The drive to be sexy: Prejudice and core motivations in women's self-sexualization

Jill Allen, Sarah J. Gervais

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


The sexualization of girls and women has reached extremely high levels in Western culture. Sexualization is a form of prejudice which occurs when 1) a person's value comes from sex appeal, 2) a person's physical attractiveness is equated with sexiness, 3) a person is made into a thing for others' sexual use, or 4) sexuality is imposed on a person. Recent research suggests that girls and women are not only sexualized by other people, but may also engage in self-sexualization. However, little empirical and theoretical attention has examined the causes of self-sexualization, which we conceptualize as any action taken by an individual that intentionally highlights his or her sexualized features. We integrate the current literature on sexualization (e.g., enjoyment of sexualization resulting from the positive hedonic nature and affect) and introduce a theoretical model of self-sexualization identifying the antecedents and consequences of self-sexualizing behaviors. Our theory elaborates and extends previous considerations of sexualization by introducing a model of self-sexualization that isolates specific social motives driving girls' and women's self-sexualizing behavior and introduces possible routes to negative consequences, including an indirect route which operates by eliciting prejudice from others. By examining the core social motives of power and belonging, we gain critical insight into when, why, and with what short-term and long-term consequences girls and women self-sexualize. Theoretical and practical implications for the future of self-sexualization research are discussed, including suggestions for empirical tests of the proposed model and implications for prejudice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Psychology of Prejudice
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives on Contemporary Issues
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)9781620816066
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Social Sciences


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