5 Painfully Basic Signs He's Objectifying You

Objectification is a serious red flag for any relationship.

Is he attracted to you or just objectifying you Africa images | Canva

A study published in 2014 in Psychology Of Women Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal, showed that objectification can be linked to sexual coercion in romantic relationships. This is not surprising, for several reasons. 

The article "The Object of Desire: How Being Objectified Creates Sexual Pressure for Women in Heterosexual Relationships" explains that objectification is linked to sexual violence, stating: "An online survey of 119 heterosexual men in the United States demonstrated that men who frequently survey their partners’ bodies are more likely to sexually pressure and coerce their partners — primarily because partner-surveillance is related to feelings of shame regarding one’s partner’s body, which in turn is related to increased sexual pressure and coercion." 


In other words, having someone objectify your body will lead you to feel shame, which is, according to this study, linked to sexual coercion. Coercion, of course, is not a strong foundation for a healthy relationship, which should be founded on mutual respect. And it's not the same as someone being truly attracted to you.

If you feel shamed into sexual activity, that is a serious red flag for abuse in a relationship — whether it's a long-term relationship like a marriage or a short-term one like a hookup. 

While this is a small, self-reported study (which has some inherent limitations), it does open up a bigger conversation about sexual objectification, and the narrow line between sexual attraction and objectification. 


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So how do you tell the difference between healthy attraction and the objectification of women? Even more importantly, what are the warning signs that you would want to watch out for in a relationship or when getting to know someone? How will you know if he's attracted to you or just "using" you to objectify you?

We would all like to enjoy the healthy attraction and be able to separate it from unhealthy objectification with many risk factors. First, let's think about the mindset that someone is in when they tend to objectify another person physically. Someone who does this is by definition in an immature state of mind. When we are very young, we see the world as made of up many small parts. It takes a great deal of maturity to see how these parts fit together and to consequently view people as "whole objects," or whole people.

When we are less mature, we view people more as "objects" that serve a specific need or role in a particular moment. This is a natural part of development when we are children and incapable of meeting all of our own needs on our own. However, healthy development includes respecting others as people in their own right, with their own needs, limitations, and good and bad parts. A man or a woman who sees another individual as an object is seeing them through the lens of being able to satisfy a particular need — period. They cannot think about the whole person or consequently a healthy, mature relationship, especially a romantic or sexual one.  


So how do we tell the difference, especially in the early stages of a relationship where hormones and attraction chemistry can be running on high?!

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Here are 5 painfully basic signs he's objectifying you:

1. He focuses overwhelmingly on a body part or a specific look

A healthy attraction can take genuine pleasure or appreciation in a trait or look, but views it as a part of a whole personality.  

2. He's not attracted to your whole personality — just one aspect

When a person seems exclusively attracted to or focused upon concrete details that can be experienced as separate from the whole personality, this should be a big red flag. For instance, if someone seems particularly focused on the way you look in a certain heeled shoe, this can be separated from you as a person — anyone can wear this shoe. If, on the other hand, they compliment you on the way your love of skiing has created great tone in your legs that are shown off in your new heels — they are appreciating you as a person with likes and particularities that make you an individual.  


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3. He doesn't talk about other people as whole individuals

They will not tend to see the world in black or white — they will be able to talk about their boss, family, or friends as having good and bad traits. A person who objectifies will tend to see some people as all good and others as all bad and will talk about other people in their lives in fairly shallow terms.  

4. He doesn't have the capacity for true empathy

This is because when we see others as whole people, we also can see through their eyes, appreciate how they are different from us, and recognize their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. These capacities are associated with empathy for another person's point of view. If you are dating someone who does not seem to be able to empathize with you or with others, you may want to pay closer attention to their relationship with your body as well. They may show other signs of objectifying you.  

5. He takes short-lived but intense pleasure in a look, body part, or sexual experience

Objectified pleasure does not extend into a true appreciation that can lead to appreciation and pleasure in the subtler dimensions of your body or an intimate experience. Again, this goes back to the way that objectification is about fulfilling an immediate need. Once that need is satiated, the subject's attention tends to move on to something else — the next need on the horizon.   


Remember, most people do not fit into extremes — either all objectification or none. Instead, pay attention to the trends in your relationship. And most importantly, pay attention to how you feel! When someone is objectifying you, you are likely to feel less appreciated. Your pleasure may feel shallow or short-lived. You may notice your attention drifting, your mind wandering, wondering what your partner is feeling. You will tend to feel less genuinely connected if objectification is present. Pay attention to these signs, as they can be red flags to more serious issues down the road.

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Dr. Perrin Elisha is a psychologist, psychoanalyst, author, and teacher who helps clients get to the root of and heal their relational difficulties.