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Objectifying Women’s Bodies is Acceptable from an Intimate Perpetrator, at Least for Female Sexists

Abstract

Objectification of the female body is generating much research. Nevertheless, this has revealed little about whether women’s evaluations depend on the level of psychological intimacy with the perpetrator of that objectification. Intimacy theory predicts that objectifying comments would seem more acceptable coming from a close partner, especially for sexist women. The present study begins to fill these gaps by analyzing responses from 301 heterosexual/bisexual adult women in the United States (M age = 37.02, range = 18–72) to appearance and sexual body comments made by four different male perpetrators: strangers, colleagues, friends, or partners. Measures assessed women’s perceptions of objectification, as well as reported enjoyment of these comments. As long as they were not negative, comments from heterosexual partners were perceived as the least objectifying and enjoyed the most; comments from colleagues, strangers, and friends were linked with greater objectification and less enjoyment. Additionally, sexist attitudes toward men and women—but more clearly toward men—linked with objectification and enjoyment. Future research directions and practical implications are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

The first author was supported by the Government of Spain, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport State Program of Promotion of Talent and Employability R + D, State Sub-program of Mobility (State Plan of Research and Technology and Innovation 2013-2016).

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Correspondence to María Lameiras-Fernández.

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Lameiras-Fernández, M., Fiske, S.T., Fernández, A.G. et al. Objectifying Women’s Bodies is Acceptable from an Intimate Perpetrator, at Least for Female Sexists. Sex Roles 79, 190–205 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0862-8

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Keywords

  • Objectification
  • Sexualization
  • Sexual harassment
  • Romantic relationship
  • Body image
  • Heterosexuality