The Exonerating Effect of Sexual Objectification: Sexual Objectification Decreases Rapist Blame in a Stranger Rape Context
- 1.4k Downloads
A blossoming body of research documents the effect of sexual objectification on social perception, but little is known about the consequences of sexual objectification. This paper examines how sexual objectification influences men and women’s rape perceptions in case of a stranger rape. We hypothesized that victims’ sexual objectification might diminish rapist blame and increase victim blame in cases of stranger rape. Fifty-eight male and 57 female Belgian undergraduate students were assigned to either a sexual objectifying (i.e., body focus) or to a personalized portrayal (i.e., face focus) of a rape victim. After reading a newspaper report depicting a stranger rape, participants were asked to evaluate the extent to which they blamed the rapist and the victim. As predicted, participants blamed the rapist less in the sexual objectification condition, regardless of participant gender. In contrast, sexual objectification did not increase victim blame. These results have implications for the well-being of rape victims, as well as for the functioning of justice if it leads authorities to show leniency towards the length of penalty a rapist may receive. The implications of these findings for future research on sexual objectification and gender differences in rape perception are also discussed.
KeywordsSexual objectification Gender Rape perception Rapist blame Victim blame
This research was supported by the National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS, Belgium) and by the Fonds d’Encouragement à la Recherche (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium).
My coauthors and I do not have any interest that might be interpreted as influencing the research. Applicable ethical standards, specifically the APA standards, were followed in the conduct of the study. The rights of the human subjects participating in our research were protected.
- Abrams, D., Viki, G. T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 111–125. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.11.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bartky, S. L. (1990). Feminity and domination: Studies in the phenomenology of oppression. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Bernard, P., Gervais, S. J., Allen, J., Campomizzi, S., & Klein, O. (2015a). Body parts reduction and self-objectification in the objectification of sexualized bodies. International Review of Social Psychology / Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 28.Google Scholar
- Bernard, P., Gervais, S. J., Allen, J., Delmée, A., & Klein, O. (2015b). From sex objects to human beings: Masking sexual body parts and humanization as moderators to women’s objectification. Psychology of Women Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0361684315580125.
- Bernard, P., Gervais, S. J., Allen, J., & Klein, O. (2013). Perceptual determinants are critical, but they don’t explain everything: A response to Tarr. Psychological Science, 24, 1071–1073. doi: 10.1177/0956797612474672.
- Gervais, S. J., Bernard, P., Allen, J., & Klein, O. (2013a). Toward a unified theory of objectification and dehumanization. In S. J. Gervais (Ed.), 60th Nebraska symposium on motivation: Objectification and (de)humanization (pp. 1–23). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6959-9_1.
- Glick, P., Fiske, S. T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J. L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., … López, W. L. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: Hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 763–775. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1683.
- Human Development Reports. (2015). International human development indicators. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/table4-gender-inequality-index.
- Kline, P. (1999). The handbook of psychological testing (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Krahé, B. (1985). Verantwortungszuschreibungen in der sozialen Eindrucksbildung uber Vergewaltigungsopfer und 7-ter. Zur Replikation einiger amerikanischer Ergebnisse an einer deutschen Stichprobe. [Attribution of responsibility in impression formation about rape victims. Replication of US results in a German sample]. Gruppendynamik, 16, 169–178.Google Scholar
- Lerner, M. J. (1980). The belief in a just world. A fundamental delusion. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
- Loughnan, S., Fernandez, S., Vaes, S., Anjum, G., Aziz, M., Harada, C., Tsuchiya, K. (2015). Exploring the role of culture in sexual objectification: A seven nations study. International Review of Social Psychology / Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 28. Google Scholar
- Marwick, A. (1998). The sixties. Cultural revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- McIntyre, M. (2011a). Rape victim ‘inviting’, so no jail. Judge rules woman’s clothes, conduct ease blame on attacker. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail--rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail-116801578.html.
- McIntyre, M. (2011b). ‘No woman asks to be raped’: Victim slams judge’s decision. National Post. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/02/25/no-woman-asks-to-be-raped-victim-slams-judges-decision/#more-49309.
- Rosenblum, N. (1997). Democratic sex: Reynolds v. US, sexual relations, and community. In D. Estlund & M. Nussbaum (Eds.), Sex, preference, and family (pp. 63–85). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- United Nations. (2015). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved from www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Crime-statistics/Sexual_violence_sv_against_children_and_rape.xls.
- van der Bruggen, M., & Grubb, A. (2014). A review of the literature relating to rape victim blaming: An analysis of the impact of observer and victim characteristics on attribution of blame in rape cases. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 19, 523–531. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2014.07.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vandewege, R., Bruynooghe, R., & Opdebeek, S. (1988). Les femmes confrontées à la violence physique et sexuelle—Prédominance et conséquences. [Women suffering from physical and sexual violence—Predominance and consequences]. Rapport destiné à la Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Environnement et à l’Emancipation sociale, Bruxelles.Google Scholar