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Once upon a time, a young woman had intimate relations with several student athletes around her same age. She giggled and gossiped of her conquests to her girlfriends, with whom she developed a rating system to rank the boys on various aspects of performance and attractiveness. Her friends, being fickle and jealous that her sexual success was greater than theirs, unabashedly turned around and told all their friends about the incidents, who in turn told their friends who told their friends, you get the picture. Pretty soon, the whole school, (and, it seemed, everyone in the world), knew what this girl had done. She was predictably shunned, because she was a “whore” who had acted especially inappropriately by objectifying and sexualizing these poor, hardworking boys.
This girl went to my high school. The story is one I find banal and commonplace—a detestable display of immaturity and sexism on everyone’s part. I know many people at my current school who can recount similar stories of sexual liaisons and the unfortunate consequences that subsequently arose.
So why, dear people, did some feel the need to ostracize and pick apart the former Duke student who also (gasp!) had sex and chose to recount said episodes to her friends? Who among us is truly without sin to cast the first kiss-and-tell-stone?
Despite where you think this is going, this time I’m actually not going to resort to the worn trope of “If she had been a man, this wouldn’t have happened” (although it’s probably true). I’m also not going to mention the fact that if she had been a man, her subjects would have been considered sluts who were “asking for it,” and she would probably have gotten off scot-free.
Instead, I believe the reason the Duke student’s “thesis” has attracted so much attention and dialogue is that people have finally realized that men can also be objectified and sexualized. One particularly enlightened commenter on the gossip blog Jezebel wrote “…I found myself getting somewhat angry and hurt on behalf of some of the athletes being objectified. Being called ‘subject’ and being given an aggregate on the quality of sex *is* humiliating. My view of sexual objectification has been changed, because it’s rare that the downside of male sexual objectification is explored—you can be put on a pedestal, but you can also be discarded.”
So men have realized that, in fact, they’re not OK with being judged only on their looks. A group of people valued only for their reproductive prowess and objective attractiveness? What are they, slabs of meat? Has this girl no sense of decency or value for human companionship?
The very nature of a “hookup” is mutual objectification. It’s the spontaneity of meeting an attractive person who also finds you attractive and taking advantage of the momentary connection of “I find you sexy. Let’s play.” There’s rarely the desire, time, or presence of mind if alcohol is involved, to evaluate the person based on their personality or accomplishments. From the moment eyes lock, both parties know how the night is going to end. Any further chitchat simply serves to seal the deal.
Objectification happens, and, believe it or not, it often happens to men. Yes, girls talk. And yes, we talk about the penis size and body quality of the last guy we saw naked. We all need to relax, and stop being jealous that this woman’s sex life and thesis are far more interesting that ours.
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