Hypersexualization and Sexualization in Advertisements for Halloween Costumes

Abstract

Concerns about sexualization of Halloween costumes appear frequently in the lay press, but systematic investigation of such costumes or the ads in which they appear is relatively rare. We coded a randomly selected sample of 1001 advertisements for child, teen, and adult Halloween costumes for 13 different markers of sexualization that we combined into overall scores for costume sexualization, model sexualization, and hypersexualization. We found that ratings of model characteristics and costume were significantly more sexualized when the model was adult and female. Significant interactions indicated that model characteristics and costumes of male models were low in sexualization regardless of age, whereas model characteristics and costumes featuring female models were rated more sexualized than those for male models, even for child models, and sexualization ratings increased with age. A measure of hypersexualization (combining costume and model characteristic ratings and adding text sexualization) showed that hypersexualization is highest in advertisements featuring female and adult models while being low for male models across all three age groups. However, hypersexualization ratings were not significantly different for teen and adult women, indicating some compression of sexualization into adolescence. Our results could be used by parents, educators, or counselors interested in media literacy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Alicia Juniku for initial conversations on this topic, Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen for helpful comments on drafts, and the many undergraduate Research Assistants in Dr. Sherman’s lab for invaluable labor in coding. Some coding reported here appeared in Shayla Prickett’s honors thesis for Oregon State University.

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Correspondence to Aurora M. Sherman.

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Sherman, A.M., Allemand, H. & Prickett, S. Hypersexualization and Sexualization in Advertisements for Halloween Costumes. Sex Roles 83, 254–266 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01105-0

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Keywords

  • Objectification theory
  • Sexualization
  • Gender differences
  • Age differences
  • Content analysis