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Coping skills help women overcome the mental anguish of unwanted body evaluation and sexual advances
Date:8/6/2014

Some young women simply have more resilience and better coping skills and can shrug off the effect of unwanted cat calls, demeaning looks and sexual advances. Women with low resilience struggle and could develop psychological problems when they internalize such behavior, because they think they are to blame. So say Dawn Szymanski and Chandra Feltman of the University of Tennessee in the US, in Springer's journal Sex Roles, after studying how female college students handle the sexually objectifying behavior of men.

According to the popular feminist Objectification Theory, women of most cultures are seen as sexual objects that are there for the pleasure of men's sexual desires. Examples of such conduct include men's visibly scrutinizing a woman's figure or making comments about her body parts, giving whistles or cat calls, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances or sexual assault. The media also play a role in these practices when they depict women as mere sexual objects. These experiences contribute to some women's developing mental health problems, such as eating disorders, depressive symptoms and substance abuse problems.

To study how women cope with such sexually oppressive experiences, Szymanski and Feltman studied the responses to an online questionnaire of 270 young adult heterosexual undergraduate women from a university in the Southeastern region of the US.

Their findings show that young women experience increased psychological distress when they are being sexually objectified. Women with low resilience are especially vulnerable, and tend to internalize such behavior. Some women feel confused and shameful, and reason that their own inferiority is the cause of such bad experiences. They therefore blame themselves, rather than the perpetrators, and this causes psychological distress.

Szymanski and Feltman surmise that resilient women are more successful at managing adverse experiences because they are able to
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Contact: Joan Robinson
joan.robinson@springer.com
49-622-148-78130
Springer
Source:Eurekalert

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