her in his warehouse studio--a shadowland of perverse monuments to the female form. Here a deranged passion play of sensual and sexual obsession is acted out in a world where sight is replaced by touch. Japanese New Wave master Yasuzo Masumura's beautiful and terrifying tale of erotic horror, from a short story by Edogawa Rampo, is one of the most dazzlingly stylistic tour de forces in the history of cinema. Fantoma is very proud to present "Blind Beast" uncut and in its original DaieiScope aspect ratio for the first time in the U.S. --Description via amazon.com

    as an artist who has experienced the artist model dynamic first hand, i have to say this is an amazingly imagined film. the old cliched bondage premise -- if you chain and abuse a pretty woman long enough, she will thank you for it -- is given a startling and provocative twist. a diligent and lovely female model encounters a blind man groping a nude statue she posed for, and sneaks away in fear. days later she calls in a massage after a long day's work, only to realize the provider is the same blind groper! too late: she's drugged and hauled off to an old warehouse where she is held captive. the blind man is a sculptor, who wants to create an art of touch, and she is his perfect model. the hook? well, she has to consent to a lot of groping. the rest is an astonishing blend of Hitchcock and Radley Metzger, with a completely audacious conclusion. the acting is passionate throughout -- the artist's speech to the girl disclosing his true intentions is rousing and creepy at the same time -- with many physical and psychological struggles punctuating the characters' gradual union of purpose. one of a kind. --drollere via amazon.com

    One of the most fascinatingly freakish of all the big screen adaptations of the works of Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo is Moju, a.ka.The Blind Beast. This outrageous film from 1969 was directed by the criminally underrated Yasuzo Masumura, director of such powerful melodramas as Kisses (Kuchizuke, 1957), Giants and Toys (Kyojin To Gangu, 1958), the lesbian love-triangle Manji (1964), and Red Angel (Akai Tenshi, 1966). Masumura's early work and essays on film in the late 50s spurred a young Nagisa Oshima and his peers at Shochiku Studios to radically reconfigure the nation's traditional cinema, giving birth to the Japanese New Wave of the 60s in the process.

    Though the plot bears some similarity to John Fowles' powerful novel The Collector, published in 1963 and rather listlessly adapted for the big screen by William Wyler in 1965 with Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar as captor and captured, Moju is based on a rather grotesque tale by Rampo first serialised in the Asahi national newspaper between 1931 and 1932. --Jasper Sharp, http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/moju.shtml, accessed May 2004

    Le Sexe qui parle/Pussy Talk (1975) - Claude Mulot

    Le Sexe qui parle/Pussy Talk (1975) - Claude Mulot [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    The central gimmick - with the action punctuated by shots from the vagina's POV - feels somehow quintessentially French, giving the piece more intellectual gravitas than the likely American model of Deep Throat. The whole alternative title/subtitle Le Sexe qui Parle is replete with double meaning, "the sex" referring to both gender and female genitalia, and allusions to notions to French feminist and psychoanalytic theories of "the sex which cannot speak" - i.e. the female.


    Nevertheless, you just know that someone, somewhere out there is going to discover the film and produce an academic paper exploring Pussy Talk's discourses around self and alterity and masculine constructions of female identity, making heavy-handed use of lines like the one where the pussy informs the reporter to come closer - "don't worry, I don't bite" - or constructing a history of similarly themed entries from Ever Ready the detachable penis-cum-phallus in the 1920s to the present as a history of meconnaissance in the porno genre… K.H. Brown via http://www.kinocite.co.uk/16/1620.php [Jan 2005]

    Known as El Topo while writing for iofilm K H Brown is the founder of Kinocite. He likes most sorts of cinema, so long as it's interesting - mainstream Hollywood need not apply. --.H. Brown http://www.kinocite.co.uk/contributors/1.php [Jan 2005]

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