Who treats people as sex objects? Cultural orientation, social comparison, and sexual objectification perpetration

Sarah J. Gervais, Philippe Bernard, Abigail R. Riemer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The purpose of this investigation was to test a mediation model with cultural orientation, specifically vertical individualism (i.e., perceiving the self as an autonomous individual and accepting inequality) and social comparison predicting sexual objectification perpetration. The present work integrates literatures suggesting that objectification is primarily a Western phenomenon with theories suggesting that objectification results from local processing and power. Men and women completed measures of cultural orientation, social comparison orientation, and interpersonal sexual objectification perpetration including body evaluation and unwanted explicit sexual advances. Consistent with hypotheses, bivariate correlations and path analyses revealed that vertical individualism predicted social comparison orientation and sexual objectification perpetration, specifically body evaluation (e.g., objectifying gazes, appearance commentary). Further, social comparison emerged as a mediator of the relation between vertical individualism and sexual objectification perpetration. Interestingly, the same mediation model held for both men and women, and predicted body evaluation, but not unwanted sexual advances. Implications for crossand within-cultural differences in objectification, predictors of objectification (e.g., culture, local processing, power), and interventions to prevent objectification are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-181
Number of pages29
JournalRevue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Culture
  • Local processing
  • Objectification
  • Objectifying gaze
  • Power
  • Social comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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