Thesis

The relationship between self-objectification and risky sexual behavior in college women

American society is inundated with images of sexuality. Self-objectification (SO) can be defined as the internalization of the sexualized view that society has of a female. Sexual objectification occurs when one is viewed and treated as a body. Objectification theory (Frederickson & Roberts, 1997) explains potential negative outcomes of sexual objectification including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. This study explored the relationship between SO and risky sexual behavior (RSB). Single undergraduate women (N = 315) completed a questionnaire assessing SO, RSB, and mental health issues. Several hypotheses were tested: (a) those higher in SO would be higher in RSB; (b) those higher in SO would be higher in depression, anxiety, and eating disorders; (c) non-virgins would be higher in SO than virgins; and (d) those with a younger age of first intercourse would be higher in SO. The study also tested a path analysis model with SO predicting RSB mediated by depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and age of first intercourse. All the hypotheses were supported; however, the proposed model was not supported. The model was not a good fit. Secondary mediational analyses were conducted to examine these relationships individually. Age of first sexual intercourse mediated the relationship between SO and RSB with both casual and regular partners, and bulimia mediated the relationship for casual partners only. No other mediators were found. These overall results reveal the negative effects that SO can have on young women. Key Words: Self-Objectification, Risky Sexual Behavior, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders

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