The Gendered Body Project: Motivational Components of Objectification Theory

Tomi-Ann Roberts and Patricia L. Waters

in The Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399820
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Gendered Body Project: Motivational Components of Objectification Theory


In this chapter, we attempt to explore the motivational questions that arise when we view the psychology of women through the lens of objectification theory, which highlights the centrality of appearance concerns, or “body projects,” for girls and women today. We examine theoretical perspectives on what motivates the sexual objectification of women, considering the ways this treatment may reflect an adaptive evolutionary mating strategy, may serve as a tool for the maintenance of patriarchal power, or may lend existential “protection” against the creaturely, death reminders that women's bodies provide. We then investigate both developmental processes and situational/contextual features that motivate girls and women to internalize a sexually objectifying view on their physical selves. And, finally, we review evidence that self-objectification, though motivating in itself, carries significant consequences for their health and well-being.

Keywords: sexual objectification; self-objectification; body; gender; motivation

Article.  9225 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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