Women tell us about the first time they were objectified

‘It’s hard to pinpoint because it happens so often’

It was about eight o’clock at night, I had just finished work and was walking home. Two boys who couldn’t have been any older than twelve went past me on a bike and shouted ‘you alright beautiful?’ I ignored them, but they were so young, it was almost laughable. Then I started thinking. What if they hadn’t have been young? What if it had been two full grown men heckling me in the street? How would that had made me feel?

I then remembered the first time I ever felt objectified as a woman. I was about the same age as these two boys. A boy came past me on a bike, said ‘nice arse’, then followed me, asking me for my number. I remember feeling embarrassed, intimidated. By a boy who was the same age as these two boys who I had just laughed at.

I decided to ask other women about the first time they felt objectified and the most recent time it happened. here is what I found:

Amy, 21, student

The first time? Probably so long ago, around the age that boys started to pull girls because they thought it was cool; the age that people think more about lad points than the people they’re preying on. To put an exact time on it, it must have been around age 16 or 17, I really liked this guy but the only thing he seemed to care about was having sex with me. When he discovered I wanted to take things slower he seemed a lot less interested. Those kinds of things can really damage someone’s perception of their self worth.

It’s really hard to pinpoint times because it’s such a regular occurrence in life nowadays it almost seems normal.  I think clubbing culture kind of contributes to objectification. I remember not too long ago though, two guys made a £5.00 bet that one of them could get with me.

Lily, 23, Waitress

The first time I felt objectified, I was probably about 15. I was at the rugby with my dad and his mates who are all in their late forties, fifties. Me and another lady were the only women there and there were many comments about the way I look. They were talking about my bum and what I was wearing and stuff. I knew it was all a joke but I didn’t like it and felt embarrassed at that age.

Ever since I guess I get it all the time, especially if I go out and I’m dressed up, or have a lot of makeup on or am bearing skin. The most recent time would be working behind a bar, and comments from locals, commenting on the fact that I was eye candy or a female working behind the bar. I get it constantly especially in this line of work. I’ve also noticed that since I’ve had my hair cut short, I’ve had a lot of comments bout not being feminine enough and being obviously gay. It doesn’t make me feel great to be honest, but now I tend to stand up for myself, rather than in the past when I just kept quiet.

Daisy, 20, English Literature and Creative Writing student

I’m not sure I remember the first time I was ever objectified, but thinking back one instance sticks out and serves as a preface to the battle I’ve had with self-objectification for a long time. I was 12, walking home from the bus stop after school. A man drove past and catcalled me. Worryingly, I was pleased. I felt like I looked older, that I must look pretty nice, that I was well on my way to being a proper woman.
After a number of years, and a great number of battles fought with myself over my body, recently I’ve been feeling great about it – because it finally feels like it is mine. I’ve also stopped wearing bras. I think that’s got something to do with it. My boobs are pretty small so they don’t need the support, and hey my nipples may be pretty pointy most the time, but they’re mine and they’re just nipples – who gives a crap? Two days ago I was in my Student Union and asked one of the managers for a key. He looked directly at my chest before he even spoke to me. I realised then that I might have overcome my problems with self-objectification, but that doesn’t mean I’ve won the battle over my body. I’ve only just started to call it mine.
Amanda, 44, Teacher
When I was 16 and working at the Centre Spot Percy, old men who had lots of money and were pretty drunk would slap my arse and make lewd comments. Because it was my job , I couldn’t tell them to fuck off. It didn’t upset me, I just thought ‘you sad old men!’ I was pissed off, but I had to be nice to them to keep my job though.
Now I’m at this age no men I know would ever behave like that. Recently it doesn’t really happen, maybe it’s because I’m old though.
Sarah, 22, Environmental Science student
When I was about 12 and walking home from school and having people beep their horns at me. Like, that’s not okay. Like it’s a sex thing and I was really young and in a school uniform.
The most recent time it happened was in a club. I was wearing this dress which in certain lights you could see my underwear through. Someone literally grabbed hold of me, looked at me and said: ‘I really like your underwear.’ I was like what? That’s really fucking creepy.
Bronte, 20, Media and English Literature student
I think the first time I felt really objectified, like above normal was when I went swimming with my family when I was about 13. It was just after my boobs had properly started to grow. I remember putting on my swimming costume and I had a massive cleavage, my mum told me I should be careful as it was a family pool. I remember feeling really angry because when I was sitting round the pool I was wrapped in a towel and there were girls in bikinis swimming and sunbathing. I was so annoyed that if I did that, then people would look because I had big boobs for my age. And from then on I noticed every time men looked at me if I was wearing a vest top or something that was tight fitting.

The last time I felt objectified was probably when I went out a few weeks ago and some guy who was about 40 slapped my ass and when I told him to fuck off he said ‘if you weren’t so uptight you might enjoy it!’

Laura, 20, Admin Assistant 

I can’t really remember the first time it happened, but a few months ago a creepy bloke followed me around Sainsbury’s and then asked if I was single at the card section count. It was quite  scary. I was aware he was following me a little way into my shop. I didn’t quite hear what he said the first time and then he repeated himself. I told him I certainly wasn’t and he eventually walked off.