For generations, women have raised concerns about how For generations, women have raised concerns about how

Objectification and Internalized Shame in Romantic Relationships

Man watches woman from behindFor generations, women have raised concerns about how objectification contributes to street harassment, unwanted workplace sexual attention, and sexual violence. The practice of treating women like sexual objects in romantic relationships has been studied very little, and it’s easy enough to believe that some objectification in a sexual relationship is normal. According to new research, though, men who objectify their partners are more likely to engage in violence and coercion, and being objectified can trigger a host of unhealthy emotions in these men’s partners.

The Risks of Sexual Objectification

To evaluate the effects of sexual objectification within the bounds of a romantic relationship, researchers surveyed 162 women and 119 men in heterosexual relationships. They found that men who extensively focused on their partners’ appearance were more likely to have negative feelings, such as shame, about a partner’s body. These men were also more likely to subscribe to coercive sexual ideas, such as that a woman has a duty to offer sex to her partner. These coercive sexual beliefs made male subjects more likely to engage in manipulative, coercive, and violent tactics to get sex from their partners.

Similarly, women involved with partners who objectified them suffered from body shame. A woman whose partner expressed negative feelings about her body was more likely to internalize these views. Women involved with coercive partners were also less likely to assert themselves and to communicate openly about their sexual desires.

The study’s authors argue that their results show that ending sexual objectification is still a priority for improving women’s well-being. They point out that male objectification of women is much more common than female objectification of men, and that activists should continue to work directly with men to reduce both general objectification and the type of objectification that occurs in romantic relationships.


Objectification in romantic relationships related to sexual pressure and coercion. (2014, August 25). Retrieved from

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  • Rachel

    August 26th, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I know that there are those relationships where one partner does not really show you their true colors until you have become pretty invested in the relationship, but even when that happens why not just work up the courage to walk out and leave? I don’t want to be objectified and I would never want my daughters to think that it is ok for a man to treat a woman in that way. There are some things that are way too important to hold onto instead of just having a warm body next to you. Think about the damage that this is doing to you and your self easteem. You are too good for this, so summon up the courage to get up and walk out.

  • aundi

    August 26th, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    I have been that object before and believe me when I say that it is so demeaning and belittling that it can literally take away every ounce of self esteem that you ever possessed. You wnat to believe that this person loves you and wants you around but then you come to discover that this is not true, you are only there as an object, to smile and look pretty, to be seen but never really heard.

  • Suzanna

    August 27th, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    When yoyu spend so much time with someone who constantly tells you that this is all that you are good for, then you begin to honestly believe that this is all that you are good for.
    There are men, and women too I guess, who get off on making other people feel like they are less than what they really are and if you already struggle with confidence and believeing that someone could really love you then it is pretty certain that you will come ti believe those lies yourself.
    A relationship like this is just as hard to break free of as any that includes any other sort of mental or physical abuse, maybe even harder because no one else can visibly see the pain that you are inwardly feeling.

  • jane

    August 27th, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    Before my husband and I were married, we were high school sweetheart. We had been dating on and off since 2000. The second time we dated we ended up breaking up hard because I went behind his back and talked to my best friend who I had feelings for. Except I was doing it on purpose to break up because ive tried to break up with him so many times that I needed space. Since that didnt work I had to take that harsh step. A year later we got back together we worked our difference and amends our past. But apparently, now im suffering the mistrust. We have been married for 4 years. It has been a rough marriage but I never attempt to be or think with another guy. When I showered he goes through my phone, when I go out hes constantly call me. One time we argued and he said that he dont care if I want to be with another guy and many disgusting thing that he refers me to be. Hes constantly reminding me of the past and doesnt trust me driving “our” car. Im truly lost for words, seriously I feel like im sophicating, and idiot and naive. I just dont think I could handle another year or not another day. My biggest flaw that I have is that im a forgiven person and always see the pros instead of the cons. Hes the type to manipulate and put guilts on me and bring his family into our arguments. I need some advise on what we need to do to save our marriage before I ended up giving up.

  • Yolanda

    August 28th, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    This makes many women even afraid to walk down the stree alone.
    Is this the kind of environment that we should be subjected to living in in thsi day and time?
    I thought that we had moved beyond this but I see that there are still men out there who feel like this is the only thing that women are good for, to be sexualized.

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