Gang culture
Teenage boys who were not involved in gangs showed a direct relationship between how much they saw women as sex objects and how aggressive they were towards them. iStock

Researchers have found a direct link between seeing girls as sex objects and showing aggression towards them in teenage boys.

Boys who agreed strongly with statements such as "girls are only good for their body", "it's OK to treat girls as objects" or "girls are only used for pleasure" were more likely to be aggressive towards girls – but only if they were not members of a gang, according to a study published in the journal Psychology, Crime and Law.

"We actually found something we weren't expecting – for youth affiliated with gangs, they tended to be more aggressive towards girls, but the levels of objectification didn't really make a difference," study author Eduardo Vasquez of the University of Kent told IBTimes UK.

This could be due to complicating factors, such as contradictory attitudes towards women typical of gang culture, the authors suggest.

"It's certainly a curious finding. It may be that gang-affiliated youth have some kind of justification – if they break a rule you can be aggressive to girls, if they don't, don't touch them," Vasquez said.

"There's a funny contradiction in some gangs and they vary from place to place – girls and women are supposed to be respected, but at the same time there's this maltreatment and extreme objectification of girls and women."

The study was carried out by a survey of 273 participants in a school in an area of London that had a high levels of gang violence. The participants included both boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 14. The survey did not assess whether there was a causal links between sexual objectification and aggression.

The study also looked at how much TV participants watched and whether they played violent video games. Both were found to correlate with increased objectification of women, backing up previous findings.

"It flags up the potential for sexual objectification being communicated through the regular communication channels from TV to movies to violent video games. Even at this age we can see the link between all these things," Vasquez said.