Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Hot" - compliment, or flagrant objectification?

In some ways, who wouldn't want to be considered "hot"? After all, it is such a common way to describe someone today.

I asked a bunch of high school at a conference this week what "hot" meant. I tried to get them to offer some synonyms, like "cute" or "attractive." But none of them went there, they said "hot" was different, it was more than cute (one guy even said, "You can be ugly and hot."), it was, in short, a word that describes someone who is sexually attractive.

Did any of them feel like it was kind of an unfair and denigrating word? They were pretty taken aback by my question (even after I explained what "denigrating" meant!), but then just shrugged and said that being hot was a good thing, a compliment, and that any girl, or guy for that matter, would want to be called hot. It seems to be akin to a bit less common but similarly located term, sexy. But at least with that one we all knew what we were talking about.

Hm, I'm certain most people would see using hot is relatively harmless, and let's face it, probably almost everybody does want to be sexually attractive. This is what strikes me about this word: it seems that the familiar use of the word gives permission for leering, lust, and objectifying whomever we designate as hot. Perhaps we did the same thing with sexy, but this one seems to have pushed the envelop farther, and is far more blatant in its goal.

Here's where we seem to stand: to be called hot means that someone is, basically, attracted to that person in terms of sexual potential, and everybody wants to be seen that way. Great.


Searching for the Yeti said...

this is a difficult one, chap. and one that does not go away with adolescents. it is a fine line - not wanting to be objectified and yet that strong need within you to be wanted and desired for the WHOLE of who you are (looks, intelligence, humor, abilities, etc.) sometimes it is hard to find the vocabulary...

chapclark said...

I agree, and as is typical for me, I am a bit hyperbolic here... but on the other hand, I'm pretty fired up about this. There is rampant objectification in the church, and few are willing to look at it, talk about, and make sure we go after it.

Am I against flirting? It depends on what's behind it, and its trajectory if and when it escalates.

Kate said...

at last someone says it like it is! - even if it takes me months to read it. Younger teens (at least) crave the definition without really having a clue what is behind it and the consequences.