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Friday, March 6 • 3:45pm - 4:45pm
Self-objectification and Social Functioning in Close Relationships: Body Shame as a Predictor of Social Intimacy and Loneliness

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According to Fredrickson and Roberts (1997), an individual’s subjective experience of sexual objectification can lead to many consequences, such as body shame. Body shame is the negative feeling that results from comparing oneself to an internalized cultural ideal and not aligning with it (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Studies have shown that women tend to experience body shame more often than men (Fredrickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998), and it can lead to serious consequences such as disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction (Tiggeman & Williams, 2012). The current study examined associations between women’s self-objectification (self-surveillance and body shame) and social functioning in close relationships. Previously, body shame has predicted fear of intimacy in romantic relationships (Cash, Theriault, & Annis, 2004). Expanding on this, we predicted that women higher in self-surveillance and body shame would experience more fear of emotional intimacy in a romantic context, less social intimacy in close relationships, and more overall feelings of loneliness. At a small private college in New England, students volunteered to participate in the study for course credit. The 99 female participants (majority White) took an online survey, completing the following measures: Miller Social Intimacy Scale (Miller & Lefcourt, 1982), Fear of Intimacy Scale (Descutner & Thelen, 1991), UCLA-8 Loneliness Scale (Hays & DiMatteo, 1987), Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (McKinley & Hyde, 1996), and demographic items including age and current relationship status. At the bivariate level, self-surveillance and body shame were correlated with social intimacy, and body shame was correlated with loneliness. However, neither shame nor self-surveillance related to fear of intimacy. In hierarchical regressions, body shame predicted social intimacy and loneliness after controlling for age, current relationship status, and self-surveillance. These findings suggest that intimacy and functioning in close relationships should be further examined within the objectification theory framework.

Friday March 6, 2015 3:45pm - 4:45pm PST