Critiques of popular media as “objectifying” women are dead on — both males and females have been found to subconsciously process sexy women as being inanimate objects, yet recognize sexy men as human beings. Via Psychological Science:
Perfume ads, beer billboards, movie posters: everywhere you look, women’s sexualized bodies are on display. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that both men and women see images of sexy women’s bodies as objects, while they see sexy-looking men as people.
Psychological research has worked out that our brains see people and objects in different ways. For example, while we’re good at recognizing a whole face, just part of a face is a bit baffling. On the other hand, recognizing part of a chair is just as easy as recognizing a whole chair. One way that psychologists have found to test whether something is seen as an object is by turning it upside down. Pictures of people present a recognition problem when they’re turned upside down, but pictures of objects don’t have that problem.
So Bernard and his colleagues used a test where they presented pictures of men and women in sexualized poses. Some of the pictures were right side up and some were upside down. People recognized right-side-up men better than upside-down men, suggesting that they were seeing the sexualized men as people. But the women in underwear weren’t any harder to recognize when they were upside down—which is consistent with the idea that people see sexy women as objects.