The objectification of women is obviously a major problem, but it actually hasn’t been the subject of much empirical research. A new study in Psychology of Women Quarterly offers some grim details about how objectification dynamics affect heterosexual relationships.
Researchers Laura R. Ramsey and Tiffany Hoyt surveyed 119 males and 162 females who had been in heterosexual relationships. They found that men who frequently objectify their partner’s bodies by excessively focusing on their appearance are more likely to feel shame about the shape and size of their partner’s body which in turn is related to increased sexual pressure (i.e., the belief that men expect sex and that it is a woman’s role to provide sex for her partner) and sexual coercion, both in general and through violence and manipulation.
“Being more aware of how and when one thinks of their partner as an object, sexually or otherwise, could help relationship partners avoid sexual pressure and coercion and increase communication and respect within their relationship,” the researchers wrote.
The data also supported the idea that women internalize objectification from their partners. This internalization is related to feeling shame about their bodies, a decrease in asserting themselves, and a decrease in expressing what they do and do not want to do sexually.
There’s obviously a lot remaining to be learned about what causes what, which sorts of interventions could help reduce this sort of behavior, and so on. But on a broader level, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when men treat female partners more like things than full-blown people, it doesn’t lead to anything good.