The Relational Burden of Objectification: Exploring How Past Experiences of Interpersonal Sexual Objectification Are Related to Relationship Competencies

Larissa Terán, Jian Jiao, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present study examines the associations between past experiences of interpersonal sexual objectification (ISO) on relationship initiation, social withdrawal, and positive relationships (which we refer to as relationship competencies). Consistent with objectification theory, we predicted that ISO would be associated with self-objectification, which would then be associated with body shame, appearance anxiety, and stress. In turn, these negative affect variables would be negatively associated with relationship competencies. Data were collected from 392 U.S. college students (M = 21.42 years, SD = 4.03; 32.9% male, 66.8% female). Results show that men and women’s ISO was consistently associated with self-objectification, which was associated with negative affect; direct effects revealed that men’s and women’s ISO was positively associated with relationship initiation. For women, self-objectification, appearance anxiety, and stress serially mediated the associations between ISO and all relationship competencies. For men, self-objectification and appearance anxiety serially mediated the associations between ISO and relationship initiation and social withdrawal whereas self-objectification and stress serially mediated the associations between ISO and social withdrawal and positive relationships. For both women and men, evidence did not support body shame being a link in the serial mediation from ISO to relationship competencies. Results are unpacked illustrating the relational burden of objectification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)610-625
Number of pages16
JournalSex Roles
Volume84
Issue number9-10
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Gender
  • Interpersonal sexual objectification
  • Relationship competence
  • Self-objectification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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