Experiencing and Coping with Sexually Objectifying Treatment: Internalization and Resilience

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to extend Fredrickson and Robert’s (1997) Objectification Theory by examining coping with sexually oppressive experiences via internalization/self-blame as another important way, in addition to self-objectification and internalization of cultural standards of beauty, to possibly explain how sexual objectification experiences (SOEs) influence psychological distress. An additional purpose of this study was to examine the potential moderating or buffering role of resilience in the links between SOEs and psychological distress and between SOEs and coping with these experiences via internalization, self-objectification, and internalization of cultural standards of beauty. Our sample included 270 young adult heterosexual undergraduate women from the Southeast region of the United States who completed an online survey. Results revealed that both coping with sexist oppression via internalization and self-objectification uniquely mediated the SOEs-psychological distress link but internalization of cultural standards of beauty did not. Results from the moderation analyses indicated that the direct effect of SOEs and coping with via internalization and the conditional indirect effects of SOEs on psychological distress were contingent on resilience such that these relationships were only significant among women with low resilience or at the mean of resilience, suggesting that high resilience plays a buffering role whereas low resilience plays an exacerbating role.

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Correspondence to Dawn M. Szymanski.

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Szymanski, D.M., Feltman, C.E. Experiencing and Coping with Sexually Objectifying Treatment: Internalization and Resilience. Sex Roles 71, 159–170 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0392-6

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Keywords

  • Sexism
  • Objectification
  • Coping behaviors
  • Resilience
  • Psychological distress