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Ms. reveals shocking consequences of women's "self-objectification"-seeing themselves through other's eyes.

It can sap brainpower, impair motor skills, even ruin sex lives

The spring issue of Ms. magazine-on newsstands 4/29/08-features startling new research about "self-objectification"-the destructive habit of viewing oneself as a visual object in our media-saturated, body-obsessed culture. The result? Huge hidden costs for women's self-esteem, brainpower and even sex lives.

Author Caroline Heldman, a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles , presents both her own and others' research on this hot topic. Numerous studies have shown that girls and women who self-objectify are more prone to depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders.

They also can't concentrate as well at school, have lesser motor skills than others and have a lower sense of "political efficacy"-which means they are less likely to participate in the political process as either voters or office holders. As constant critics of their own bodies, self-objectifiers often can't focus on their own sexual pleasure, and thus may prioritize men's pleasure with little or no expectation of reciprocity. Boys and men self-objectify at a much lower rate, because they rarely are told that their bodies are the prime source of their worth.

Heldman and others believe the reason for the rise in self-objectification is due to the increasingly provocative and ubiquitous nature of the mass media. In the U.S., people are exposed to 3,000 to 5,000 advertisements a day -up from 500 to 2,000 a day in the 1970s-and those ads often use impossibly perfect images of women's bodies to sell products. Such images are affecting girls as young as 7 years old , who are exposed to clothing, toys, music, magazines and TV that encourages them to be sexy or "hot" long before they reach sexual maturity.

Heldman asks, "What would our lives look like if we viewed our bodies as tools to master our environment, instead of projects to be constantly worked on? What would disappear from our lives if we stopped seeing ourselves as objects? Painful high heels? Body hatred? Constant dieting? Liposuction?"

Note to editors: Author Caroline Heldman is available for interviews.