Introduction: Sexual objectification is a familiar concept. Once a relatively technical term in feminist theory, associated in particular with the work of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, the word “objectification” has by now passed into many people’s daily lives. It is common to hear it used to criticize advertisements, films, and other representations, and also to express skepticism about the attitudes and intentions of one person to another, or of oneself to someone else. Generally it is used as a pejorative term, connoting a way of speaking, thinking, and acting that the speaker finds morally or socially objectionable, usually, though not always, in the sexual realm. Thus, Catharine MacKinnon writes of pornography, “Admiration of natural physical beauty becomes objectification. Harmlessness becomes harm.”‘ The portrayal of women “dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities” is, in fact, the first category of pornographic material made actionable under MacKinnon and Dworkin’s proposed Minneapolis ordinance.2 The same sort of pejorative use is very common in ordinary social discussions of people and events.
Comment: Seminal paper distinguishing seven features of sexual objectification. An excellent introduction to any class on feminism.