Is it sexist to objectify an awfully hot (male) cop?

There’s a bit of a phenomenon going on with a rather hot male cop in San Francisco, by the name of Chris Kohrs.

Officer Kohrs has become an online (and offline) favorite of gay men and straight women alike.

You see, Kohrs isn’t just packin‘ — he’s smokin‘. And people have noticed, in a big way.

He’s been labeled “The Hot Cop of Castro,” and the local news has covered him, Daily Beast just did a story on him, and he’s even got his own Facebook fan page, replete with a lot of awfully hot (and adorable) photos.

All of which got me wondering whether it wasn’t a bit unseemly that we were publicly objectifying some guy we didn’t even know. And while it’s one thing to think cops (or anyone else) are hot; saying it publicly, loudly and often, is an entirely different matter.

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Some have already raised the question of whether it would be appropriate to lavish this much attention on a female police officer. And no, it wouldn’t. Then again, we’d have to ask why that’s a problem. And I’d argue that it’s not simply a problem because it’s rude, generally, to reduce someone to their hotness.  The problem is actually that women have been objectified for millenia, and that objectification forms the basis of a lot of discrimination that women have faced over the ages.

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The question thus becomes whether objectification is per se bad, or whether it’s only bad when it’s used to oppress, or at least historically has been used in that way.

I’m reminded of when some white people argue that they can use the n-word because some blacks do too.  Or one of my favorites: “If they can have a Black Student Union, why can’t we have a white one?”  (Black Power and White Power also come to mind.)

I’m not 100% convinced, but I wonder sometimes if “innocent” admiration of someone else’s beauty is necessarily a bad thing, so long as it’s not tied to any kind of subjugation.  And one could simply look at the intent of the person making the compliment, but that’s not really enough.  I suspect lots of bosses who tell their secretary how hot she is mean it in a “good” way, but that doesn’t make it good.

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The same thing happened a while back when President Obama mentioned how attractive some woman was (wasn’t she an attorney general of some state?).  He quickly apologized.  While the President’s intent was congenial, it felt somehow wrong to take an accomplished woman and reduce her to her good looks.  Especially when, it’s argued, no one would do that to a man.

But we just did it to a man in San Francisco. So is it the same thing?  Is it just as offensive?  Or is it less offensive in this case because Officer Kohrs is being such a good sport about the whole thing? (Then again, the women of the Miss America Pageant are good sports about it as well. Does that make the entire affair any less distasteful?) And, is it less offensive because “everyone knows” that no one thinks of Kohrs as less of a cop because he’s hot?  Because men aren’t traditionally lessened by the perception of their beauty?

I freely admit to being a sinner in this regard. I know that, even as a gay man, I have to watch it when it comes to praising women for their beauty — though I have been known to approach a woman in a bar, let her know that I’m gay, but that I just had to let her know how strikingly beautiful she was. Was that wrong of me?  The women (though I’ve only had the nerve to say this to a handful) all beamed when receiving the compliment — I suspect because they understood that having removed the sexual element (I am gay, after all), the praise was truly a compliment.

Though when it comes to Officer Kohrs, I can’t claim the same objectivity of my objectification.

I sometimes wonder if my claiming that I can’t be sexist because I’m gay isn’t like an African-American who claims he can’t be racist because he’s black.  No sexual orientation or race has a get-out-of-jail free card when it comes to bias. We’re all susceptible to it. But is that what’s really going on here — subtle bias couched in sinful admiration?

Is it so wrong of me to think, let alone say, that this guy can drill my wall any time he wants?


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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