Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp 91-104

First online:

Understanding the Relationships Among White and African American Women’s Sexual Objectification Experiences, Physical Safety Anxiety, and Psychological Distress

  • Laurel B. WatsonAffiliated withUniversity of Missouri-Kansas City Email author 
  • , Jacob M. MarszalekAffiliated withUniversity of Missouri-Kansas City
  • , Franco DispenzaAffiliated withGeorgia State University
  • , Christopher M. DavidsAffiliated withUniversity of Missouri-Kansas City

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Abstract

Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) asserted that sexual objectification experiences are likely related to women’s physical safety anxiety; however, to date, very few studies have examined this relationship. Using a sample of 228 U.S. undergraduate women (n = 133 Black/African American; n = 95 White) from a Southeastern university, this study explored the relationships among sexual objectification experiences, physical safety concerns (i.e., perceived risk of crime, fear of crime, and fear of rape), and overall psychological distress. Findings revealed that Black/African American women reported more sexual objectification experiences and fear of crime than White women. Results of a measured variable path analysis suggested that perceived risk of crime fully mediated the relationships between sexual objectification experiences and fear of crime for both groups of women. Moreover, perceived risk of crime fully mediated the relationship between sexual objectification experiences and psychological distress for Black/African American women, but not White women. For White women only, fear of rape partially mediated the relationship between perceived risk of crime and fear of crime, and perceived risk of crime fully mediated the relationship between sexual objectification experiences and fear of rape. Taken together, the results suggest that a sociocultural context that objectifies women and their bodies is related to their sense of safety and security in the world.

Keywords

Objectification theory Sexual objectification Fear of crime Fear of rape Risk of crime Psychological distress