Self Objectification and the Male Gaze

Expanding the Parameters of Self-Objectification: Exploring the Role of Gender and Sexual Orientation on Self Objectification and Body Shame - Hannah Jacobs, Jenn Clark, Amanda Champion, Cassandra Hesse, & Cory L. Pedersen

Objectification theory examines the consequences of being female in a society that objectifies the female body (Fedrickson & Roberts, 1997), the results of which involve women scrutinizing themselves relative to rigid and ideal societal standards (Fedrickson & Roberts, 1997).  These standards are imposed through various media outlets (Chaiken & Pliner, 1987), which can often lead to lowered self-esteem, habitual body monitoring, and increased body shame (Fedrickson & Roberts, 1997).  Self-objectification occurs when external forces to adhere to these standards are internalized (Fredrickson, et al., 1998). Research has revealed that even imagined situational factors can have a negative impact on women’s self–esteem and body satisfaction (Tiggemann, 2001). For instance, Calogero (2004) investigated the effects of anticipating a male versus female gaze on self-objectification to observe that anticipating a male gaze yielded higher reports of body shame and social physique anxiety than anticipating a female gaze.

 

Expanding upon Calogero’s (2004) findings, this study explored the intersectional implications of these societal standards of beauty on gay and straight males and females. Upon completion of an online self-objectification questionnaire, participants were randomly assigned to one of three possible vignette conditions; an anticipated male gaze, an anticipated female gaze condition, or a no gaze condition.  Participants were then directed to complete a body shame and social physique anxiety questionnaire.

 

After controlling for self-objectification, no effects of condition were found on measures of body shame or social physique anxiety.  However, a significant effect of sexual orientation among male participants was found, with gay males scoring significantly higher than straight and bisexual males on the measure of body shame.  These findings supporting previous research indicating that gay men and straight women have similar experiences with self-objectification (Kozak et al., 2009).  Future researchers may benefit from simplifying intersectionalities by including males only in their investigations, to further explore the influence of objectification on gay and straight men.

 

Poster presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Atlanta GA, 2017.