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Being a Body: Women’s Appearance Related Self-Views and their Dehumanization of Sexually Objectified Female Targets

Abstract

When sexually objectified, women are reduced to their bodies or sexual body parts and become likely targets of dehumanization. Not only men, but also women engage in this process. In the present research, we tested the link between women’s appearance related self-views and their tendency to dehumanize sexually objectified female targets. Specifically, we test two mediational models and predict that (1) women’s motivation to look attractive to men and (2) their tendency to internalize the sociocultural beauty standards are linked with the dehumanization of sexually objectified female targets, and their level of self-objectification mediates both relations. To test these hypotheses, a sample of 55 heterosexual undergraduate female students from Northern Italy volunteered. Participants’ motivation to look attractive to men, their level of internalization of the sociocultural beauty standards, and their tendency to self-objectify was measured. Results confirmed that only sexually objectified female targets were significantly dehumanized, while their non-objectified counterparts were not. Moreover, both participants’ motivation to look attractive to men and their tendency to internalize the sociocultural beauty standards were positively linked with the dehumanization of sexually objectified female targets. As expected, these relations were mediated by participants’ level of self-objectification. These results show that higher levels of self-objectification among those women who are motivated either to look attractive to men or to internalize the sociocultural beauty standards are linked with their tendency to dehumanize sexually objectified female targets.

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Acknowledgment

This research was supported in part by the grant ES/I029583/1 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

We would like to thank Stephen Loughnan for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Elisa Puvia.

Appendix

Appendix

Items comprising the Italian version of the motivation to look attractive to men scale.

  1. 1.

    Cerco di restare in forma perché ai ragazzi piace.

  2. 2.

    Curo il mio aspetto per facilitare i rapporti con l’altro sesso.

  3. 3.

    Il mio aspetto fisico è importante per me, perché facilita i rapporti con l’altro sesso.

English translation of the motivation to look attractive to men scale.

  1. 1.

    I try to maintain myself in shape because boys like it.

  2. 2.

    I take care of my physical appearance to facilitate my relationship with the other gender.

  3. 3.

    To look pretty is important for me because it facilitates my relationship with the other gender.

Items comprising the Italian version of the Internalization subscale of the Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ).

  1. 1.

    Le donne presenti negli show televisivi e nei film rappresentano il tipo di aspetto fisico al quale aspiro.

  2. 2.

    Credo che i vestiti stiano meglio quando indossati da modelle magre.

  3. 3.

    I video musicali che mostrano ragazze magre mi fanno desiderare di essere magra.

  4. 4.

    Non desidero assomigliare alle modelle presenti nelle riviste.*

  5. 5.

    Tendo a confrontare il mio corpo con quello delle donne presenti nelle riviste e in televisione.

  6. 6.

    Nella nostra società, le persone grasse non sono considerate poco attraenti.*

  7. 7.

    Le immagini di modelle mi fanno desiderare di essere magra.

  8. 8.

    Nella nostra cultura, essere attraenti è veramente importante se si vuol fare carriera.

  9. 9.

    Oggigiorno, è importante che le persone lavorino molto sul proprio aspetto fisico se vogliono avere successo.

  10. 10.

    La maggior parte delle persone non crede che quanto più sei magra, tanto migliore sia il tuo aspetto fisico.*

  11. 11.

    Le persone ritengono che quanto più sei magra, meglio indossi i vestiti.

  12. 12.

    Nella società di oggi, non è importante essere sempre attraente. *

  13. 13.

    Vorrei avere l’aspetto di una modella.

  14. 14.

    Spesso leggo riviste come Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour e confronto il mio aspetto fisico con quello delle modelle.

Awareness Scale: Items 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Internalization Scale: Items 1–5, 7, 13, 14.

*Reversed scored item

English version of the Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ)

  1. 1.

    Women who appear in TV shows and movies project the type of appearance that I see as my goal.

  2. 2.

    I believe that clothes look better on thin models.

  3. 3.

    Music videos that show thin women make me wish that I were thin.

  4. 4.

    I do not wish to look like the models in the magazines.*

  5. 5.

    I tend to compare my body to people in magazines and on TV.

  6. 6.

    In our society, fat people are not regarded as unattractive.*

  7. 7.

    Photographs of thin women make me wish that I were thin.

  8. 8.

    Attractiveness is very important if you want to get ahead in our culture.

  9. 9.

    It’s important for people to work hard on their figures/physiques if they want to succeed in today’s culture.

  10. 10.

    Most people do not believe that the thinner you are, the better you look.*

  11. 11.

    People think that the thinner you are, the better you look in clothes.

  12. 12.

    In today’s society, it’s not important to always look attractive.*

  13. 13.

    I wish I looked like a swimsuit model.

  14. 14.

    I often read magazines like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Glamour and compare my appearance to the models.

Awareness Scale: Items 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Internalization Scale: Items 1–5, 7, 13, 14.

* Reverse scored item.

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Puvia, E., Vaes, J. Being a Body: Women’s Appearance Related Self-Views and their Dehumanization of Sexually Objectified Female Targets. Sex Roles 68, 484–495 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0255-y

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Keywords

  • Self-objectification
  • Internalization of sociocultural beauty standards
  • Motivation to look attractive to men
  • Dehumanization
  • Romantic relationship