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Study Shows Porn Consumption is Connected with Everyday Forms of Objectifying Women

By July 5, 2018 No Comments

There's a vast amount of research on the harmful effects of pornography, and it's important that this information is accessible to the public. Weekly, we highlight a research study that sheds light on the expanding field of academic resources that showcase porn's harms. These studies cover a wide range of topics, from the sociological implications of pornography to the neurological effects of porn-consumption.

The full study can be accessed here.

Masculine Norms, Peer Group, Pornography, Facebook, and Men’s Sexual Objectification of Women

Authors: Renee Mikorski and Dawn M. Szymanski

Peer-Reviewed Journal: Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2017, Vol. 18, Issue 4

Background

Sexual objectification of women refers to the treatment of women as just a body that is used primarily for consumption by men. Sexual objectification has been linked to a variety of negative psychological outcomes for women including internalization of this objectification, body shame, disordered eating, depression, and posttraumatic stress symptoms (Miles-McLean et al., 2015; Moradi & Huang, 2008; Szymanski, Moffitt, & Carr, 2011). Because of the link between experiences of sexual objectification and negative psychological outcomes for women, it is important not only to explore how women can cope with these experiences but also the variables that make men more likely to engage in sexually objectifying behavior. Therefore, it is important to target men who are most likely to sexually objectify to direct future research toward interventions that can be designed to prevent these harmful behaviors.

Most research examining predictors of men’s sexual objectification of women has focused on extreme manifestations (e.g., sexual assault; McDermott, Kilmartin, McKelvey, & Kridel, 2015). Very little attention has been paid to everyday, subtler forms of sexual objectification perpetration, which may be equally important in terms of the emotional well-being of the women targeted (Szymanski & Feltman, 2014). However, past research has shown a link between perpetration of sexual objectification and sexual aggression.

In this study, we examined the relations between dimensions of traditional masculine gender role adherence and likelihood to sexually objectify women via body evaluation (gazing at, inspecting and evaluating women’s bodies; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) and making unwanted sexual advances. We also explored the potential moderating or exacerbating role of other variables, including pornogrpahy consumption, on men’s likelihood to sexually objectify women. Pornography use is another important variable to examine in the context of adherence to masculine norms and likelihood to sexually objectify women. Content analyses have revealed pornography to be high in both sexually objectifying images of women (McKee, 2005) and verbal and physical aggression toward women (Sun, Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, & Liberman, 2008).

Methods

The sample was comprised of 329 undergraduate participants. Participants were recruited through a department of psychology’s online human research pool at a large United States Southeastern public university. Participants were told that the study would examine gender-related attitudes and experiences. They were told that the research survey would ask questions about feelings, thoughts, and experiences they might have had as a man, including relational attitudes toward women. Participants were told that the survey would also ask questions about sex, pornography use, and Facebook use and that it would take 45–60 min to complete.

To reduce response biases for our theorized model, the measure assessing men’s sexual objectification of women was assessed prior to and independent of measuring the predictor and moderator variables. This created “psychological separation” of the variables as a means of reducing common method bias (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Other than placing the objectification scale first in the survey, all other measures were randomly ordered in the survey.

Results

At the bivariate level, all our predictor variables were positively related to more body evaluation of women and all but one were positively related to making unwanted sexual advances toward women. However, when direct and hypothesized interactive effects were examined together, conformity to playboy and violence masculine norms, and higher levels of pornography use emerged as unique predictors of more body evaluation of women. Furthermore, pornography use and other variables uniquely predicted making unwanted sexual advances toward women. These findings are consistent with feminist perspectives on sexual objectification and sexual assault perpetration that emphasize traditional, restrictive gender role socialization processes and experiences, as well as gender inequality and the devaluation of women at micro (e.g., individual), meso (e.g., group and community), and macro (e.g., structural and systemic) levels (McDermott et al., 2015; Szymanski, Carr & Moffitt, 2011).

Our findings underscore the importance of traditional gender role socialization processes in men’s sexual objectification of women. Our results are consistent with previous research showing that approval of violence, impersonal and hypersexuality, and male dominance are related to more perpetration of extreme forms of sexual and physical violence against women (Locke & Mahalik, 2005; Sanday, 1981; Santana et al., 2006; Tharp et al., 2013). In addition, our findings revealed the important moderating role of association with abusive male peers in the link between endorsement of playboy, power over women, and violence masculine norms and making unwanted sexual advances. This makes sense, as men who have or wish for multiple sex partners or who try to control women and treat them as subservient may try to evaluate and proposition many women through objectifying ways that have been modeled and reinforced as acceptable by their friends.

Our study provides evidence that men’s pornography use is also harmful to women by promoting men’s perpetration of body evaluation and unwanted sexual advances toward women on the screen as well as in real life. As pornography is now readily available on the Internet, it has become more fragmented and categorized according to the viewer’s preference (Garlick, 2010). Because these pornographic images and videos are even more readily accessible and catered to the viewer, it is possible that the people in the videos are being viewed as less than human (Garlick, 2010) which may affect how men treat women in the real world. Our findings expand on previous research linking male pornography use with more sexual aggression toward women (Carr & VanDeusen, 2004; Vega & Malamuth, 2007; Ward et al., 2015; Wright & Tokunaga, 2016).

The full study can be accessed here.

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