Sociology of Sexualities
Topic: Sex in the Media
The topic I choose to discuss for this writing assignment is Sex in the media and it is portrayed through magazines. I choose this topic because I was interested in further educating myself on how sex is incorporated in magazines and finding out information on the effects it have on magazine readers. I also choose this topic because it was very significant to various lectures that addressed this specific topic as well as other topics that we discussed throughout the semester. This topic is extremely significant to me because I am a young adult that browse through magazines occasionally and I often find myself comparing my appearance to the women that are displayed in these magazines. This is very import because although there is no such thing as a perfect or flawless person, the ads that magazine publishers incorporate in sort of brain washes the viewer’s subliminally. This can be extremely detrimental to society and how we perceive the ideal person as and how high we set our standards for a significant other. This topic is important to the field of sociology because everyone is impacted by the ads magazine editors and publishers use for their magazines. Moreover, men and women are affected tremendously by the ads they view, so sociologically this is affecting each individual that views these ads psychosocially. The significance of sex in the media is that everyone who picks up a magazine and browse through it will encounter some forms of sex. We should care about this topic because sex in the media is one of the leading causes of eating disorders in America. Another reason why we should care about sex in the media is because the media tries to sell sex to all ages. The media tends to attract more of the younger crowd due to how they construct their ads as well as what they make the focal point of the advertisement. In this essay I am going to break down three specific topics that are embedded in the general topic of sex in the media. These three specific topics all go hand in hand with the production of sex in the media and how successful the ads are conveyed to the viewers. The three topics that I am going to discuss are selling sex through advertisement, images of the perfect body, and the impact sex ads have on the viewers.
The topic of selling sex trough advertisement can be related back to the topic of sex in the media because magazines are a form of media that reaches out to individuals that want to obtain the newest information or tips on the go. Most of the ads in the magazines geared towards advertising and selling the main product in a sexual way. The authors purpose of using sex as the finalizing selling tool is to propose to the audience that this item that is on the market is just as desirable as sex. The author also wants the viewer to be able to make a personal connect to the product in order to make the sale and this can be done through the idea of sexual activity. This idea or portrayal will induce a more powerful and desirable behavioral response that will drive the consumer to go out and purchase the item that being displayed. According to William R. Swinyard, “In contrast with conventional wisdom, the author also propose that these behavioral responses will be greater when the sale calls precedes the advertising than when it follows.” Another reason what authors or magazine producers incorporate sex into their advertisement is because the ideal of low pressure strategy may cause they reader to skip over this particular ad due to the lack of demanding images that catch the readers eye. Advertising is all about making the audience that you are directing the article to feel like they can relate to the article or item that you are advertising. This concept allows the reader to feel like they investing their time and money in the best product for them that is out there. This is why most ads in magazines are based and constructed around sex, sexual activities, and sexual images. When you pick up a magazine off of the magazine stand and begin to flip through it you will notice yourself viewing items being sold that are not related to sex in a very sexual way. For an example, I was looking through a cosmetic magazine and came across an ad for perfume and there was a silhouette of naked women holding a perfume bottle. This bottle of perfume was subliminally being sold in a sexual way because the designer of this ad chose to use a naked woman instead of a fully clothed woman. These very simple images of half dressed women and overly sexual women in the ads can have a tremendous impact on what the message is that the publisher is trying to convey. The representation of images of women and men with perfect bodies and faces in the media throughout the magazines can have a tremendous impact on the viewers. Advertisers display this image of a perfect body and face on both men and women throughout the ads are targeted through specific parts on the human body. This idea of the perfect body and face in magazines is very significant to the topic of sex in the media because without images of the “perfect” body and face it would be extremely difficult to use the aspect of sex in ads displayed throughout the magazine. The body parts that media magazines target vary depending on the gender of the model. The body parts that are targeted on women are the breast, buttocks, and the size of their overall appearance. And their faces have to be flawless, clear and perfect from ear to ear, everything has to be symmetrical. Women that are displayed in the magazine ads have to be perceived as thin, well proportionate and flawless to be desirable. The body parts on the men displayed in magazines are their chest, arms, stomachs, legs and sometimes their backs. Men have to be very muscular and built in ordered to be perceived as sexy and desirable. These images are also targeted by race as well, for black women the models are expected to have large buttocks and nice size breast with a small waste. But Caucasian women are expected to be paper thin with no curves. The targeted images of men for black and caucasian men are typically the same. Both races have to obtain muscular bodies in order to be desirable. According to Vanessa, “In our society, ideal men are dominant, strong, successful, and sexually appealing. Ideal women are physically beautiful, submissive, and sexual objects.” These traits that magazine designers try to portray are derived from early childhood because as a child we are taught different things based on our gender. When you are raising a girl you treat her to be delicate, “act like a lady”, dress nice and always express her feelings. Likewise, when you are raising a son you teach him to be strong, tough, don’t act like a girl and never express your feelings. According to Kelley Massoni, “Gender scholars have amply demonstrated that the gendering process begns at (and even before) birth and continues on through the entire life course.” Although, we constantly go through life learning gender lessons, we typically learn more in depth what is expected of us during our teenage lives due to exposure to teen magazines and ads in regular magazines. This is very crucial to sociology because this can impact the way society is constructed and this is solely based off what they read and see in magazines that they come across. According to Malamuth, “Increasingly, Western adolescents are exploring and constructing their gender identities in a media-saturated culture, such as teen magazine.” This can be both positive and negative because these young women are using magazines as guidance in their life and could potentially obtain a lot of valuable and useful information. But they could also allow the images published throughout these magazines to effect the way they want their physical appearance to look like and or resemble. The role of sex in the media in the form of a magazine can have a tremendous impact on the viewers. Images of various forms of sex throughout a magazine can be extremely detrimental because it can bring down average person’s self-esteem. The images of the picture perfect, flawless and beautiful women who appear to be anything less than perfect can make the viewer’s feel less of themselves. This can cause them to want to make drastic changes to their appearance such as plastic surgery, losing an unhealthy number of pounds over a short period of time and physically harming themselves. According to Kelley, “The role of media in the gender attitudes or activities often focus on girls’ bodily concerns, revealing a connection between media representations of feminine ideal and low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and/or eating disorders in young women.” This is extremely scary to me because many teens and women rely on magazines as a source of information about various situations in life and guidance. According to Aletha C. Huston, “In a study of women’s, men’s, teens and other special magazines, teen magazines devoted an average of 2 ½ pages per issue to sexual issues, with an average of 1 page devoted to sexual coverage, and 1 ½ pages devoted to other sexual topics.” This is extremely important to the topic that I have been discussing of sex in the media, throughout this paper because this goes to show that magazines have a tremendous influence on teenager’s lives and the decisions that they make. Magazines incorporate a substantial amount of information in regards to sexual topics and or problems into several of their articles and this catches the attention of young adults as well as adults. In conclusion, sex in the media that is advertised through the form of magazines is extremely harmful to society and the way it is constructed. People in society use media displayed in magazines for several purposes such as entertainment, seeking information, stimulation, relief from boredom, and an emotional gate way to become aroused by images they may come across. I believe that sex in the media is extremely important to the field of sociology and should receive more attention because it has a huge impact on everyone in society. Although, magazines can be very entertaining, they can be very dangerous because some people don’t know how to depict real life images of true beautiful from the images of beauty that is portrayed in magazines.
1. Swinyard, William R., Ray, Michael L. Advertising-Selling Interactions:An Attribution Theory Experiment. Jounral of Marketing Research, Nov.1977, Vol.14 Issue 4 2. Hazell, Vanessa., Clarke, Juanne., Race and Gender in the Media: A Content Analysis of Advertisements in Two Mainstream Black Magazines. Journal of Black Studies. Sept. 2008, Vol 39 Issue 1 3. Malamuth, Neil M., Impett, Emily A., Research on Sex in the Media. University of California . Jan. 2009, Chapter 13 4. Massoni, Kelley., Modeling Work: Occupational Messages in Seventeen Magazine. Gender and Society. Feb. 2004, Vol 18 5. Huston, Aletha C., Wartella, Ellen., Donnerstein, Edward. Measuring the effects of sexual content in the media: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Mar.2001, Vol 3