We’ve always known that cat-calling and being objectified is not a compliment, even though that’s what it’s often passed off to be. But now, a new study shows that not only is objectification not a compliment, it’s actually very dangerous.
The new study found that sexually objectifying girls and women actually leads to aggression toward them, according to University of Kent researchers. The study included 273 people in London who both did and did not have gang affiliations. Researchers examined the associations between objectification and aggression toward girls, as well as how gang affiliation played a role, if any, in this objectification and aggression toward girls. “As predicted, objectification correlated with aggression towards girls and with gang affiliation,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract, “which also correlated with aggression. In addition, objectification predicted aggression towards girls, after controlling for other relevant factors.”
This is not at all surprising. If someone thinks of you as a sexual object instead of a person who has a right to consent to sexual advances, then they don’t respect you. When people objectify women, they are not considering that there is an actual human in that body, they are just considering the body as an object. This is a super harmful view of women, and thanks to this study, we can definitively say that objectifying women leads to anger toward them. That could develop into violence, which women experience disproportionately. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women will be subject to some type of abuse.
Perpetuating this by continuing to objectify women on television and in the media is not helping, the researchers found. And the more these feelings linger, the harder they are to change.
This is exactly why women and girls are afraid to clap back at cat callers or smile when a creepy man on the street inappropriately tells them to. It’s not news to many women and girls that these situations can become physically dangerous. While the only right way to respond to sexual harassment is whatever you’re comfortable with, it’s not always the safest option to respond back. When women don’t respond, it’s not necessarily because they don’t care, but they may be trying to avoid an escalated situation, or they’re scared.
So if you’re afraid when you’re cat called, and someone asks you why, you now have science to back up your answer.