Objectification, femininity ideology, and sexual assertiveness: A model of women's sexual functioning

Patricia King Williams, University of Rhode Island


Numerous research studies have investigated the relationship between sexual objectification and women's experience of their bodies, while fewer have focused on the possible role of endorsement of traditional femininity ideologies in helping to explain adult sexual functioning. The studies that do exist concentrate primarily on illuminating the differences between men and women versus exploring how endorsing particular attitudes or roles may affect women's experience of their bodies. This study investigated the relationships among traditional femininity ideology, sexual victimization, and self-objectification as well as how these variables related to body monitoring, sexual assertiveness for initiation and refusal, body shame, and appearance anxiety. All eight of these variables were investigated as they related to women's reports of sexual dysfunction. The full survey consisted of approximately 130 items from the Childhood Sexual Abuse Scale, Adult Sexual Victimization Scale, Femininity Ideology Scale, Hyperfemininity Scale, Sexual Assertiveness Scale, Objectified Body Consciousness Scale, Self-Objectification Questionnaire, Adolescent Femininity Ideology Scale, Appearance Anxiety Scale, Female Sexual Function Index, Psychosexual Functioning Scale, and the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding. Latent Variable Modeling was performed to analyze the research data using EQS software to investigate 13 main hypotheses primarily concerning sexual victimization, femininity ideology, and sexual assertiveness. As expected, a history of sexual victimization was positively correlated with self-objectification and negatively correlated with sexual assertiveness. Endorsement of traditional gender roles was negatively correlated with sexual assertiveness for initiation, but contrary to expectations, it was not correlated with self-objectification or sexual assertiveness for refusal. Surprisingly, sexual assertiveness for refusal was directly related to sexual dysfunction. While the majority of relationships posited by Objectification Theory were supported, neither body shame nor appearance anxiety was found to correlate with female sexual dysfunction when the relationship between refusal assertiveness and sexual dysfunction was included. On the whole, this information supports the body of knowledge concerning sexual victimization and objectification but challenges the assertion that the objectification variables traditionally studied relate to female sexual functioning.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Physiological psychology

Recommended Citation

Patricia King Williams, "Objectification, femininity ideology, and sexual assertiveness: A model of women's sexual functioning" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3471003.