Date of Completion


Embargo Period



self-objectification, objectification theory, flow state, flow theory, exercise

Major Advisor

Rory McGloin, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Kirstie Farrar, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

John Christensen, Ph.D.

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The overwhelming prevalence of sexually objectifying media in our culture causes many women to objectify themselves (self-objectification), resulting in heightened body surveillance. This constant body surveillance involves recurrent, self-conscious cognitions that lower a woman’s ability to enter a state of flow— the feeling of complete absorption in an activity that is strongly connected to enjoyment. One context wherein the relationships between self-objectification, body surveillance, flow, and enjoyment may prove particularly important is that of exercise. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to integrate objectification theory and flow theory in order to examine a variety of potential objectification-related inhibitors of flow, including manipulated exposure to objectifying imagery, as well as the subsequent effect of inhibited flow on enjoyment for young women during an exercise experience. Results from the study indicated that, in line with predictions, trait self-objectification (indirectly) increased body surveillance, body surveillance decreased the experience of flow state, and flow state increased enjoyment. Body surveillance and flow state were also directly and indirectly influenced by age, BMI, appearance-related exercise motivations, and amount of focus on calories while exercising. However, manipulated exposure to objectifying imagery did not have a significant effect on this process. This lack of effect from short-term exposure suggests that, when examining young women’s self-objectification and flow within the specific context of exercise, it is perhaps the trait form of self-objectification—developed over many years of exposure to sexual objectification—that may prove to be more critical and damaging. Taken together, these results appear to highlight some of the many negative consequences for women that can arise from self-objectification and extend the examination of these consequences to flow and enjoyment during exercise.

Available for download on Sunday, July 25, 2021