Undressing objectification: The ideal sexual partners

| Sex Columnist

One intriguing viral sensation of late is Karen Owen’s faux senior thesis, referred to as a “fuck list,” that documents and rates her hook ups with thirteen men over the course of her four years as an undergrad. While some readers are outraged and disgusted, others are proud and amused that one woman singlehandedly shook our “progressive” society by taking pride in and ownership of her sexuality. Her “thesis” got me thinking about this common practice of rating the opposite sex. What criteria are we using to judge each other?

Women and their ideal sexual partner
Have a good body. When I surveyed a random selection of seven female peers about how they characterized their ideal sexual partner, six out of the seven emphasized physical appearance, using descriptors like “good body,” “nice body,” “fit” and “lean, muscular body.” Beyond listing “nice calves” and “abs,” no girl specified the criteria that she used to measure physical appearance. Only one female, a junior, described her ideal without discussing physical appearance; instead she seeks “someone who is knowledgeable and skilled and interested in the pleasure of both partners.”

Turn me on with your good body and your personality so I can get to know your sexual side. Two females used good body and sexual prowess as indicators of ideal males, but with the stipulation of an emotional connection—a senior female described her ideal sexual partner as “a well-dressed guy with a nice body, especially nice calves, who thinks I’m the hottest shit since white bread. He should be kinky in the bedroom, but we must have an emotional connection first.” The “emotional connection” was valued in every response.

Men and their ideal sexual partner
My survey of 13 males generated much more specific and disparate guidelines for measuring their ideal sexual partners.

Be experienced. Three males, a senior and two juniors, described their ideal sexual partners as women who “know what they’re doing.”

Try new things with me. A sophomore male described his ideal sexual partner as a female who “wants to try new things,” and a junior male described his ideal sexual partner as a female who is “adventurous and likes to have fun.”

Don’t be overly sexual, but be comfortable and confident with yourself in public. A sophomore male better explained this ideal as “someone who is confident socially but not whoreish.”

Impress me with your natural beauty, but don’t let go. A sophomore male explained, “the most beautiful women look beautiful without make-up, but I also like it when a girl tries to look good for me because then you know she wants to impress you.” Have curves, but don’t be too curvy. A sophomore male described his ideal woman as having a “nice ass, but not a donk, just a nice ass, nothing too big or overwhelming.” Another response, from a senior male, elicited a “soccer player’s legs but not-too-big thighs” as his ideal.

Despite the conflicting ideals found throughout the survey, there is unrivaled attention on every part of the female body in our culture.

Our “objectifying obsession” is not limited to the opposite sex. We idealize bodies of supermodels, athletes and actors of the same sex too. Just last year, I plastered the walls of my dorm with pictures of Bar Rafaeli torn out of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, infatuated with what I thought was unbelievable bodily perfection.

But over the last several months I have changed my views. I have a newfound, much-deeper appreciation and respect for those who can resist obsessing about who or what they’re not like and can instead focus on gaining strength and fulfillment from their individuality.

The more we continue to objectify our sexual partners and ourselves, the more we let others’ ideals dominate our perceptions and influence how we see ourselves. The more we measure our self-worth by someone else’s standards and the more we deny ourselves our individuality, the more we feel insecure and unfulfilled. These problems are compounded as we constantly fight “to measure up” to these constantly evolving, extremely diverse and conflicting—and therefore unattainable—physical ideals.

So rather than secretly applauding Karen Owen’s “thesis” for legitimizing a woman’s right to objectify men as well, we need to start appreciating the diverse beauty of every human body—even Bar Rafaeli’s—in order to appreciate who we are inside our bodies.