, Volume 32, Issue 9-10, pp 639-649

Images of women in advertisements: Effects on attitudes related to sexual aggression

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While the power of advertisements has long been known, investigations of sociocultural influences on sexual attitudes have been limited primarily to studies of sexually aggressive media. In this study we examined the effects on sexual attitudes of different portrayals of women in advertisements. Male and female white middle-class university students were exposed to one of three groups of advertisements. In one condition women were depicted as sex objects, in another in progressive or role-reversed roles, and a third condition comprised product oriented advertisements containing no human figures. Sexual attitudes were assessed using four subscales of Burt's Sexual Attitude Survey of 1980, a measure of attitudes believed to be rape-supportive, and conducive to sexual aggression against women. Before completing the Survey, subjects rated a series of advertisements on appeal and aesthetic dimensions. Whereas the product oriented advertisements were rated as more appealing than those featuring female figures, analyses showed that males exposed to the sex-object advertisements significantly more accepting of rape-supportive attitudes, and females exposed to the progressive female images were less accepting of such attitudes than were controls.