UKC Study Directly Links Sexual Objectification and Violence
A recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of Kent has proven that there is a direct link between the sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them. Dr. Eduardo Vasquez and colleagues from the University’s School of Psychology, along with a former student, studied both youth members of gangs, as well as non-gang members; overall, they found that there was evidence of a link between objectification and non-sexual aggression in young people. The study itself, entitled ‘The Sexual Objectification of girls and aggression towards them in gang and non-gang affiliated youth’, featured 273 participants, aged 12 to 16 years of age, from a secondary school in London. The school is located in an area where gangs and delinquency are a significant problem.
Overall, through assigning a questionnaire to the participants, Dr Vasquez and his colleagues found that higher levels of objectification were very closely linked to aggression towards girls and women; these findings support the claim that viewing women as sexual objects also encourages aggression towards them. The study also claims that watching television and playing violent video games, such as the popular video game series Grand Theft Auto, which Vasquez and colleagues argue combines objectification of women with violence, go hand in with both sexual objectification and aggression towards girls and women.
The data also shows that this link between sexual objectification and aggression can start as early as teenage years, suggesting that the link establishes itself at an ‘early stage of development’. Alongside this, the link also has the possibility of being ‘reinforced and strengthened’ as the years go by, making it a rather ‘robust’ mentality which is ‘difficult to change’ among people.
Dr Vasquez and his colleagues conclude that this link between objectification and aggression towards girls and women is harmful, as objectification ‘dehumanizes’ these individuals. This in turn might make some women and girls appear as ‘deserving less moral concern’ as they are seen as objects, leading to more aggressive behaviour perhaps being displayed towards them. Similarly, they also argue that the link between objectification and aggression may be more overt in particular contexts such as ‘bars, nightclubs and even house parties’ or other situations which may involve ‘social drinking’, due to the perceived ‘expectation of sexual encounters’. This expectation, when combined with the effects of alcohol, has the potential to increase the chances of violence and aggression towards women.
See below for further information about the study:
You can also read an overview of Dr. Eduardo A. Vasquez’ academic article here.