Sex Roles

, Volume 72, Issue 11–12, pp 499–508 | Cite as

The Exonerating Effect of Sexual Objectification: Sexual Objectification Decreases Rapist Blame in a Stranger Rape Context

  • Philippe BernardEmail author
  • Steve Loughnan
  • Cynthie Marchal
  • Audrey Godart
  • Olivier Klein
Original Article


A blossoming body of research documents the effect of sexual objectification on social perception, but little is known about the consequences of sexual objectification. This paper examines how sexual objectification influences men and women’s rape perceptions in case of a stranger rape. We hypothesized that victims’ sexual objectification might diminish rapist blame and increase victim blame in cases of stranger rape. Fifty-eight male and 57 female Belgian undergraduate students were assigned to either a sexual objectifying (i.e., body focus) or to a personalized portrayal (i.e., face focus) of a rape victim. After reading a newspaper report depicting a stranger rape, participants were asked to evaluate the extent to which they blamed the rapist and the victim. As predicted, participants blamed the rapist less in the sexual objectification condition, regardless of participant gender. In contrast, sexual objectification did not increase victim blame. These results have implications for the well-being of rape victims, as well as for the functioning of justice if it leads authorities to show leniency towards the length of penalty a rapist may receive. The implications of these findings for future research on sexual objectification and gender differences in rape perception are also discussed.


Sexual objectification Gender Rape perception Rapist blame Victim blame 



This research was supported by the National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS, Belgium) and by the Fonds d’Encouragement à la Recherche (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium).

Ethical standards

My coauthors and I do not have any interest that might be interpreted as influencing the research. Applicable ethical standards, specifically the APA standards, were followed in the conduct of the study. The rights of the human subjects participating in our research were protected.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Bernard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steve Loughnan
    • 2
  • Cynthie Marchal
    • 1
  • Audrey Godart
    • 1
  • Olivier Klein
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Social and Cultural PsychologyUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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