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Tests of Objectification Theory in Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Community Samples: Mixed Evidence for Proposed Pathways

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Abstract

Objectification theory (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997) proposes that women are especially vulnerable to eating disordered behavior when they live in cultures in which their bodies are a constant focus of evaluation. The current study examined whether predictions of objectification theory involving the associations among sexual objectification, body surveillance, body shame, and eating disordered behavior were supported in groups that varied by both gender and sexual orientation. Adults from a U.S. community sample in the Chicago area (92 heterosexual women; 102 heterosexual men; 87 gay men; and 99 lesbian women) completed self-report measures of these constructs. Results suggest that group differences in experiences of sexual objectification and body surveillance may partially explain gender and sexual orientation-based differences in eating disordered behavior.

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Acknowledgment

This research was supported by a grant from Northwestern University Research Grants Committee. Thanks to the Center on Halsted and A Church for Me for assistance with recruiting and to Northwestern’s Body and Media Lab for assistance with data collection.

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Correspondence to Renee Engeln-Maddox.

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Engeln-Maddox, R., Miller, S.A. & Doyle, D.M. Tests of Objectification Theory in Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Community Samples: Mixed Evidence for Proposed Pathways. Sex Roles 65, 518–532 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-9958-8

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