From Bodies to Blame: Exposure to Sexually Objectifying Media Increases Tolerance Toward Sexual Harassment

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Abstract

This paper investigates whether exposure to sexually objectifying media leads to more tolerance toward sexual harassment of women in the context of a real-life scenario. Moreover, given that self-objectification reflects the internalization of gender-based inequalities, we also tested whether self-objectification was associated with greater tolerance toward sexual harassment of women. Two hundred and ten undergraduate students (112 men) were asked to watch sexually objectifying (vs. neutral) video clips before completing a questionnaire assessing tolerance toward sexual harassment. As expected, we found that watching sexually objectifying video clips led to more victim blame when evaluating a real-life scenario of sexual harassment, but it did not affect general attitudes toward sexual harassment. Moreover, trait self-objectification was associated with general attitudes toward sexual harassment of women, with more tolerance toward sexual harassment among people with high trait self-objectification. In contrast, neither exposure to sexually objectifying video clips nor trait self-objectification affected perpetrator blame. These findings suggest that even short exposure to sexually objectifying media contributes to shifting attitudes toward sexual harassment of nonsexualized women in the real world, and they also illuminate the role of self-objectification in maintaining gender-based inequalities.

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