Psychology

Title

Objectification in virtual romantic contexts: Perceived discrepancies between self and partner ideals differentially affect body consciousness in women and men

Document Type

Article

Abstract

The current study examined whether exposure to sexually objectifying images in a potential romantic partner’s virtual apartment affects discrepancies between people’s perception of their own appearance (i.e., self-perceptions) and their perception of the body ideal that is considered desirable to a romantic partner (i.e., partner-ideals). Participants were 114 heterosexual undergraduate students (57 women and 57 men) from a northeastern U.S. university. The study used a 2 (Participant Gender) × 2 (Virtual Environment: Sexualized vs. Non-Sexualized) between-subjects design. We predicted that women exposed to sexually objectifying images in a virtual environment would report greater discrepancies between their self-perceptions and partner-ideals than men, which in turn would contribute to women’s body consciousness. Findings support this hypothesis and show that perceived discrepancies account for the relationship between exposure to sexually objectifying images and body consciousness for women but not men. We also found gender asymmetries in objectification responses when each component of perceived discrepancies, i.e., self-perceptions versus perceptions of a romantic partner’s body ideal, were examined separately. For men, exposure to muscular sexualized images was significantly associated with their self-perceptions but not their perceptions of the body size that is considered desirable to a romantic partner. For women, exposure to thin sexualized images was significantly associated with their perceptions that a romantic partner preferred a woman with a smaller body size. However, exposure to these images did not affect women’s self-perceptions. Implications for gender asymmetries in objectification responses and perceived discrepancies that include a romantic partner’s perceptions are discussed.

Publication Title

Sex Roles

Publication Date

2015

Volume

73

Issue

9-10

First Page

442

Last Page

452

ISSN

0360-0025

DOI

10.1007/s11199-015-0533-6

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