It’s not the legs, it’s the narcissism

Jacob Tobia in Playboy explains the wonders of being objectified. There was this bar Tobia used to go to as a Duke undergraduate.

It was the place where basketball players, sorority queens, frat stars, gay boys and queer girls alike congregated to bump, grind and…bump-n-grind.

I didn’t go all that often, but when I did choose to grace Shooters with my presence, it was an all-out affair. I’d wear my shortest skirt, a crop top, and, if you were lucky, my biggest heels. I’d arrive just a touch after midnight, strut in already buzzed, head straight to the bar and climb on top of it. On any given visit, I’d spend at least 50-percent of my time dancing on the bar: swaying my hips, dropping it low, tearing it up and trying not to kick off anyone’s drink.

Halfway through my year, I started to notice something. When my friends who were women or gay men danced on the bar, they’d get a lot more bang for their buck (literally) than I did. When they danced, people were watching. Upon their dismount from the bar, they’d get approached by potential partners, fielding propositions and advances left and right. Fast forward ten minutes, and half of them were grinding up on a partner, mid-DFMO (dance floor make-out). Fast forward an hour, and they’d be leaving together to hook up.

While my savvy dance moves and expert gyrations were appreciated by my classmates on a performative level, they never seemed to lead to anything. Unlike my peers, when I dismounted the bar, I rarely had the opportunity to mount anything else. Instead of attracting potential hook-ups, I only seemed to attract drunken cries of “YES QUEEN!” and “YOU BETTER WERK!”

My friends were being looked at in a different way than me. I was being appreciated as entertainment; they were being appreciated sexually. I was being watched; they were being sexually objectified.

Ok, but…isn’t that something to think about before you get up on the bar and start dancing? Tobia presents all this as if he’s completely unaware that only some people are considered sexy and attractive, and that therefore only some people are a welcome sight dancing on a bar. It’s not as if everybody can just hop up on the bar and expect to please. It’s as if Tobia thinks the shortest skirt, the crop top, and the (if you’re lucky) biggest (highest?) heels are all that’s required. It’s not so.

The message that being considered as a “sex-having and desiring” individual is universally negative is mostly based in the experiences of white, cis, thin, able-bodied people who have regular, and often too much, experience with sexual objectification.

Well, whether that’s true or not, it’s not really relevant when talking about people who dance on bars and those who hook up with them. That bar is clearly not a place to go if you don’t like sexual objectification. But that doesn’t seem to be relevant to Tobia.

As a trans person, that has never been my experience and I’m not alone in that. So how do we retool the conversation about objectification to more accurately represent the experiences of everyone?

We…don’t?

It’s not possible to “represent the experiences of everyone.” That’s a ludicrous question, and also a stunningly entitled one. Tobia would like to be objectified, please, so how do we take the conversation feminists want to have about objectification and make it more pleasing to Tobia? We don’t, because the conversation feminists want to have about objectification isn’t about Tobia, and doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be. Tobia’s experience doesn’t change women’s experience of unwanted objectification.

Tobia explains what his “feminist training” (his wot?) has taught him about objectification. He seems impatient – yeah yeah, interruption at work, yadda yadda. Sorry to bore you.

As such, my feminist training taught me that sexual objectification is categorically undesirable, categorically patriarchal. Therefore, we must fight against sexual objectification in any form and create a world where no one is sexually objectified again.

Yet, here’s the rub: if sexual objectification is so categorically awful, then why do I want it so badly?

Probably because you’re not a feminist, and because you’re horny, and because you’re not attractive to the people you want to be attractive to.

The idea that being seen as a “sex object”–at any time, ever–is universally a bad thing is too simple, like many tenets of straightforward, non-intersectional feminism. As a gender nonconforming person, I’m sexually objectified basically, well, never. When it comes to being viewed as a purely sexual being, I don’t get any.

Well ok then, let’s change feminism to make it about Jacob Tobia. Why not after all?

In a society that either desexualizes or hypersexualizes trans and gender nonconforming people, my whole existence is pretty much devoid of good sexual energy. While many of my cis women friends are trying to figure out how to drain out a swamp of unwanted male attention, I’m stuck in a desert trying to suck water from a cactus.

I can show literally my entire leg and get nothing. I can wear a skimpy dress to a club and people just look the other way. I can wear five inch heels and, while I might get lots of attention, it won’t be sexual attention.

And that is apparently the fault of feminism, the “straightforward, non-intersectional” kind as opposed to the kind that’s for Jacob Tobia.

I want to be sexually objectified and it never happens. I want people to appreciate the time and effort that I put into my body and my look. I want people to look at my perfectly applied lipstick and want me because of it. I want my long legs to give people feels. I want to dance on the bar and leave boys breathless, panting, and desperate to talk to me.

In other words he wants to be an extraordinarily sexy gorgeous woman. I suspect a lot of women want that too, especially when very young, but guess what, they don’t get what they want either. Life is like that. Disappointment and frustration happen. They’re not unique to Jacob Tobia or to trans people.

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