Toward a Relational Understanding of Objectification, Body Image, and Preventive Sexual Health

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

There is a wealth of empirical support for objectification theory. Researchers have suggested an extension to the theory that includes risky sexual behaviors as a consequence of body shame. However, there are no known studies that place the association between body image and sexual behavior in the context of the interpersonal sexual relationship. The current study was grounded in objectification theory and relational cultural theory and sought to better understand how negative self-objectification, body appreciation, relationship quality, and preventive sexual health behaviors are related. An online survey was conducted with 399 emerging adult women in the Midwest, and the proposed model was tested using structural equation modeling (SEM). The results suggest that, among this sample, negative self-objectification was indirectly related to preventive sexual health behaviors through body appreciation alone and through both body appreciation and relationship quality. Implications for clinical practice and future research are discussed.

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