Yes, Your Significant Other Can Still Objectify You

To be objectified is to be a woman. It’s simply something that comes with the title, much like a first period, a first kiss, and a first date does. A “playful” slap on the ass and a, “wow, your tits look great in that shirt” later—and bam, you’re officially a woman. Yet, no one seems to warn us that this predatory behavior is not exclusive to masked men dark alleyways, nor to strangers who drive by in their cars, call us “baby,” ask us to “give ‘em a smile.” This happens in the hallways of our schools. This happens at parties with our closest friends. And perhaps most depressing of all, it happens in our seemingly happy relationships.  

I remember the first time a boyfriend of mine asked me to “send nudes.” I also remember feeling unsure of why exactly I had felt so uncomfortable. After all, this was someone I loved. This was someone I trusted. If I was really in love with him, then didn’t he have every right to ask? I mean, he was loyal, and kind, and treated me well—so maybe he had earned these photos? And in that moment I asked myself, was I even justified to feel uncomfortable with these requests when he was such a great boyfriend otherwise? And though at the time, I had suppressed my hesitancy, and sent the photos anyway. I realize now that I had every right to feel uncomfortable, and more importantly, I had every right to say no.

Sadly, we have all fallen victim to the idea that the birth of new relationships and new love means the death of our autonomy. That once a woman slaps on the title of “girlfriend” or “wife,” they must surrender not only their singlehood, but their right to complain about any sexual misconduct. To many, love serves as an imaginary contract, one in which we are forced to sign along the dotted line that, “yep, my significant other can do anything and say anything about my body because they love me and care about me.” But how truly absurd a proposition that once we fall in love, we forfeit our right as women to say “no, you can’t talk about my body that way.”

They say love is blind, but is it blind to sexual objectification? Is romance a one way ticket to “treat me like a sexual object without any objections” city? And the answer is absolutely f*cking not. You are a person not property. And just because someone loves you, does NOT mean that they have “earned” the right to objectify you, demand sex from you, or squeeze your ass in public without your consent—no matter how “playful” they tell you it is.

Remember that relationships are not some consent-free, free-for-all, zone. It doesn’t matter if someone has loved me for five minutes or for five years, I expect men to treat my body with the respect it deserves. And while we’d love to deny it, the people we love can still objectify us. And the reality of it is, significant others can be just as guilty as the strangers who catcall us on our walks home.

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