Date of Award

8-15-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Maureen C. McHugh, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laurie Roehrich, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Anson E. Long, Ph.D.

Abstract

Previous research has explored women's experiences of objectification, body image, and disordered eating and the connections between these variables. Most of this research was conducted on heterosexual, Caucasian women; therefore, results are not generalizable to a variety of women. The present study compared non-heterosexual women's experiences of objectification, body image, and disordered eating to heterosexual women's experiences of these dimensions. This comparison occurred through the lens of the two conflicting theories proposed by Brown (1987) and Dworkin (1989) about whether lesbian women are impacted by objectification similarly to heterosexual women. Moreover, the current study explored whether feminist identity and gender expression would contribute to the connections between the aforementioned variables. Several measures were used, including measures used in previous studies as well as a feminist identity scale developed by the researchers. Results provided evidence that non-heterosexual women do not experience objectification, body image disruptions, and disordered eating symptoms differently from heterosexual women; however, with one exception being body shame, in which the non-heterosexual experienced a greater level of shame about their bodies. Body image proved to be more complex than only considering appreciation for one's body. The non-heterosexual women reported the desire to weigh less than they currently do, a similar to the reports of the heterosexual women. The non-heterosexual women also reported a preference for larger and more athletic bodies than their current bodies. Thereby supporting speculation that the non-heterosexual women hold a different body ideal than that of the mainstream culture. Because non-heterosexual women did not report experiences differently from that of heterosexual women, evidence of this study supports Dworkin's (1989) theory that lesbian women are not protected against the mainstream cultural messages about body appearances. Feminist identity was not found to be a significant buffer between objectification and body image nor between objectification and disordered eating, regardless of sexual orientation. Age was a significant moderator between objectification and disordered eating for the heterosexual group. Similar research findings, limitations and strengths of the current study, and future directions for research are also discussed.

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