Object relations.

09Jan09

Sometimes I make them into things. I have an ash tray, a foot rest, a carpet. I drag on my cigarette and tap my ash into the palm of his hand. I rest my heels up on his back. I wipe my feet on his shoulders. I make the men I play with into objects, sometimes. And my god, is it fun.

Feminists will warn you about the evils of objectification, to take a person and turn them into nothing but an object. They usually aren’t referring to the kind of object play that I get into, but to servers at Hooters, sex workers, women walking down the street. They are usually talking about the collective Man turning the woman from a sentient being into an object of sexual desire.

When we were walking back from espresso or something, an ex of mine and I were arguing about pornography once. This was many, many, many years ago, back when I was a fledgling feminist and fairly certain that I thought I agreed with Dworkin, McKinnon, and Company. And he said to me, But it’s fun. It’s fun to be an object sometimes.

And I began to process that, and now it is part of my everyday sexuality. I get off on it. Yet, there is a difference. There is this kind of fun sex play of objectification. Those I turn into objects, I turn back into people. The kind of objectification that is decried as evil is the kind perpetrated by the Male Gaze, turning Woman into the sum total of her sexual promise.

I’m being glib. There is a certain amount of exploitation in any economic exchange, especially when men hold the money and women hold the body. To say otherwise is really a denial of the functioning of male privilege.

And yet I think many, many people cling to this concept of the evils of objectification to rally for the abolition of sex work. Which is really odd, to me. End sex work, okay. Well, how? End poverty? End the exchange of goods or services for money? Sounds to me more like you would have to end the economic systems the entire world is currently built on.

Perhaps I misread Marx a long time ago. But really, work makes us all into objects. Or partial objects. We are the sum total of what we do for each other for money. Someone controls the exchange. Someone is exploited for their surplus value.

What I want is a more complex dialogue, a more nuanced discussion of the messy, sordid lives of individuals. It is not so simple as to say that all sex work is the objectification of women’s bodies, and therefore, it is wrong. In some ways, I wish it could be that simple. I wish it could be that way or the sex work is an empowering act of reclaiming the body way. These are two polar opposites on a continuum. Neither purely exists. There is the in between. Can we talk about that now?

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