If this is the general way people seem to treat you and not a specific situation of sexual harassment, then it’s worthwhile to consider how you may be unconsciously inviting others to view you in this limited way.
Early upbringing and cultural attitudes toward women affect the way individual women view themselves. They then unwittingly convey their self-perception through their demeanor and body language, sending subtle cues as to how they expect to be treated. Some may dress or carry themselves provocatively, but others may dress normally or even in a frumpy manner to hide their sexuality. Usually body language communicates even more powerful messages than exterior clothing.
What these women seem to have in common is that they don’t view themselves as deserving of respect as being valuable, whole individuals.
A woman who views herself as a worthwhile, whole human being is less likely to pull in purely sexual responses. Even if someone were to make a sexual comment, she would not feel excessively flattered or defensive about it. If an inappropriate comment were made, she would view it as a reflection of the person making the comment rather than of herself.
Women who are more vulnerable to being treated as sex objects are often sensitive to such treatment as they seem to expect it on a deeper level. Some may even seek out that kind of attention, as it may be the only way they’ve learned to get attention and validation.
This seemingly unfair cycle can be broken, (1) by becoming aware of how you may unconsciously invite others to view you in that specific way, (2) by neutralizing your reactivity to it, and (3) by gravitating toward people and situations that don’t objectify you specifically or women in general. In addition, you could learn to develop and value other aspects of your personality—for example, your intelligence, your talents, your inner strength, or your search for greater meaning.
by Alison Poulsen PhD