Advertisement

Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 773–788 | Cite as

The Object of One’s Desire: How Perceived Sexual Empowerment Through Objectification is Related to Sexual Outcomes

  • Mindy J. ErchullEmail author
  • Miriam Liss
Original Paper

Abstract

There is a debate as to whether or not gaining a sense of sexual empowerment through being an object of sexual desire results in empowerment. This debate has been largely theoretical, but there are now operationalizations of self-sexualization, enjoying sexualization, and perceiving sex as a source of personal power which allow for the collection of data on this topic. The current study examined whether these constructs were related to attitudinal and behavioral indicators of sexual satisfaction and sexual agency. An online sample of young, heterosexual, sexually active women was recruited. Our constructs of interest were related to some positive sexual outcomes, including sexual esteem and sexual assertiveness. At the same time, these constructs were related to having faked orgasm, and both self-sexualization and the belief that sex can be a source of power were related to greater frequency of having faked an orgasm. Additionally, none of the variables was significantly related to sexual satisfaction or ease of orgasm. Thus, while there may be some positive sexual outcomes associated with these variables, there are other indicators that a sense of empowerment through objectified sexuality may interfere with true sexual subjectivity.

Keywords

Self-sexualization Enjoyment of sexualization Sexual assertiveness Sexual subjectivity Permissive sexual attitudes Orgasm Sexual esteem 

References

  1. Ackard, D. M., Kearney-Cooke, A., & Peterson, C. B. (2000). Effect of body image and self-image on women’s sexual behaviors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 28, 422–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. www.apa.org/pi/wpo/sexualization.html.
  3. Bergner, D. (2009, January 25). What do women want? The New York Times Magazine, pp. 26–33, 46, 51–52.Google Scholar
  4. Breines, J. G., Crocker, J., & Garcia, J. A. (2008). Self-objectification and well-being in women’s daily lives. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 583–598. doi: 10.1177/0146167207313727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Curie, D. H., Kelly, D. M., & Pomerantz, S. (2009). ‘Girl power’: Girls reinventing girlhood. New York, NY: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  6. Darling, C. A., & Davidson, J. K. (1986). Enhancing relationships: Understanding the feminine mystique of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 182–196. doi: 10.1080/00926238608415405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davis, F. (1991). Moving the mountain: The women’s movement in American since 1960. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  8. Donaghue, N., Kurz, T., & Whitehead, K. (2011). Spinning the pole: A discursive analysis of the websited of recreational pole dancing studios. Feminism & Psychology, 21, 44–457. doi: 10.1177/0959353511424367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dove, N. L., & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). Cognitive distraction and women’s sexual functioning. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 26, 67–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Else-Quest, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2009). The missing discourse of development: Commentary on Lerum and Dworkin. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 264–267. doi: 10.1080/00224490903079559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Erchull, M. J., & Liss, M. (2013a). Feminists who flaunt it: Exploring the enjoyment of sexualization among young feminist women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 2341–2349. doi: 10.1111/jasp.12183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erchull, M. J., & Liss, M. (2013b). Exploring the concept of perceived female sexual empowerment: Development and validation of the Sex is Power Scale. Gender Issues, 30, 39–53. doi: 10.1007/s12147-013-9114-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fahs, B. (2011). Performing sex: The making and unmaking of women’s erotic lives. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fallon, A. E., & Rozin, P. (1985). Sex difference in perceptions of desirable body shape. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 94, 102–105. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.94.1.102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gavey, N. (2012). Beyond “empowerment”? Sexuality in a sexist world. Sex Roles, 66, 718–724. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0069-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gill, R. (2008). Empowerment/sexism: Figuring female sexual agency in contemporary advertising. Feminism and Psychology, 18, 35–60. doi: 10.1177/0959353507084950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gill, R. (2009). Beyond the ‘sexualization of culture’ thesis: An intersectional analysis of ‘sixpacks’, ‘midriffs’ and ‘hot lesbians’ in advertising. Sexualities, 12, 137–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gill, R. (2012). Media, empowerment and the ‘sexualization of culture’ debate. Sex Roles, 66, 736–745. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0107-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Griffin, C., Szmigin, I., Bengry-Howell, A., Hackley, C., & Mistral, W. (2013). Inhabiting the contradictions: Hypersexual feminity and the culture of intoxication among young women in the UK. Feminism & Psychology, 23, 184–206. doi: 10.1177/0959353512468860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hendrick, S., & Hendrick, C. (1987). Multidimensionality of sexual attitudes. The Journal of Sex Research, 23, 502–526. doi: 10.1080/00224498709551387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Horne, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2005). Female sexual subjectivity and well-being: Comparing late adolescents with different sexual experiences. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 2, 25–40. doi: 10.1525/srsp.2005.2.3.25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Horne, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2006). The female sexual subjectivity inventory: Development and validation of a multidimensional inventory for late adolescents and emerging adults. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 125–138. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2006.00276.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hurlbert, D. F. (1991). The role of assertiveness in female sexuality: A comparative study between sexually assertive and sexually nonassertive women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17, 183–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiefer, A. K., Sanchez, D. T., Kalinka, C. J., & Ybarra, O. (2006). How women’s nonconscious association of sex with submission related to their subjective sexual arousability and ability to reach orgasm. Sex Roles, 55, 83–94. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9060-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lamb, S. (2010a). Feminist ideals for a healthy female adolescent sexuality: A critique. Sex Roles, 62, 294–306. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9698-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lamb, S. (2010b). Porn as a pathway to empowerment? A response to Peterson’s commentary. Sex Roles, 62, 314–317. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9756-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lamb, S., & Peterson, Z. D. (2012). Adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment: Two feminists explore the concept. Sex Roles, 66, 703–712. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9995-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lerum, K., & Dworkin, S. L. (2009). ‘‘Bad girls rule’’: An interdisciplinary feminist commentary on the report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 250–263. doi: 10.1080/00224490903079542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levy, A. (2005). Female chauvinist pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  30. Liss, M., Erchull, M. J., & Ramsey, L. R. (2011). Empowering or oppressing? Development and exploration of the enjoyment of sexualization scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 55–68. doi: 10.1177/0146167210386119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mahalik, J. R., Morray, E. B., Coonerty-Femiano, A., Ludlow, L. H., Slattery, S. M., & Smiler, A. (2005). Development of the conformity to feminine norms inventory. Sex Roles, 52, 417–435. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-3709-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Muehlenhard, C. L., & Shippee, S. K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 552–567. doi: 10.1080/00224490903171794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murnen, S. K., & Smolak, L. (2012). Social considerations related to adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment: A response to Lamb and Peterson. Sex Roles, 66, 725–735. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0079-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nowatzki, J., & Morry, M. M. (2009). Women’s intentions regarding, and acceptance of, self-sexualizing behavior. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33, 95–107. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.01477.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Peterson, Z. D. (2010). What is sexual empowerment? A multidimensional and process-oriented approach to adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment. Sex Roles, 62, 307–313. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9725-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Regehr, K. (2012). The rise of recreational burlesque: Bumping and grinding towards empowerment. Sexuality and Culture, 16, 134–157. doi: 10.1007/s12119-011-9113-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tolman, D. L. (2002). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Tolman, D. L. (2012). Female adolescents, sexual empowerment and desire: A missing discourse of gender inequity. Sex Roles, 66, 746–757. doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0122-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tolman, D. L., Brown, L. M., & Bowman, C. P. (2013). “Hey, media, back off and get off my body!” SPARK is taking sexy back. In K. Harper, Y. Katsulis, V. Lopez, & G. S. Gillis (Eds.), Girls’ sexuality and the media. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Vanwesenbeeck, I. (2009). The risks and rights of sexualization: An appreciative commentary on Lerum and Dworkin’s “bad girls rule”. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 268–270. doi: 10.1080/00224490903082694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wiederman, M. W. (1997). Pretending orgasm during sexual intercourse: Correlates in a sample of young adult women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 23, 131–139. doi: 10.1080/00926239708405314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wiederman, M. W. (1999). Volunteer bias in sexuality research using college student participants. The Journal of Sex Research, 36, 59–66. doi: 10.1080/00224499909551968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wiederman, M. W., & Allgeier, E. R. (1993). The measurement of sexual-esteem: Investigation of Snell and Papini’s (1989) Sexuality Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 27, 88–102. doi: 10.1006/jrpe.1993.100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wiederman, M. W., & Hurst, S. R. (1997). Physical attractiveness, body image, and women’s sexual self-schema. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 567–580. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00131.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wiederman, M. W., & Hurst, S. R. (1998). Body size, physical attractiveness, and body image among young adult women: relationships to sexual experience and sexual esteem. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 272–281. doi: 10.1080/00224499809551943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Ducat, W. H., & Boislard-Pepin, M.-A. (2011). A prospective study of young females’ sexual subjectivity: Associations with age, sexual behavior, and dating. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 927–938. doi: 10.1007/s10508-011-9751-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations