Thursday, November 19, 2009

Objectification and the Power of ID

It’s no secret that I have some deep-seated and profound objections to being objectified.

Vesta , mouse  and JZ all bring up some concise and illuminating arguments for and against what mouse aptly describes as the “The power of I”.

What is Objectification?

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 an object – sexually or otherwise - and not as an individual. In essence, my view is that these participants find an emotional and physical excitement in being viewed only as a collection of body parts or non-sentient object and not as a multi-faceted unique human being.

There are, of course, different levels and types of objectification. In some arenas, individuals enjoy being used as actual “objects” – as in coffee tables, ottomans, etc. Releasing them from their “humanity” in essence frees them to enter a meditative state wherein they find a measure of peace.

But the objectification I will address in this blog concerns the creation of a “persona” – inevitably a limited, single-faceted creature with little will and simplistic needs.

Either form of objectification is ultimately limited in scope and duration because reality bites – the demands of time and space force one dimensional creations to take on colour and complexity simply because no one is capable of remaining (nor should they) in a singular mindset.

Unfortunately, serious objectification which is expected to be consistent and constant can be considered ‘edge” play in terms of the massive emotional impact it can have on the individual being objectified.

The Science of “I”

I paraphrase here, but in a nutshell, healthy human growth entails several phases. From birth to around three years old, a child needs to hear and experience, often just through gentle, supportive touch, encouragement, affirmation and support for simply being who he or she IS, their thinking noted and approved – i.e. just for “being” they are being enjoyed, encouraged and supported.

As they grow, children’ needs become more complex. Children, as they grow must learn affirmations for power, structure, separation, sexuality and identity – in essence, they are learning the strength of the “I”. For anyone who has been around children, some of the FIRST words most healthy kids express are ‘MINE”, ME” and “I WANT”. Those are crucial to a healthy development of esteem, strength and purpose.

The human internalization of “self” is, to my mind, a consistent and ongoing part of remaining healthy and contributes to the continued growth and understanding of the individual’s own needs. I also feel strongly that one can only enter into a strong relationship if your own ego is intact and healthy – at least a relationship that has a chance of standing the test of time and the inevitable stress with which every life is inundated to a greater or lesser extent.

Different Perspectives

Mis-use, to my mind, can have a profound and negative impact on any individual’s psyche, sense of self and esteem. Mouse points out her former dominant did exactly that – and rather than using objectification to elicit a sensual and piquant nuance to their relationship, used it as a tool to punish and to suppress her sense of identity.

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 think Vesta’s experience to date internalizes much of that. She states “It is an opportunity to feel free and liberated; to live in harmony and at peace.” I don’t in any way wish to disparage or criticize Vesta’s choice and her decision to ostensibly “separate” parts of herself into distinct personalities – it works for her and thus more power to her!

But as is no doubt obvious, I don’t “get it”.

I think life experiences in many cases have a tremendous impact on how an individual internalizes and deals with objectification.

I think in my case, having worked in what was very much a “man’s world” for a good part of my professional life, I quickly learned the negative impacts of being “objectified” as a human being. My ability to write, my intelligence, my coping skills and work ethic were largely irrelevant in comparison to long legs, luxuriant hair and my gender. Being treated as a sexual object when your focus is simply on getting a good story or finding out salient facts about current issues hardly creates a fondness for being seen only in the context of my sexual identity.

On a more internal level, I have always been an introspective, complicated individual who in turn perceives other individuals as similarly multi-faceted. Acceptance and understanding of the myriad complicated and fascinating personality traits of every individual is both a necessity and from a human perspective, crucial to the ultimate comprehension and acceptance of each other’s personal quirks.

Male Perspective

Further, based on some responses I read and other reactions to various articles and blogs I’ve read about objectification, I admit I find it perplexing and frankly, disconcerting that so many self-styled dominants bleat their delight in it!

In one way, I understand it.

Taking the BDSM nuance out of objectification, the presentation of female as object remains a persistent and unfortunate reality both in the past and in the present. Of course I cannot help but surmise that the male ego remains so fragile that many simply cannot deal with the complexity of female psyches. Despite some gains towards equality of gender, the position of females remains inequitable– to a greater or lesser extent dependent on the culture.

When all is said and done, many males simply find the thought of a living, breathing “doll” simply too enchanting for words – after all, what demands does a one-dimensional creature make on a man, either emotionally, physically or spiritually? A “doll” doesn’t need to have her needs taken into consideration; she won’t evaluate or make judgments; nor will “dolls” question or challenge their “owner” in any way.

And, putting the BDSM context back in the equation, anyone who is familiar with the lifestyle ONLY online could not be faulted for thinking THIS lifestyle somehow encourages one-dimensional caricatures! Thank god, those whom I know in the lifestyle in real life are simply other “people” like anyone else – all with their own complicated, multi-faceted quirks! Because as D. has said about other practices we’ve read about here on the world wide web, reality would quickly dissipate the illusion.


I should, at this point, be clear that in the context of a “scene” I find objectification more “palatable” and even understandable. In the context of play it can offer a sensual edge to play. In that context, I do not in any way denigrate or perceive objectification as anything other than another nuance to a sexual relationship or a dynamic.

But I cannot help but wonder that objectification is something desired by many submissives or slaves when it has been my experience that so many struggle with a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. I guess I’m not sure how being objectified somehow reaffirms an individual’s worth.

In short, I think one would have to START (as with Vesta, for instance) with a healthy, strong ID, vigorous self-esteem and a strong, solid relationship before objectification can find a healthy place in the dynamic.


greengirl said...

This has been a thought provoking topic all around. One thought I had was that, even in everyday life, there is a difference between objectification - as in separation of the body from its identity with the person, and those things that separate aspects of the person from itself. It occurred to me as i was getting a hair cut and other girlie things I rarely have done, that we frequently have things done to our bodies that are by nature not addressed to our person. Having my hair cut, my nails done, etc - was all just work on a body part. In this sense it can be very nice. This is carried to further extremes with most medical treatments and this is part of the reason they are often not at all nice.

On the other hand, people play different roles all the time, and to a greater or lesser degree this requires supressing the complex person and presenting only the called for one dimensional person. This is used to advantage in so many group contexts, "There is no 'I' in team." Which of course runs to extremes in the case of religious cults or other fanatical groups.

These (as I see it) two concepts have a useful place at times, but are easily abused.

selkie said...

greengirl, i take your point about separation and objectification as part of every-day life, but I would counter that we do so with individuals who have no impact on our psyches; in short, strangers. The emotional impact occurs when someone who we perceive as emotionally important to us wields the power.

I also agree that we all don “different hats” depending on the need and situation at that time, although I would disagree that there is no “I” in team – I think a “team” works best when you have healthy individuals whose sense of self is STRONG enough to voluntarily give up some autonomy.

As I said in concluding, I have NO issue if objectification is used in the proper context and with full awareness of impact.

Jz said...

Well done, ma'am.
Once again, you express my thoughts better than I do.
Get on that writing course, will ya? Cuz I'm signing up...