Thursday 27 July 2017

It's official: men see women in bikinis as 'sex objects'

Scientists believe that images of scantily clad females, like this one of Irish model Rosanna Davison, turn women into sexual objects in the minds of men. Photo: Getty Images
Scientists believe that images of scantily clad females, like this one of Irish model Rosanna Davison, turn women into sexual objects in the minds of men. Photo: Getty Images

Steve Connor

Scientists have demonstrated something that many women suspect and most men would admit only to themselves: pictures of scantily clad females turn women into sexual objects in the minds of men.

Feminists would no doubt see the discovery as the science of the bloody obvious, but the researchers claim the results demonstrate just how pictures of bikini-clad women affect the inner workings of the male brain.

The study found that the part of the brain that keeps in check a man's sexual hostility towards women is deactivated when he is shown images of women in bikinis. The findings also support the idea that pornographic images turn women into commodified objects in the minds of men, the researchers said.

"It is as if they are reacting to these women as if they are not fully human," said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, who made the study on 21 male undergraduates using a medical scanner to analyse their brain activity.

She said: "I wouldn't argue for censorship, but I would argue it is important to know about the impact of the images you are showing."

The study focused on a region of the brain called the medial pre-frontal cortex, just above the eyes, which when activated seems to damp a man's tendency to express hostile sexist thoughts about women, Prof Fiske said.

Men who express the strongest sexist tendencies tend to have a less active medial cortex. It becomes deactivated in men who are the most hostile to women, but only for women in bikinis, she said.

"So basically, they are likely to treat these women as objects. It is only a preliminary study but it is consistent with the idea that they are responding to these photographs as if they were responding to objects rather than people."

It was "shocking" to find that the pictures of scantily clad women deactivates the medial pre-frontal cortex, Prof Fiske said.

"The only other time we've observed the deactivation of this region is when people look at pictures of homeless people and drug addicts who they really don't want to think about what's in their minds because they are put off by them." (© Independent News Service)

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