Effects of Waist-to-Hip Ratio on Sexual Objectification and Sexual Assault
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The present studies examined the effects of waist-to-hip ratio on sexual assault and sexual objectification. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is defined computationally as the thinnest point of the waist divided by the widest point of the hips. Considering that men perceive women with low WHRs (curvy figures) as being more attractive and having a higher mate quality that women with high WHRs, we predicted that women with low WHRs would be sexually objectified more; moreover, men were predicted to show this effect more so than women. Additionally, it was hypothesized that women with low WHRs would be blamed in sexual assault cases more so than women with high WHRs. In study one, 75 online participants were recruited and were presented with six BMI-matched targets ranging in WHRs. Participants then evaluated the targets on 15 questions assessing interpersonal sexual objectification. Three-hundred-eighty-seven online participants were recruited for study two and viewed either a low-WHR target or a high-WHR target. Participants then read a vignette about a reported sexual assault from the perspectives of the victim and the perpetrator. Finally, participants labeled the incident. Study one found that women with low WHRs are sexually objectified more; gender did not moderate this effect. However, the results of study two indicate that men blame women with high WHRs more than women with low WHRs in sexual assault cases. Women did not show this effect. These results could influence decisions of guilt in court cases regarding sexual assault. Whether or not women will be believed when disclosing instances of sexual assault may also be affected by these results.