Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
The old saw that porn “makes men treat women like objects” is utterly true. Using people is easy; loving them is hard. If you can summon up a panting beauty just by touching your iPod screen, then why go to the trouble of getting to know an actual woman—learning who she really is, winning her love, and dedicating your life to serving her as Christ serves the Church?
Porn is a marriage wrecker, a life stealer, a stinking smog that lies over the city of man and makes it hard to breathe.
Here’s something to consider: Just as men are prone to treating women as objects, it’s also possible—although much less talked-about—for women to treat men as objects. Are the effects of this sin as devastating as the effects of porn? Maybe not. But we cannot deny that treating someone as an object, and not as a soul, is a serious offense against love.
It doesn’t look the same as porn, of course. Even while women can certainly struggle with lust, and are capable of reducing a man to a body she covets, most of the time that sort of objectification is a man’s struggle, not a woman’s. The objectification of men is common in secular circles and, unfortunately, in religious circles, too. It doesn’t matter if the stereotype is the bumbling idiot-man of popular sitcoms, or the rock-hard, emotionless breadwinner of the rigidly traditionalist world: a stereotype is a stereotype, and it objectifies the person in question. It puts a barrier between the souls of a man and a woman, and makes their relationship sterile. It is contrary to love.
I want to emphasize that even loving people can be selfish from time to time, without committing a mortal sin or wrecking their marriage. I have, however, seen a woman whose radical objectification of her husband brought their marriage to an end. There was no other way to describe it: she treated him like a thing until he couldn’t stand it any more.
This is how women, without even realizing it, often objectify men.
By reducing his worth to the work he can do for her. This is an easy trap, because men often do show love by working hard, and women are often in a position where they need a man’s help. I, for instance, am about as useful as a burned-out refrigerator toward the end of each pregnancy, and my husband does more and more of the work that ought to be mine.
Even though this is only fair (and I am getting some high quality gestation done, after all), it’s important that I let him know that I appreciate his willingness to go beyond his normal duties. I need to let him know that I’m not just glad that someone’s doing that laundry—but that I’m accepting his help as a loving act, making it part of our relationship.
Relatedly: by treating her husband as the sole proprietor of her emotional well-being. Now, a woman who loves a bad man is a miserable woman, and that’s certainly his fault. He should want to make her happy, and he should try to figure out how to do it. But after a certain point, a man has to care for himself, too. His happiness counts, and she mustn’t behave as if her desires are essential, but his are pesky.
By assuming that everything he does (or doesn’t do) is designed either to please or to annoy her. They say that if a woman knew what a man was thinking about her, she would never stop slapping him. Well, if a man knew what a woman was thinking about him, he would never stop going, ” . . . Huh???” I sometimes find myself all up in arms over some elaborate scheme that my husband has plotted, point by point, to make me feel ugly, insignificant, and repressed.
Then I get a good night’s sleep or eat some protein, and realize that his only real crime was being a little distracted. Maybe he had a headache, or was worried about something at work. And the grandiose sandcastle of husbandly malice that I had built around my poor, suffering self turns into mud and washes away, leaving me soggy and exposed.
By constantly comparing him to other men she admires (but probably doesn’t know very well). Why keep a constant loop of “If only he were more like Daddy, I’d be happy” or “So-and-so’s husband does such-and-such—why can’t mine?” playing in her head? He is who he is, and she married him because that kind of thing appealed to her. That’s what she has to work with, and it’s unfair (and useless) to try to make him into someone (something) else. They’ll both be happier if she encourages his existing strengths, rather than trying to reinvent him.
Ironically: By admiring him too much. Women who are married to good men sometimes think so highly of them, they are shocked and horrified to discover that their husbands sin—and get hysterical, rather than dealing with their husbands as fellow, fallen human beings. Admiration is one thing; idolatry is another, and is bound to bring disappointment eventually.
Now, please, let’s not have a woman-bashing party in the comment box. I’m only trying to remind women, myself included, that the Church encourages men to treat their wives with respect—but let’s not take more than we’re entitled to.