Sex Roles

, Volume 32, Issue 9–10, pp 639–649 | Cite as

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

  • Kyra Lanis
  • Katherine Covell


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.


Social Psychology Sexual Attitude Attitude Survey Sexual Aggression Aggressive Medium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baron, L., & Straus, M. A. (1984). Sexual stratification, pornography and rape in the United States. In N. M. Malamuth & E. Donnerstein (Eds.),Pornography and sexual aggression, Toronto: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Begg, I. (1991). Essay on man.Canadian Psychology, 32, 16–19.Google Scholar
  3. Bretl, D. J., & Cantor, J. (1988). The portrayal of men and women in U.S. television commercials: A recent content analysis and trends over 15 years.Sex Roles, 18, 595–609.Google Scholar
  4. Briere, J., & Lanktree, C. (1983). Sex-role related effects of sex bias in language.Sex Roles, 9, 625–632.Google Scholar
  5. Briere, J., & Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Self-reported likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior: Attitudinal versus sexual explanations.Journal of Research in Personality, 17, 315–323.Google Scholar
  6. Brownmiller, S. (1975).Against our will: Men, women and rape. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  7. Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217–230.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Check, J. V. P., & Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Sex-role stereotyping and reactions to depictions of stranger versus acquaintance rape.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 344–356.Google Scholar
  9. Corne, S., Briere, J., & Esses, L. M. (1992). Womens' attitudes and fantasies about rape as a function of early exposure to pornography.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 454–461.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, C. M., & Bauserman, R. (1993). Exposure to sexually explicit materials: An attitude change perspective.Annual Review of Sex Research, 4, 121–209.Google Scholar
  11. Demaré, D., Lips, H. M., & Briere, J. (1993). Sexually violent pornography, anti-women attitudes, and sexual aggression: A structural equation model.Journal of Research in Personality, 27, 285–300.Google Scholar
  12. DeYoung, S., & Crane, F. G. (1992). Females' attitudes toward the portrayal of women in advertising: A Canadian Study.International Journal of Advertising, 11, 249–255.Google Scholar
  13. Downs, A. C., & Harrison, S. K. (1985). Embarrassing age spots or just plain ugly? Physical attractiveness stereotyping as an instrument of sexism on American television commercials.Sex Roles, 13, 9–19.Google Scholar
  14. Ferrante, C. L., Haynes, A. M., & Kingsley, S. M. (1988). Images of women in television advertising.Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 32, 231–237.Google Scholar
  15. Gallivan, J. (1991). Does language matter? Begging the Question.Canadian Psychology, 32, 20, 21.Google Scholar
  16. Geis, F. L., Brown, V., Jennings, J., & Porter, N. (1984). TV commercials as achievement scripts for women.Sex Roles, 10, 513–525.Google Scholar
  17. Gould, S. J. (1987). Gender differences in advertising response and self-consciousness variables.Sex Roles, 16, 215–225.Google Scholar
  18. Koss, M. P., & Leonard, K. E. (1984). Sexually aggressive men: Empirical findings and theoretical implications. In N. M. Malamuth & E. Donnerstein (Eds.),Pornography and sexual aggression. Toronto: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Livingstone, S., & Green, G. (1986). Television advertisements and the portrayal of gender.British Journal of Social Psychology, 25, 149–154.Google Scholar
  20. Macklin, M. C., & Kolbe, R. H. (1984). Sex-role stereotyping in children's advertising: Current and past trends.Journal of Advertising, 13, 34–42.Google Scholar
  21. Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Factors associated with rape as predictors of laboratory aggression against women.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 432–442.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Malamuth, N. M. (1986). Predictors of naturalistic sexual aggression.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 953–962.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Malamuth, N. M., & Briere, J. (1986). Sexual violence in the media: Indirect effects on aggression against women.Journal of Social Issues, 42, 29–50.Google Scholar
  24. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. P. (1980). Penile tumescence and perceptual responses to rape as a function of the victim's perceived reactions.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 10, 528–547.Google Scholar
  25. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. P. (1981). The effects of mass media exposure on acceptance of violence against women: A field experiment.Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436–446.Google Scholar
  26. Malamuth, N. M., Check, J. V. P., & Briere, J. (1986). Sexual arousal in response to aggression: Ideological, aggressive and sexual correlates.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 330–340.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Malamuth, N. M., & Donnerstein, E. (Eds.). (1984).Pornography and sexual aggression. Toronto: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Malamuth, N. M., Haber, S., & Feshbach, S. (1980). Testing hypotheses regarding rape: Exposure to sexual violence, sex differences, and the “normality” of rapists.Journal of Research in Personality, 14, 121–137.Google Scholar
  29. Rak, D. S., & McMullen, L. M. (1987). Sex-role stereotyping in television commercials: A verbal response mode and content analysis.Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 19, 25–39.Google Scholar
  30. Sanday, P. R. (1981). The sociocultural context of rape.Journal of Social Issues, 37, 1–27.Google Scholar
  31. Schwartz, L. A., & Markham, W. T. (1985). Sex-role stereotyping in children's toy advertisements.Sex Roles, 1, 157–170.Google Scholar
  32. Schwartz, N., Wagner, D., Bannert, M., & Mathes, L. (1987). Cognitive accessibility of sex role concepts and attitudes toward political participation: The impact of sexist advertisements.Sex Roles, 17, 593–601.Google Scholar
  33. Schwartz, N., Wagner, D., Bannert, M., & Mathes, L. (1987). Cognitive accessibility of sex role concepts and attitudes toward political participation: The impact of sexist advertisements.Sex Roles, 17, 593–601.Google Scholar
  34. Soley, L. C., & Kurzbard, G. (1986). Sex in advertising: A comparison of 1964 and 1984 magazine advertisements.Journal of Advertising, 15, 46–64.Google Scholar
  35. Sullivan, G. L., & O'Connor, P. J. (1988). Women's role portrayals in magazine advertising: 1958–1983.Sex Roles, 18, 181–188.Google Scholar
  36. Tucker, C. M. (1984). Distortions in advertising: The trivialization of American women.Social Action and the Law, 10, 12–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyra Lanis
    • 1
  • Katherine Covell
    • 2
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada
  2. 2.PsychologyUniversity College of Cape BretonNova ScotiaCanada

Personalised recommendations