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Sexual cosificación: the brain of the man before the woman in bikini

Sexual cosificación: the brain of the man before the woman in bikini

November 20, 2022

We know well the concept of "vase woman". It is usually an idea linked to the world of marketing and society of the show, spheres of public life that reach us especially through the mass media.

We all see with relative normality that the role of stewardess in a television program is almost always occupied by a woman who stays in a rather passive attitude. It is also not uncommon to see how the aesthetic aspect of women is exploited commercially in advertisements , movies or, sometimes, even in sports.

Sexual cosificación and neurones: the brain of the man before women with little clothes

Since the woman's body is so sought after by the cameras, it is necessary to ask whether, beyond the economic results of the hiring of women vase, the brain of the heterosexual man has learned to behave differently before women when they are dressed in little clothes.


Could it be that the reification of women was embodied in the way they interact with the tissues of neurons?

What is sexual reification?

The reification can be summarized as the consideration that a person is actually something similar to an object . When someone reifies another person, he believes, to a greater or lesser extent and more or less unconsciously, that what he is seeing is an animated body, without taking into account the factors that characterize it as a human being capable of thinking and making decisions. autonomously The sexual reification , in particular, is to let the aesthetic and sexual attributes of a person define it completely.


The example of the aforementioned stewardess can be considered a form of objectification: the woman becomes only the part of her body that we perceive as an object, and it is this "object made with flesh" that represents the whole woman, more beyond his condition as a human being. Philosopher Judith Butler said on this subject, from a more abstract point of view:

In the philosophical tradition that begins with Plato and continues with Descartes, Husserl and Sartre, the Ontological distinction between soul (conscience, mind) and body always defends relations of subordination and political and psychic hierarchy.

The mind not only subjects the body, but eventually plays with the fantasy of totally escaping from its corporeality. The cultural associations of the mind with masculinity and the body with femininity are well documented in the field of philosophy and feminism .

And it is that the reification of women is not only degrading in moral terms, but that it can have a very material and dramatic expression, being linked to a desire to dominate everything feminine . It must be taken into account, for example, that where there is dehumanization of women there is also a greater probability of attacking them sexually or subjecting them to humiliating treatment, according to some research. Although, by definition, both men and women can reify, this figure is still alarming.


Everyday sexism

In addition, reification occurs not only on the television screen. Anyone can see these same tendencies reproduced on the street, in bars, in universities and even in houses. It is a very widespread phenomenon and this reification towards women may also be reflected in neuronal activation patterns inside the brain.

An experiment conducted by Susan Fiske, Mina Cikara and members of the Priceton University seems to suggest that, at least in some contexts, the brain of men perceives women with little clothes more as objects than as beings with feelings and their own subjectivity . Sexual reification would thus have a material embodiment in at least part of the brains belonging to heterosexual men.

Looking for correlations in the brain

In the study, the brain of a series of heterosexual men was scanned with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) device while they were shown four types of images: women in street clothes, women with little clothes, men dressed in street clothes and men with little clothing.

Thanks to the results of the resonances it was possible to verify how the fact of contemplating images of women with little clothes it activated brain areas typically related to the handling of instruments (as the premotor cortex), while this did not happen if the stimulus was a woman dressed in a conventional manner, a man with little clothing or a man dressed in a conventional manner. The areas of the brain that are activated during the attribution of mental states to other living beings were activated less in those men who manifested a higher degree of hostile sexism (misogynistic attitudes).

In addition, this same group of men was more inclined to associate the images of sexualized women with first-person verbs ("grasro"), and not so much with third-person verbs ("seizes"). All this leads to think of a world in which being a woman and taking off certain clothes can be a reason for men to take you for something that looks a lot like a human being.

This, of course, would have very serious implications in case what was being seen was the trace that reification leaves in the brains of heterosexual men.

How is this interpreted?

The meaning of these results are not clear. Seeing clear activation patterns in the areas that are usually activated when something is done does not mean that those areas of the brain are responsible for triggering those specific functions. Groups of neurons in the premotor cortex, for example, are activated in many other situations.

Regarding the association between verbs and images, although they serve in any case to reinforce the hypothesis that women with little clothes are seen as objects, it is not possible to ensure that the product of these activation patterns is sexual reification . The reification is a concept too abstract to associate it with such specific neuronal patterns from a single investigation, but that does not mean that they could be related.

This experiment can be considered as an invitation to continue researching in this sense since, despite the haze of uncertainty that surrounds these results, the biases of gender, machismo, reification and its neural correlates is a field that deserves to be studied. Even if it is to avoid the appearance of barriers that separate both halves of the population.

Bibliographic references:

  • Butler, J. 2007 [1999]. The gender in dispute. Feminism and the subversion of identity. Barcelona: Espasa.
  • Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J. L., and Fiske, S. T. (2011). From agents to objects: Sexual attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23 (3), pp. 540-551.
  • Rudman, L. A. and Mescher, K. (2012). Of Animals and Objects: Men's Implicit Dehumanization of Women and Likelihood of Sexual Aggression. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 38 (6), pp. 734 - 746. doi: 0.1177 / 0146167212436401


The Sexy Lie: Caroline Heldman at [email protected] (November 2022).


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