"Objectification" is a common buzzword used to describe one aspect of societal misogyny. But what exactly does it mean to objectify somebody? How do you know is someone, such as a date, is objectifying you? It can be hard to even notice because objectification is such a common, everyday experience for women. But it shouldn't be, and the more you can spot red flags and trust your ability to respond to them, the less likely it is that you'll have to put up with objectification at the hands of a date — or anyone else.
We often discuss objectification as something the media accomplishes through depictions of women assuming passive poses, being used by men, and in some cases literally being compared to objects. But individuals can also objectify women. People objectify women when they talk about them as potential sexual conquests, define them by their sexual behavior, treat them like children who need to be protected, or act like women owe them something. All these behaviors are pretty common to find on dates, since dating can be a bastion of gender roles.
Here are some signs that your date could be objectifying you — and why they could mean bad things for a potential relationship.
1. They Approached You With A Generic Line
Whether it's a pickup line or a copied-and-pasted message on a dating site, a greeting that doesn't acknowledge anything about your personality can be a sign that someone is purely focused on your looks. Sure, looks are the first thing you notice about someone, but liking someone's looks should be an impetus to get to know them more, and that involves asking about your thoughts and feelings.
2. They Label You
One way the media and individuals objectify women is by classifying them into "types." From the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the intellectual in sexy cat-eye glasses to the "slutty" sexually empowered woman, these types don't encapsulate real people and usually define women in relation to what they can offer others, particularly men. If someone tells you that you seem like "a real firecracker" or "a femme fatale," chances are they're trying to fit you into one of these narrow cultural scripts. You should be able to be quirky without getting compared to a fictional character.
3. They Bring Up Sex Too Soon
Now that there are a ton of hookup apps purely for the purpose of sex, it can be hard to figure out how physical your date wants things to get. But what holds true no matter how you met is that it's never OK to assume they want anything you haven't previously discussed. If someone asks you for intimate details about your sex life, brings up their own, or comments on your body when you've just met, that may be a sign that they don't see you as more than a potential sexual partner.
4. They Insist On Practicing Chivalry
I'm not suggesting that you reject someone for offering to pay for dinner, but if you decline that kind of offer and they insist — and insist, and insist, and insist — that could be a sign that they need to feel like the "man" in the relationship (even if they're not actually a man). This can objectify the other person by putting them in a subordinate role that requires them to be protected and cared for, never allowing them agency of their own.
5. They Pay Undue Attention To Your Looks
Part of dating is noticing someone else's looks, and that's OK. But if the way someone's looking at you or talking about your looks feels creepy, it probably is. You should not need to remind your date where your eyes are.
6. They Claim To Be A "Nice Guy"
If someone needs to say they're a "nice guy," they're probably not — and they're probably saying it because they feel you owe them something for being so "nice." The proclamation that someone is a "nice guy" stems from a belief that women are rewards men get for exhibiting kindness or other desirable traits, rather than human beings who get to decide for themselves whether or not they'll date someone.
7. They Objectify Someone Else
A great barometer of how someone views you is how they view others. If someone makes an objectifying comment about an ex, a celebrity, or someone working at the establishment where your date takes place, that's a sign that they view women — or people in general — as objects. It's unlikely that you're the one exception.
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