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[personal profile] foliumnondefluet
Quoted definitions, with comments.

From the American Psychological Association:

There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Healthy sexuality is an important component of both physical and mental health, fosters intimacy, bonding, and shared pleasure, and involves mutual respect between consenting partners. In contrast, sexualization occurs when

* a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

* a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

* a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

* sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.

The full report is here.

Notes: I find the above definition unfortunate in how it is completely vague about the meaning of "sexuality", "value", "standard", "inappropriate" etc that it uses. When terms like this are vaguely defined, they risk becoming just a "Bad" label that people will slap on anything they dislike.

I also find more than a little weird that the APA defines "sexualisation", a supposedly unhealthy form of sexuality, entirely in terms of the "target" - the supposedly unhealthy person doing the sexualizing is entirely written out of the definition by using passive voice!

Obviously the goal of the definition is to judge - media representation in particular. But a representation doesn't value or impose standards or have a sexuality; only people have the subjectivity to do so.

Suppose one wanted to use the above criteria to determine if a character in a specific comic was "sexualized"...

* a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics

"Value" is not objective (or doesn't exist, depending on one's philosophical approach), also they can't mean that a character's value is *objectively* restricted to "sexual appeal", so it seems like they ARE assuming a (hypothetical) observer who is not valuing the character's other characteristics. In which case, it's not the comic that's "sexualising" the character, but the hypothetical observer.

* a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy

It's rather unclear what "held to a standard" means in this context. People find lots of different things sexy. I can safely assume that most lesbians don't find me sexy. That doesn't say anything about *me* though. Suppose I only find tall blond blue-eyed women with breast implants "sexy". That's not really a choice on my part, unfortunate though it would be. For judging our hypothetical comic, what does this *mean*? The author puts a caption saying "this person is sexy because he has a huge penis"? Or is it again a hypothetical observer that is supposedly holding the character to a standard?

What I personally believe (but the APA probably didn't have in mind) is that there DOES exist an unfortunate trend to equate or conflate aesthetic attractiveness with sexual attractiveness, and that this has unfortunate ramifications.

* a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making

Again, the character is "not seen" as having the capacity for independent action - in whose mind? If we're talking about "sexual use" of porny pictures... a picture IS an object. Using a representation of a person is not using the person. Throwing darts at a photo is different from throwing darts at people. Most people are capable of understanding this difference.

* sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person

Can sexuality be "appropriately" imposed upon a person? By whose standards of propriety? In the case of a fictional comic character, how is anything "imposed" (or not imposed) on them? Is sexuality inappropriately imposed upon Minnie May from Gunsmith Cats because she's written as a minor? Would she be any less "sexualized" if the story wasn't explicit about her age? And isn't it the complainer who fails to see the character as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making, rather deciding that sexuality was "imposed" on them? No, what this last point seems to really mean is that the person deviates from "appropriate" normative sexual behavior. And because women and children have no agency, you know, this must have been "imposed" on them.

I find the whole issue of having it "imposed" to be rather sketchy, since it doesn't really say what that means. I suspect they consider "age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality" to be "imposing sexuality (appropriately) upon a person". Which, if true, indicates an almost absurdly broad definition of "sexuality", where something like sex education at the "inappropriate" age counts as "imbuing children with adult sexuality". I hate vague stuff like this - it makes it so you can't pronounce in favor of comprehensive sex education without sounding like you're disagreeing that forcing kids to have sex is bad.

For objectification, I'm quoting the definition of Martha Nussbaum.

1. Instrumentality: The objectifier treats the object as a tool of his or her purposes.
2. Denial of autonomy: The objectifier treats the object as lacking in autonomy and self-determination.
3. Inertness: The objectifier treats the object as lacking in agency,and perhaps also in activity.
4. Fungibility: The objectifier treats the object as interchangeable (a) with other objects of the same type, and/or (b) with objects of other types.
5. Violability: The objectifier treats the object as lacking in boundary- integrity, as something that it is permissible to break up, smash, break into.
6. Ownership: The objectifier treats the object as something that is owned by another, can be bought or sold, etc.
7. Denial of subjectivity: The objectifier treats the object as something whose experience and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

This list at least focuses on "the objectifier", which however makes it almost impossible to apply to media representations. On the other hand, the list can be successfully applied to many of those who complain about objectification and sexualisation of women and girls - in other words, they have themselves become objectifiers, as pointed out by Jennifer Wilson in

1. They make an example of particular images to prove an ideological point. This is instrumentality.
2. They believe the subject has somehow been forced or manipulated into being the subject. If they are a child they argue they are too young to consent. Thus they deny the subject’s autonomy and self-determination.
3. Following point 2 they believe the subject is passive; a victim. Thus they view the subject as inert.
4. They lump all such images together and generalise. This is fungibility.
5. They make of the image what they will and do not consider how the subject wants the image to be seen. In other words, they do not respect the boundaries of the subject. This is violability.
6. They assert that there is only one way to view the image, this is a form of intellectual or interpretive ownership.
7. They do not take into account the experience, feelings or opinion of the subject.

When notions of - largely middle class - moral propriety are disturbed, this discomfort is pathologised as objectification, and extrapolated as threatening to all women and girls, who as a consequence will be regarded as nothing more than sex objects for male gratification. The "harm to the subject" is really irrelevant; the real issue is moral disapproval of the images.

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