Objectifying Women was once Bad but now may be Good according to a Yale Professor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2013

Week in Review

Objectifying women is bad.  For it dehumanizes a woman.  Makes her a thing.  And not a person.  Then again, some are now saying that objectifying women actually humanizes them.  For when we see women in pornography we ascribe them feelings.  Feel empathy for them as they writhe in sexual ecstasy.  And feel compassion for them as they end a sex scene in the classic porn ending.  Which is why men watch pornography, I guess.  To feel closer to these women.  And lament that they can’t ask them how they feel.  And what they’re thinking.  At least according to a Yale professor (see New York Times Op-Ed Finds the Upside to Objectifying Women. What a Relief. by Amanda Hess posted 12/3/2013 on Slate).

What do we think about when we think about naked people? In the New York Times this weekend, Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom says that it’s time to rethink the theory of objectification. The feminist argument is that when people are depicted in sexualized contexts, “the objectifier (typically a man) thinks of the target of his desire (typically a woman) as a mere thing, lacking autonomy, individuality and subjective experience.” Bloom argues that the objectification process is actually more complicated: While focusing on people’s bodies as opposed to their minds does decrease our perceptions of their ability “to act, plan and exert self-control,” he writes, it can actually increase our perceptions of their capacity to “feel pain, pleasure and emotions.” When we look at people in a sexual context (or catch a peek at them without their clothes on), we’re less likely to ascribe them agency, but we’re more likely to ascribe them feelings. That could actually inspire greater empathy toward the objectified party—a silver lining to the focus on flesh…

To Bloom, the findings are hopeful. “Part of the effect of nudity that our study found is morally positive—it’s usually a good thing to be more attuned to someone else’s ability to experience,” he writes. Bloom’s interpretation of human psychology could even make us feel less bad about ourselves for watching porn. “It’s not literally true that women in pornography are thought of as inanimate and unfeeling objects; if they were, then they would just as effectively be depicted as unconscious or unresponsive, as opposed to (as is more often the case) aroused and compliant,” he writes. Looking at naked people can “trigger disgust, fear, and hatred,” Bloom says, but it can also “elicit empathy and compassion.”

Interestingly, the same week this article appeared this article was published (see ‘She wanted to be a superstar’: Never-before-seen photographs of Linda Lovelace, aged 24, reveal her attempts at becoming ‘a legitimate actress’ by Sadie Whitelocks posted 12/4/2013 on the Daily Mail).

Despite the two movies making her a household name, Lovelace later spoke out against pornography in speeches to universities and governments.

‘When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped,’ she boldly stated in a 1986 official inquiry into the sex industry. ‘It is a crime that movie is still showing. There was a gun to my head the entire time.’

For her old friends in the business, though, she was labeled a traitor; they sneeringly coined the term ‘Linda Syndrome’ to describe former porn stars who later try to disown their seedy careers.

The exhibition’s photographs reveal, even before Lovelace made Deep Throat II, that she was keen to get out of the adult entertainment industry.

If you’re unfamiliar with the film Deep Throat you can look it up on IMDB or Wikipedia or some other online source.  Suffice it to say that this movie objectified Linda Susan Boreman (who was Linda Lovelace).  And then some.  Sadly she passed away in 2002 after a serious auto accident at the age of 53.

Boreman would probably not have agreed with this Yale professor.  Of course, she might have done so only because she wanted to disown her seedy career in the adult entertainment industry that objectified her.  But it does beg the question why is Yale studying naked women?  A bastion of liberalism.  And feminism.  I mean, this is the kind of thing you would expect to read in Playboy.  Not in a paper from an Ivy League university.  Then again Playboy has a special relationship with the Ivy League.  Putting out a few pictorial specials objectifying women of the Ivy League.  Maybe they’re planning a return to Yale.  And this is just to make the coeds comfortable in shedding their clothes in front of the camera.  So we can study their nude bodies.  Feel empathy for them.  And compassion.  As we study their nakedness.  For socio-scientific purposes, of course.



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