Sex and Relationships in the Media

“Amber O’Brien, 25, is having the time of her life. Recently she decided it was time to have breast implants. Amber’s proudest achievement: buying a condo. Her life mission: always be open to new ideas. Her pet peeve: people who pressure you into doing things.”

Source: Breast implant advertisement

Women as Sexual Objects

Provocative images of women’s partly clothed or naked bodies are especially prevalent in advertising. Shari Graydon, former president of Canada’s Media Action Média, argues that women’s bodies are sexualized in ads in order to grab the viewer’s attention.[2] Women become sexual objects when their bodies and their sexuality are linked to products that are bought and sold.

Media activist Jean Kilbourne agrees. She notes that women’s bodies are often dismembered into legs, breasts or thighs, reinforcing the message that women are objects rather than whole human beings.

Although women’s sexuality is no longer a taboo subject, many researchers question whether or not the blatant sexualization of women’s bodies in the media is liberating. Laurie Abraham, executive editor of Elle magazine, warns that the biggest problem with women’s magazines is “how much we lie about sex.” [3] Those “lies” continue to perpetuate the idea that women’s sexuality is subservient to men’s pleasure. In her study of Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines, for example, Nicole Krassas found that both men and women’s magazines contain a single vision of female sexuality—that “women should primarily concern themselves with attracting and sexually satisfying men.” [4]

The presence of misinformation and media stereotypes is disturbing, given research that indicates young people often turn to media for information about sex and sexuality. In 2003, David Buckingham and Sara Bragg reported that two-thirds of young people turn to media when they want to learn about sex – the same percentage of kids who ask their mothers for information and advice. [5]

 

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