UB study finds media sexualization of women outranks men
University of Buffalo researchers say women have been increasingly sexualized by media, but for some reason, men aren't being treated the same. They even go so far as to suggest media's portrayal of women is often pornographic.
Sociologists conducting the study say sexualizing women could have far reaching negative consequences for both men and women, based on previous research.
In their paper, titled "Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone," the sociologists tracked the way women have been increasingly presented by media as objects for someone else’s pleasure, versus just sexy – which wouldn’t be a problem if things stopped there.
The concern with sexualizing women lies in the negative impact it can have on women and men.
Erin Hatton, PhD, and Mary Nell Trautner, PhD, assistant professors in the UB Department of Sociology are the authors of the study.
According to Hatton, "Sexualized portrayals of women have been found to legitimize or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys.” She adds, “Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women."
While there’s no question men are often sexualized in media, the study found "there were 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men, and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women", between the 1960’s and 2009.
For their ‘scale of sexualization’, the authors assigned points based on whether the image subject’s lips were parted, their tongue was showing, whether they were clothed and if there was sexually explicit text accompanying the image.
The researchers chose "Rolling Stone" for their study, because the publications isn't about sex or relationships, but about music. Rolling Stone covers a variety of topics, providing the authors with a good overview of how both women and men are generally portrayed in popular media.
The researchers say sexualizing women in the media is a cause for concern. While they there’s no harm in portraying women as sexy, making women in the media appear “ready for sex” is shown by a “plethora” of research to have negative consequences.
Hypersexualized images are far more common for women in the media than men. The authors concluded, “These findings not only document changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular culture over time, they also point to a narrowing of the culturally acceptable ways for “doing” femininity as presented in popular media.”
Sexuality & Culture
“Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone
Erin Hatton and Mary Nell Trautner
Image credit: Morguefile