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Media’s Growing Sexualization of Women

  • Date Submitted: 06/07/2012 07:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 41 
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A provocative new study tends to confirm that the portrayal of women in the popular media over the last several decades has become increasingly sexualized, even “pornified.”
University at Buffalo researchers said previous research has found sexualized images of women to have far-reaching negative consequences for both men and women.
The study will be published in the September issue of the journal Sexuality & Culture.
The new study uses the covers of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2009 to measure changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular media over time.
“We chose Rolling Stone,” said sociology professor Erin Hatton, “because it is a well-established, pop-culture media outlet. It is not explicitly about sex or relationships; foremost it is about music. But it also covers politics, film, television and current events, and so offers a useful window into how women and men are portrayed generally in popular culture.”

After analyzing more than 1,000 images of men and women on Rolling Stone covers over the course of 43 years, the authors came to several conclusions.
First, representations of both women and men have indeed become more sexualized over time; and, second, women continue to be more frequently sexualized than men.
Their most striking finding, however, was the change in how intensely sexualized images of women — but not men — have become.

In the study, the authors developed a “scale of sexualization” to measure the intensity of sexualized representations of men and women.

An image was given “points” for being sexualized if, for example, the subject’s lips were parted or his/her tongue was showing, the subject was only partially clad or naked, or the text describing the subject used explicitly sexual language.

Three categories of images were identified: a) those that were, for the most part, not sexualized (i.e., scoring 0-4 points on the scale), b) those that were sexualized (5-10 points), and c) those that were so...

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