Adonis on the Apps: Online Objectification, Self-Esteem, and Sexual Minority Men

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The recent proliferation of mobile dating applications (“apps”) has led to profound shifts in the ways sexual minority men (SMM) connect with others and themselves (Anderson, Holland, Koc, & Haslam, 2018). These apps, which often categorize users by factors such as body build, may promote sexual harassment and objectification (Griffiths, Murray, Krug, & McLean, 2018), potentially compounding already disproportionate body image concerns among this population (Daniel & Bridges, 2010). To test relations of app use and online objectification, we examined a path model testing tenets of objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) among a national sample of 230 SMM. We measured direct and indirect relations between patterns of app use (i.e., number of apps used, app use frequency), online objectification, internalization of sociocultural standards of attractiveness, two psychological reactions (i.e., body surveillance, body satisfaction), and self-esteem, a mental health risk particularly salient among SMM. The present study demonstrated support for expansions of objectification theory both online and among SMM. Regarding direct relations, number of apps used (though not app use frequency) was positively related with objectification, internalization, and body surveillance, and negatively related with body satisfaction and self-esteem. Variables yielded indirect relations via internalization, body surveillance, and body satisfaction. Implications of our findings, as well as limitations and implications for future research and practice, are discussed.

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