While watching a trailer to a video on advertisement's image of women the following statement is made:

It creates a climate where there is wide spread violence against women. I am not at all saying that an add like this directly causes violence, it's not that simple, but turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step against justifying violence against that person. We see this with racism, we see this with homophobia, we see it with terrorism, it's always the same process. The person is dehumanized and violence then becomes inevitable.

Is there support in psychology that this is actually happening? That people being depicted as objects would cause others to commit violence against them?

An example from the video

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    I'm bordering on down-voting and/or closing because there's not even a remote attempt to clearly define "turning women into objects".
    – user5341
    Dec 12, 2011 at 20:05
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    @DVK In the video I linked to she literally shows pictures of women morphed into inanimate objects in advertisement, please assist if you think I could be more clear.
    – Kit Sunde
    Dec 13, 2011 at 9:20
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    @KitSunde, I've edited the question to make it clear that the issue is with causation and not correlation.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 13, 2011 at 10:52
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    @KitSunde - you can't expect people to watch the whole video. Best approach would be to take still shots and add to Q, or describe in your own words. Also, while not an avid commercial watcher by any stretch of imagination, I don't think I've EVER seen an ad shoing that morph, so it probably isn't frequent enough to even remotely have any measurable effect, unless they did a specific study with a carefully picked set of ads.
    – user5341
    Dec 13, 2011 at 14:57
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    I'm slightly concerned that this question is taking a, perhaps poorly worded, example of a common claim - that sexual objectification of women is one of the factors that leads to a rape culture - and misreading to mean (a) a literal interpretation of "women are objects, as demonstrated by photomorphing" and (b) only the women so depicted are affected by a rape culture.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 13, 2013 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


Objectification is the "process of representing or treating a person like an object" rather than treating them as full and equal human being with equal rights and needs. The process of representation could include portrayals of women in ways and contexts which suggest that women are objects to be looked at, ogled, touched or used, anonymous commodities/things to be purchased or to be taken and once tired of, even discarded, often to be replaced by newer, younger editions which can be further analyzed through articles mentioned here.

Per Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, objectification theory postulates that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others. Research by APA taskforce on sexuality of girls indicates that young women and adult women are frequently, consistently, and increasingly presented in sexualized ways in advertising, creating an environment in which being female becomes nearly synonymous with being a sexual object using indirect advertising techniques.

There is a strong impact made by the objectification of women within society which is shown by videos like these and ads displayed here which portray interconnectedness between violence against women (domestic and sexual violence) and the objectification of women in the media.

  1. Per M. Meghan Davidson in 2015, intimate partner violence is found to be linked to body shame through body surveillance, as well as the combined effect of self-objectification and body surveillance, as theorized by objectification theory.

In addition, these findings extend objectification theory, suggesting that objectifying experiences that are not necessarily explicitly sexual in nature, but are still related to violence and dehumanization within the context of a romantic intimate relationship, can predict objectification-related variables. This finding is also consistent with the notion that violence and objectification are linked for people who perpetrate it (Moller & Deci, 2010) as objectification is often a precursor to enacting violence (Haslam, 2006; Johnson, 2005), as well as people who experience it given that being objectified and dehumanized is associated with experiencing violence.

2. Some studies suggest that objectification can lead to dehumanization, which increases risk of violence. Dehumanized social perception may have detrimental consequences on attitudes and behaviors toward women, including sexual coercion, assault, and violence as well as victim-blaming.

Objectification is a form of dehumanization (Heflick & Goldenberg, 2009; Heflick, Goldenberg, Cooper, & Puvia, 2011; Loughnan, Pina, Vasquez, & Puvia, 2013; Puvia & Vaes, 2013). This research further connects to issues of violence against women because it is considered easier to physically violate an object compared to a human (Bandura, 2002; Nussbaum, 1999). Indeed, Loughnan, Pina, Vasquez, and Puvia (2013) found that an objectified woman was more often blamed for her own rape than a woman who was not presented in an objectified manner, and this effect was due to a decrease in moral concern for the objectified woman.

3. There is limited but important empirical evidence for the link between objectification and violence against women.

Rudman and Mescher 2012 demonstrated that men who implicitly associate women with objects have a higher proclivity toward sexual aggression.

4. Some studies have connected media exposure to sexist beliefs and acceptance of violence against women. Given that viewing sexualized and objectifying portrayals of women is associated with many of these attitudes, viewing sexualized portrayals of girls may also lead to these same effects and to a greater acceptance of child sexual abuse myths, child sexual abuse, and viewing child aged girls as acceptable sexual partners.

Several studies have shown that viewing objectifying media perpetuates violence against women. For example, men who viewed nonviolent scenes from a movie that portrayed the objectification of women were more likely to perceive a date rape victim as enjoying her rape and being partly responsible for it occurring, compared to men who viewed a control video of a cartoon (Milburn, Mather, & Conrad, 2000).

Similarly, objectification in video games causes increased rape myth acceptance among men (Beck, Boys, Rose, & Beck, 2012). Perhaps even more starkly, aggressive erotica has been experimentally shown to increase aggression toward a female target (Donnerstein, 1980).

  1. Research by Sarah J. Gervais et.al. in 2012 shows that women are sexually objectified. Also, there’s no real difference between men and women’s perception of women as sexual objects.

Women's bodies were reduced to their sexual body parts in perceivers' minds. Local processing contributed to the sexual body part recognition bias, whereas global processing tempered it.

This shows that the cognitive process behind one's perception of objects is the same that one uses when looking at women, and both genders are guilty of taking in the parts instead of the whole. When one looks at men, he or she uses global processing to see them more fully as people.

  1. Per Theresa K. Vescio, recent research revealed that sexual objectification is related to decreased mind attributions, diminished perceptions of personal agency, and dehumanization.

  2. Per Caroline Heldman, "internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (clinical depression, “habitual body monitoring”), eating disorders, body shame, self-worth and life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, sexual dysfunction, access to leadership and political efficacy".

  3. Shana Meganck through review of research literature argues that regular degradation of women and portrayal of sexualized violence in the media (with particular attention paid to advertising throughout this review of the literature) provides a backdrop for rationalizing gender violence within our society.

  • Thanks! In the studies in this section #2 were the results measured long term or immediately? What was the sample size?
    – Kit Sunde
    Oct 2, 2015 at 15:06
  • @KitSunde-Your welcome! Not very sure about the sample size or measurement time of the results since its behind a paywall. Oct 2, 2015 at 15:10
  • @KitSunde-please also have a look at research done in a sample of 572 undergraduate women updated in section #1. Oct 2, 2015 at 15:32

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