I like to be objectified

I'm independent, I'm a feminist, but I like men to tell me I'm just a sex object

Topics: Sex, Since You Asked, Feminism, women,

I like to be objectified (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I’m a young, vibrant woman. A feminist, you could even say. I’m the first to speak out against a womanizer or misogynist. I sign petitions and spread the news about anti-women politicians. I believe in women’s rights above anything else. I reject old ideas about gender roles or the customs surrounding them.

When I’m having sex, all I want is to be objectified.

It doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t as if I want a man I’m sleeping with to think I’m nothing more than something for him to use, but I do want him to tell me that. It’s puzzling because, like I said, I would classify myself as a feminist. It makes me upset to think I might be just like all the other women out there who allow themselves to be nothing more than an object for men.

But I can’t help what I want — even if I don’t really want it.

Why are my kinks so not in tune with the rest of my personality? I grew up feeling like the boys around me were all judging me in their heads, and that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t good enough for them. I constantly felt — and still feel, sometimes — like I’m not good enough for the men I want relationships with. Could that be why my sexual kinks are so off? I’m so sensitive to sexism that I think my view of men has become skewed.

Why am I so messed up when it comes to sex?

I Hate My Kinks

Dear Hater of Your Kinks,

This activity that you enjoy might have many meanings and purposes. It may be a form of play in which you embody your own powerlessness and thus deflate it. It may be a way of doing what you fear most in order to get over the fear. It may just get you hot. Whatever its meaning, I suggest you grant it an appropriate share of mystery, much as desire itself is largely mysterious. And if it seems dangerous and subversive and scary, then talk with other women.

Feminism did not begin as an orthodoxy to be followed. It began with women getting together to ask what the hell was going on — in their sex lives, at work, in their marriages and dating, in their dreams and private moments, with their children and families. They did not change the world by creating a code of conduct and following it. They changed the world by helping each other see themselves as they really were, and then saying, If this is the way we really are, then the world must change to accommodate us!

So I would say that your enemy is not yourself and your inclinations. Your enemy is orthodoxy. Your task is to face who you really are.

In the early years of feminism, women discovered, by talking honestly with each other, that they were deeply unhappy in their roles. They asked why, in this rich world, they should be so unhappy. They asked why they had certain self-images and beliefs about themselves. They asked why they were limiting themselves. They admitted the things that scared them and humiliated them and made them angry and baffled.

In figuring out why they were unhappy they found that in some cases the world really was against them. Massive forces were deliberately arrayed against their aspirations. In other cases they themselves had taken on beliefs that limited them. Most important, they asked, What the hell is going on and how can we change it?

Consciousness-raising begets revolution, which begets orthodoxy. Now some 40 years after the tumultuous and exciting 1970s, certain received notions have been canonized. The orthodoxy says you are supposed to be a confident, self-assured woman who enjoys sex with men who respect you and treat you with dignity. But this orthodoxy does not spring organically from the complex and contradictory mix of feelings and desires that is who you really are.

That is why I think that consciousness-raising is not a means to an end but an end in itself: Because our consciousness will be always changing, we must always be inquiring of ourselves, Who are we and what do we need?

Orthodoxies calcify. They must periodically be overturned. You must always be overturning orthodoxies, always be questioning when things don’t feel right, what is going on, why you feel uneasy around certain people, why life feels like slavery, why you feel you are being lied to, why you sense that you are being manipulated or that power is being used against you in a way that you can only dimly perceive. Always be questioning these things, because they are real. The world is manipulating you all the time; it is always deploying force against you. You know this to be true, at least in some dim way. The task of consciousness raising is to bring these dim fragments of consciousness to light and by sharing them with others build them into a pattern that finally makes sense: Aha! We’re being oppressed and manipulated so we can be sold to!

Once women were a source of free labor and were being exploited that way. Now women are exploited because women are a market.

Every act against orthodoxy is subversive. Every contradiction you admit empowers you to be more fully who you are, without apology or explanation; every time you honor the mystery of who you are, you weaken authoritarian rule and create more space for the individual in all her contradiction and whimsy and intrigue.

All orthodoxy is enslaving. Liberal orthodoxy, communist orthodoxy, feminist orthodoxy, Freudian orthodoxy, right-wing orthodoxy, Cary Tennis orthodoxy, self-discovery orthodoxy, therapeutic orthodoxy, the orthodoxy of I care so much about you, the orthodoxy of Jungian archetypes.

Self-discovery is perpetual revolution.

Your enemy is not yourself and your inclinations. Your enemy is orthodoxy.

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