In ethics, social science and linguistics, the subject-object problem is a deliberate power grab or unintentional "confusion resulting from a shifting, inconsistent or vague assignment of observer and observed, active and passive, status in a sentence. Depending on how one views language, and mathematics as a language, this confusion may extend quite deeply into philosophy of all kinds including that of law, science and mathematics itself.
In languages generally, one's choice of pronoun chooses a particular subject or subjects to address a particular object or objects. For instance, the always-capitalized "He" refers in English to God, and to say "we..." is always to imply that there is more than one, seeking to state something that has been decided by them, to some other. The range of pronouns available in a language is a key influence on how the subjects and objects are perceived by any native speaker of that language as a mother tongue. For instance, the English language has only the one word for "we", ambiguously implying all levels of consensus from "me and my invisible friend" to "me and the whole Royal Navy". The listener must guess the degree of force that is backing the statement.
Other languages, such as that of the Penan, an aboriginal people of Borneo, may use several words for varying degrees of commitment and consensus among different groups - the Penan have six words for varying levels of "we" - but yet have no word to describe the status of a domestic animal. The idea of taking in an animal, caring for it, and then killing it, is abhorrent to them. Living things are either in the family, and thus cannot be hunted, or not. Power is thus reflected in the language directly. To the Penan, all discourse in English probably has a serious subject-object problem, as who's we is never quite clear - it requires cultural context to actually understand who "we" might be, when.
As it relates to language and power
A closely related power issue in ethics, sociology and philosophy of science is that of the other, that being, an entity or group-entity which is always treated as an object, assuming oneself or "those like oneself" as the subject. In making such a universal assignment of object status, a group such as slaves, women, psychiatric patients, workers, foreigners, or debtors can be assigned some subordinate status by use of language. The master, man, clinician, employer, citizen, creditor, respectively, can legally (using force) assume some power for the other, and speak for them in the same manner as the fictional literary omniscient narrator."
Thus objectification including sexual objectication is a matter of reducing a person into a position of always being perceived, never perceiving.