And that is this:
There seems to be a lot of hostility towards attraction.
This is only true, it seems, of physical attraction. Has anyone else noticed that? It has gotten to the point where one can't even say something as seemingly innocuous as, "Oooh, they're cute/hot/good looking!" of someone walking past without offending the company you're in.
I have a number of theories as to why this might be the case. Not least of all is the weird societal taboo regarding anything that involves sex and everything surrounding sex; including physical attraction. From an outsider's perspective, I find this really odd. Sex is perfectly normal and natural. Physical attraction is the same. It's perfectly normal and natural.
I don't think demonising it is really all that healthy. I don't think it's right to try and smother it. That, in my opinion, serves to do nothing but add to the shame and stigma around it all.
And there shouldn't be shame and stigma surrounding sex. As long as everyone involved are safe, considerate, and consenting, then people should be having as much or as little as they choose however they choose; no shame.
Now, what can be problematic are the behaviours surrounding physical attraction. If someone doesn't know how to handle physical attraction (because they weren't taught... because even discussing it is taboo), then things can get tricky. There are two major problematic behaviours surrounding physical attraction that I have been able to identify.
Note: I am not an expert, this is just stuff I've noticed and thought about.
This is not the same as merely admitting physical attraction, though it seems that the two are often conflated. They may be siblings, but they aren't the same beast. Objectification happens when a person is reduced to their physical attributes to the exclusion of all else; their very personhood is stripped away. How is this different from commenting to friends about a complete stranger's attractiveness as they walk past?
Is the person walking past still a person to the person commenting? If not, then yes, that's objectification and it should stop. But if the person commenting manages to respect that person's personhood, then simply noting attraction is not, to my mind, objectification.
Reducing someone's worth in the world to whether or not they give you funny feelings in your groin area is absolutely objectification. Reducing someone to their physical features at the expense of their personhood is no good, very bad, terrible.
But it is possible to feel physical attraction to someone while also respecting their value as a whole person.
It's confusing, because the two things seem so closely linked, and I'm probably not explaining it well.
The problem, I think, stems from the fact that sex is seen as something terrible, wrong, and sinful (despite ALL evidence to the contrary (it's super good for your health, for example)), and so anyone who inspires those feelings must also be terrible, wrong, and sinful, and therefore beneath all consideration. I don't think this is a conscious thing. I don't think that there is any conscious thought in this direction. But I do think it is something that lies hidden in our experience of sexuality and physical attraction.
It's part of the reason why slut-shaming is a thing, as if anyone who enjoys sex and has the ability to attract lots of mates ought to somehow be ashamed of it. To borrow internet parlance:
Now this is a huge, huge, HUGE issue. As much as MRAs might tell you otherwise, there seems to be a long-standing undercurrent of entitlement that follows sex and all the things surrounding it; particularly in the demographic of (sorry, not sorry) white men.
Entitlement has given us the term "friendzone," which is one of the most ridiculous concepts I think I've ever heard. The assumption that just because someone feels attracted to someone they deserve to have that feeling returned is ludicrous, and incredibly damaging.
There is also, more frighteningly, an idea that simply because someone feels attracted to someone else, they deserve to have that person, regardless of how that person feels.
This entitlement permeates everything, turning physical attraction—a normal, natural part of life as a human being—into something sinister and deeply uncomfortable.
Of course, with something that heavy hanging over people's heads, the expression of physical attraction becomes deeply problematic.
If you doubt that entitlement is a huge issue, I strongly urge you to read through When Women Refuse. It can be quite triggering, though, for those of us who have been in terrifying situations, so approach with caution.
Too often, the person experiencing the attraction makes it the problem of the person they're attracted to.
That's not on. The problem is yours, not theirs. You deal with it.
Note: I am using a general "you" here. This is not aimed at you specifically. It's a theoretical "you."
As difficult as it is to untangle physical attraction from entitlement, it can be done. I think we can all agree that it should be done.
With the demonisation of sex, and all the entitlement, objectification and other unhealthy behaviours surrounding it, I completely get why some people would be absolutely uncomfortable with the expression of physical attraction. It has all this baggage attached to it.
That's not physical attraction's fault. That's ours.
We heaped all this baggage on physical attraction. That means we can take it off again.
I'm all for normalising physical attraction. I don't think people should feel ashamed about feeling it. I do think that normalisation of it will help. It is, after all, a perfectly normal fact of life for most people (obviously not all). I think trying to suppress it as something shameful is not the way to go.
I think we really need to talk about it, and use that conversation to teach what is appropriate behaviour when experiencing attraction, and what is not. That means we have to get real honest with ourselves, and deconstruct tough and painful issues like entitlement, and objectification and so on.
This kind of work, as anyone who had done the work on an individual level knows, is hard, and painful and extremely confronting. We're getting there, I think, however slowly.
That's why I don't generally have any issues with silly games like Fuck, Marry, Kill (the more innocent version is Kiss, Marry, Kill because killing isn't nearly as bad as fucking. Or something). That said, I totally understand why some people would. There is so much baggage attached to everything around that game, I can see why some people find it uncomfortable, if not straight up offensive.
Similarly, I don't have issues with friends mentioning to me how physically attracted to celebrities/strangers they are. I don't find it offensive. It's perfectly normal to me. Thankfully, none of my friends are creepy about it. It's never tinged with entitlement. Nor do my friends express a lack of respect for the personhood of the person they're attracted to.
What about you? Are you one of those people who finds any expression of physical attraction akin to objectification? Do you agree or disagree with anything I've said? I'd love to hear about it. Comments are open. Idiocy will be deleted.
Ain't nobody got time for that.