November 3, 2013
Hey, Sexy Lady!
A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) used an eye-tracking device to demonstrate that men objectify women. In this study, 65 male and female college students were connected to an eye-tracking device. They then were shown pictures of college-aged women. These pictures had been digitally altered to make them more or less sexual. Certain body parts were either enhanced or diminished. Use your imagination.
The study concluded that men do, in fact, objectify women. No surprise there. However, the study also noted that women spent just as much time staring at the sexualized women’s photographs as the men did. While the two genders did not follow the same visual pattern (Ladies, think of the classic “up-down”), both genders spent equal amounts of time lingering on particular attributes of the body.
I am going to be real with you; we did not need eye-tracking technology to support that men objectify women. There are many examples of sexual objectification throughout our culture. However, we did need this technology to make women admit that they are prone to objectifying themselves.
One researcher stated that she was surprised that women were equally as likely as men to focus on sexualized areas of the female body. Frankly, I’m not. I think that each time a woman walks in to a room, she consciously or subconsciously sizes every other female up. This is our dirty little secret.
However, is this “sizing up” equivalent to objectification? I would argue no, or at least not in all cases. It is important to acknowledge that there is societal pressure to piece out your body and view it as a sum of parts rather than an entity. This contributes to female to insecurity and lack of self-confidence.
But, what if these women weren’t succumbing to societal influences? Maybe they were just checking out their competition. Perhaps they were just trying to decide how they compared to these photographs. Is this objectification? I’m not sure. I do know that the assessment of others can be an important tool in social interactions. What if it’s about strategy rather than insecurity?
Furthermore, this study only used pictures of women. I think it would be interesting to see if men “sized each other up” in the same fashion. I think you would be hard pressed to find a man that admits he checks other guys out upon entering a room, but it must happen. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that males are completely oblivious to their surroundings.
I think that it’s important to consider every contributing factor in a study. Yes, there are prominent theories and necessary literature, but sometimes you need to check out things from a different angle.
Image Credit: Kletr / Shutterstock