Psychology Colloquium: Dr Khandis Blake (School of Psychological Sciences – University of Melbourne)
School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne
Title: On the causes and consequences of female sexualisation: A nature/nurture approach that incorporates female agency.
Abstract: The last decade has seen an increasing interest in the saturation of popular Western culture by representations of sex. What drives the proliferation of female sexualisation, and is this something that advantages—or disadvantages—women? In a series of studies combining insights from social psychology, economics, gender studies, and biology, I examine the causes and consequences of female sexualisation, especially as they pertain to women’s agency. I will show that sexualisation is rooted not just in cultural conditions, but also in patterns of endogenous hormones and degrees of socioeconomic inequality. Using this evidence, I argue that sexualisation can express a form of female agency that facilitates social climbing and status-enhancement for women. That is not to say that sexualisation entails no risks for women. I will also show that sexualisation activates intra- and inter-personal psychological processes in others, and that these processes increase the risk of women suffering harm. I synthesise these paradoxical findings to provide a functional account of female sexualisation, highlighting the value of integrating competing disciplinary perspectives to understand complex gendered phenomena.