From the BDSM Dictionary
Sexual objectification is, in some circumstances, the fetishistic act of regarding a person as an object for erotic purposes. Allen Jones' sculptures "Hat Stand" and "Table Sculpture", made in 1969, which show semi-naked women in the roles of furniture, are clear examples of the depiction of the fantasy of sexual objectification. (This particular interest, a form of sexual bondage that involves making furniture designed to incorporate a bound person, is also known as "forniphilia".)
A desire to be objectified occurs in many men and women's masochistic sexual fantasies. Objectification for fetishistic purposes may provide erotic humiliation for the person so regarded, whether male or female. As with most sexual activities, it is generally viewed as abusive if it is not part of a consensual arrangement, such as in BDSM play.
Although not always the case, individuals who enjoy being objectified are often (usually) masochists as well and enjoy the pain caused by the commensurate humiliation which accompanies being objectified as a sexual object and not as an individual. Thus, these participants find an emotional and physical excitement in being viewed only as a collection of body parts and not as a multi-faceted unique human being. In actual fact, serious objectification could almost be considered ‘edge” play in terms of the massive emotional impact it can have on the individual being objectified.
As a feminist (and yes, I still identify myself as such and act in many ways accordingly, despite being a submissive – and I would mention here that my Master is also very much a feminist), it would most definitely be an activity to be dismissed and railed against. For women have spent the better part of the past several centuries striving to be taken seriously as individuals and not merely a pair of breasts, a set of legs, a firm ass…
In the context of BDSM, however, it is a fairly common practice and as the objectification is CONSENUAL – i.e. the individual being objectified has agreed to the practice (and in many case, actively sought it out), then there is nothing wrong with it.
That is the crux of the distinction – like many of practices, if the individual consents, is comfortable with and actively desires the activity – be it flogging, edge play, objectification or anything else, then there should be no issue with its practice.
From my own perspective, both as the aforementioned feminist and as an individual, I HATE it. I find it emotionally and spiritually damaging to be objectified in any context. In BDSM terms, this is a VERY hard limit for me and I am thankful my Master understands the negative impact such a practice would exert on my emotional well being and despite being a sadist, he is a sane, thoughtful and loving human being and respects my limit in this respect.
From a rational perspective, I understand the emotional impact that some receive from being objectified – in one way, it is a form of freedom to have everything that individualizes you discounted, thus releasing you from responsibility for subsequent actions and freeing you from any moral constraints which might impede following a desired imperative.
I guess I find it curious, however, that objectification is something desired by a submissive or slave when it has been my experience that so many of us struggle with our sense of self-esteem and self-worth. I guess I’m not sure how being objectified somehow reaffirms an individual’s worth.