Sexualizing Women In Ads May Hurt Men’s Self-Esteem, Too

Academic studies can be fascinating… and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background

It’s estimated that people see up to 5,000 ads a day, many of which depict women in sexually objectifying ways. There are egregious examples, like those infamous Carl’s Jr. commercials, as well as subtler examples, like the American Apparel ads that sexualized a female model in a unisex shirt while a male model wore the same shirt fully buttoned up. Some ads make light of rape and domestic violence; some reduce women to a pair of breasts; and some arbitrarily throw a nearly naked woman into the mix because hey, why not? Studies have suggested that when women are exposed to these types of ads en masse, they may internalize the value placed on their appearances, which can lead to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, eating disorders and depression. But what about men? Are they also affected by these reductive portrayals of women?

In a new study, researchers from The College of Saint Rose and the University of South Florida examined the complicated relationship between ads that sexually objectify women’s bodies and the effect they have on both women and men who are bombarded with them each day.

The Setup

Researchers gathered 437 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 to react to ads in a lab (though participants were told that they were simply examining the “efficacy of various types of advertisements”). Participants first reported how many hours a week they spent watching television, surfing the Internet, social networking, reading magazines or newspapers, viewing pornography and playing video games. —> Read More