Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social and Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Mosavel Maghboeba


Sexual objectification has become a pervasive problem, negatively affecting the mental and physical health of many women. Understanding the influence of visual media, social-support networks and social interactions on young women's health is essential to addressing issues related to objectification. We do not have an in-depth understanding of how Black and White young adult women make meaning of objectification. Further, the existing literature suggests that experiences of objectification are likely different for Black and White women. The current research employed two studies, one qualitative and one quantitative, to address these particular gaps. Study 1 used focus groups to assess young Black and White women’s attitudes and experiences related to objectification. Four focus groups were conducted with university students, two with White women (N=11) and two with Black women (N=17). Results indicated that sexual objectification is a complex and unfortunate reality in the women’s daily lives; driven by the media, men and even other women. Participants’ immediate responses to objectifying experiences are multi-faceted and the potential consequences of long-term exposure can be detrimental to a woman’s well-being. Racial differences arose in relation to standards of beauty as well as examples of and reactions to objectifying experiences. Study 2 study assessed two different models of sexual objectification for White and Black women. Female, undergraduate and graduate students completed an online questionnaire about sources of objectification; 155 White women and 173 Black women were included in the analyses. The results suggest there are significant relationships between certain sociocultural sources of objectification, body image preoccupation and the associated consequences of depression, eating disturbances. Skin color dissatisfaction was an additional negative outcome for Black participants. The models for Black and White participants were not equivalent. Understanding how women experience sexual objectification and racial differences has implications for how objectification and related outcomes are measured. This information also has implications for developing appropriately tailored programming related to the objectification and psychological well-being of women. The information from these studies can hopefully be used to inform individuals of the risks associated with sexual objectification, as well as develop educational programs on college campuses.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission