This post was originally published on PsyPost. It has been edited for content and clarity.
There is a direct relationship between the sexual objectification of girls and aggression toward them, according to research by psychologists at the University of Kent in the U.K.
The study, which looked at youth members of gangs as well as those with no gang affiliation, provides solid evidence of a link between sexual objectification and non-sexual aggression in young people.
Objectification and aggression
Dr. Eduardo Vasquez and colleagues at the university’s School of Psychology, together with a former student, found that higher levels of objectification were significant predictors of aggression toward girls. Their findings are consistent with the claim that, among other negative outcomes, the perception of women as nothing but sexual objects also can create aggression toward them.
The research also showed that watching television and playing violent video games were connected with both sexual objectification and aggression toward girls.
The study size was smaller, featuring only 273 participants aged 12 to 16 years old from a secondary school in London. The school is located in an area experiencing problems with gangs and delinquency. The findings showed that the objectification-aggression link starts to show as early as the teenage years, suggesting that the negative effects of perceiving females as objects begin at an early stage of development.
Unfortunately, this has the potential to be further reinforced and strengthened over a number of years, suggested the researchers, which makes it a behavior and perception “difficult to change.”
The study also suggests that the factors that might allow objectification to influence children—such as violent video games and sexualized media—poses a potentially serious risk of increasing harmful acts toward girls.
Why This Matters
This is why we fight sexual exploitation and objectification found so often in porn. This study makes it clear that sexual objectification and aggression can go hand in hand. And though this study talks about “violent video games and sexualized media” as part of the problem, just imagine what hardcore porn is doing to fuel this perception that people are sex objects to be used and abused.
To give you an even clearer look at how harmful objectification can be, a study by Princeton psychologists showed a group of men pictures of male and females, some barely clothed and some not. During the study, the psychologists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is involved in recognizing human faces and distinguishing one person from another. For the most part, the mPFC was activated with each picture. However, when the study subjects viewed the pictures of sexualized women, it was not activated. Basically, the automatic reaction in the men’s brains suggests that they didn’t perceive the sexy women as fully human, just as a body.
We are not saying that everyone who watches porn will be automatically aggressive toward them, while we are pointing out the research that shows porn isn’t as harmless as the porn industry and society would have you think. Don’t buy the myth that porn has no influence on how a consumer perceives the human body and sexuality. More and more, research is pointing to the very real effects that porn has on those who watch it.
We fight against porn because people aren’t just the sum of their parts, to be used and discarded without a second thought. The facts are clear: porn is harmful and research is proving it. No matter what people say to try and make pornography seem normal or harmless, there’s enough evidence out there that says it’s not.
With porn being so available, affordable, anonymous, and accessible, we have to be informed of its real harms on real people.
Porn is harmful and research is showing it. SHARE this article and raise awareness on the harms of porn and its connection to aggression and violence toward women.
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