Objectification in romantic relationships related to sexual pressure and coercion

The object of desire: How being objectified creates sexual pressure for women in heterosexual relationships

From Psychology of Women Quarterly

To sexually objectify a woman is to focus on her body in terms of how it can provide sexual pleasure rather than viewing her as a complete human being with thoughts and feelings. While objectification has long been considered a problem in the media, how does it affect individual romantic relationships? This study finds that more objectification of a female partner’s body is related to higher incidents of sexual pressure and coercion.

Researchers surveyed males and females who had been in heterosexual relationships. They found that men who frequently objectify their partner’s bodies by excessively focusing on their appearance are more likely to feel shame about the shape and size of their partner’s body which in turn is related to increased sexual pressure (i.e., the belief that men expect sex and that it is a woman’s role to provide sex for her partner) and sexual coercion, both in general and through violence and manipulation.~

“Acknowledging objectification in their relationships may help women realize when they lack agency and allow them to resist and avoid sexual pressure,” the researchers continued. “Furthermore, thinking about objectification in terms of agency and sexual pressure could also have implications for women’s relationship satisfaction, both sexual and otherwise. Women who feel that they have no control and who experience sexual pressure from their partner will not be as satisfied as women who feel like they have control over their body and the decisions in the relationship.”

Abstract

Although the objectification of women is widespread, there is relatively little research on objectification in romantic relationships. The purpose of our research was to explore how partner-objectification might be related to sexual pressure and coercion in heterosexual relationships. Two studies were conducted, one with heterosexual men and one with heterosexual women as participants. An online survey of 119 heterosexual men in the United States demonstrated that men who frequently survey their partners’ bodies are more likely to sexually pressure and coerce their partners—primarily because partner-surveillance is related to feelings of shame regarding one’s partner’s body, which in turn is related to increased sexual pressure and coercion. An online survey of 162 heterosexual women in the United States demonstrated feeling objectified by a partner is related to several (but not all) measures of sexual pressure and coercion. Furthermore, women who felt that their partners frequently surveyed their bodies were more likely to experience self-surveillance, which in turn predicted increased body shame and lowered sexual agency. Our research can inform interventions aimed at reducing sexual coercion and spark future research on the distinction between physical attraction and objectification in the context of romantic relationships.

 

 

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Article details
Laura R. Ramsey and Tiffany Hoyt
The Object f Desire: How Being Objectified Creates Sexual Pressure for Women in Heterosexual Relationship
Psychology of Women Quarterly 0361684314544679, first published on July 31, 2014 doi:10.1177/0361684314544679

 

 

 

     
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