Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone
- 9.4k Downloads
A number of journalists and scholars have pointed to the sexual objectification of women and men in popular media to argue that Western culture has become “sexualized” or even “pornified.” Yet it is not clear whether men or women have become more frequently—or more intensely sexualized—over time. In a longitudinal content analysis of images of women and men on more than four decades of Rolling Stone magazine covers (1967–2009), we begin to answer such questions. Using a unique analytical framework that allows us to measure both the frequency and intensity of sexualization, we find that sexualized images of men and women have increased, though women continue to be more frequently sexualized than men. Yet our most striking finding is the change in how women—but not men—are sexualized. Women are increasingly likely to be “hypersexualized,” but men are not. These findings not only document changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular culture over time, they also point to a narrowing of the culturally acceptable ways for “doing” femininity as presented in popular media.
KeywordsSexual socialization Sexualization Gender Media Popular culture
We are grateful to the Editor and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We also wish to thank Samantha Kwan and Elizabeth Borland for feedback on an earlier draft of this article, and Paul Durlak and Sarah Glann for research assistance.
- Abramson, E., & Valene, P. (1991). Media use, dietary restraint, bulimia, and attitudes toward obesity: A preliminary study. British Review of Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa, 5, 73–76.Google Scholar
- American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force. (2007). Report of the APA task force on the sexualization of girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved 10 March 2010 from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf.
- Attwood, F. (2009). Mainstreaming sex: The sexualisation of western culture. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
- Baumann, S. (2008). The moral underpinnings of beauty: A meaning-based explanation for light and dark complexions in advertising. Poetics, 36, 2–23.Google Scholar
- Binns, R. K. (2006) ‘On the cover of a Rolling Stone’: A content analysis of gender representation in popular culture between 1967–2004. M.A. Thesis, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS.Google Scholar
- Bordo, S. (1999). The male body: A new look at men in public and in private. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
- Bradley, P. (2004). Mass media and the shaping of American feminism, 1963–1975. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.Google Scholar
- Castro, G. (1990). American feminism: A contemporary history. Paris, France: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques.Google Scholar
- Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender & power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- de Beauvoir, S. (1949, 1972). The second sex. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Ezzell, M. (2009). Pornography, lad mags, video games, and boys: Reviving the canary in the cultural coal mine. In S. Olfman (Ed.), The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Farley, M. (2009). Prostitution and the sexualization of children. In S. Olfman (Ed.), The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Frette, J. (2009). Men are altered and objectified too: Ryan Reynolds graces the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 December 2010 http://www.examiner.com/women-s-issues-in-national/men-are-altered-and-objectified-too-ryan-reynolds-graces-the-cover-of-entertainment-weekly.
- Gatten, J. (1993). The Rolling Stone index: Twenty-five years of popular culture, 1967–1991. Ann Arbor, MI: Popular Culture, Ink.Google Scholar
- Gill, R. (2003). From sexual objectification to sexual subjectification: The resexualisation of women’s bodies in the media. Feminist Media Studies, 3, 100–106.Google Scholar
- Gill, R. (2007). Gender and the media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Gill, R. (2009). Beyond the “sexualization of culture” thesis: An intersectional analysis of “sixpacks,” “midriffs” and “hot lesbians” in advertising. Sexualities, 12, 137–160.Google Scholar
- Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Gross, L. (2001). Up from invisibility: Lesbians, gay men, and the media in America. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Hansen, C., & Hansen, R. (2000). Music and music videos. In D. Zillmann & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Media entertainment: The psychology of its appeal. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Hofschire, L., & Greenberg, B. (2001). Media’s impact on adolescents’ body dissatisfaction. In J. D. Brown & J. R. Steele (Eds.), Sexual teens, sexual media. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Jhally, S. (1989). Advertising, gender and sex: What’s wrong with a little objectification? In R. Parmentier & G. Urban (Eds.), Working papers and proceedings of the center for psychosocial studies (No. 29). Retrieved 8 July 2010. https://mediasrv.oit.umass.edu/~sutj/Objectification.pdf.
- Johnson, S. (2007). Promoting easy sex without genuine intimacy: Maxim and Cosmopolitan cover lines and cover images. In M.-L. Galician & D. L. Merskin (Eds.), Critical thinking about sex, love, romance in the mass media: Media literacy applications. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Kabouter. (2010). Rolling Stone magazine cover gallery. Retrieved 1 April 2010. http://rateyourmusic.com/list/kabouter/rolling_stone_magazine_cover_gallery.
- Lambiase, J., & Reichert, T. (2006). Sex and the marketing of contemporary consumer magazines: How men’s magazines sexualized their covers to compete with Maxim. In T. Reichert & J. Lambiase (Eds.), Sex in consumer culture: The erotic content of media, marketing. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Levy, A. (2005). Female chauvinist pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Lucas, A., Beard, C. M., O’Fallon, W. M., & Kurland, L. (1991). 50-year trends in the incidence of anorexia nervosa in Rochester, Minn.: A population-based study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 917–922.Google Scholar
- Machia, M., & Lamb, S. (2009). Sexualized innocence: Effects of magazine ads portraying adult women as sexy little girls. Journal of Media Psychology, 21, 15–24.Google Scholar
- Malamuth, N., Addison, T., & Koss, M. (2000). Pornography and sexual aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them? Annual Review of Sex Research, 11, 26–91.Google Scholar
- McRobbie, A. (2004). The rise and rise of porn chic. Times Higher Education Supplement. Retrieved 1 June 2010. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=182087.
- Nardi, P., & Bolton, R. (1998). Gay bashing: Violence and aggression against gay men and lesbians. In P. M. Nardi & B. E. Schneider (Eds.), Social perspectives in lesbian, gay studies: A reader. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Nitz, M., Reichert, T., Aune, A. S., & Velde, A. V. (2007). All the news that’s fit to see? The sexualization of television news journalists as a promotional strategy. In T. Reichert (Ed.), Investigating the use of sex in media promotion, advertising. Binghamton, NY: Best Business Books.Google Scholar
- Olfman, S. (Ed.). (2009). The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Paasonen, S., Nikunen, K., & Saarenmaa, L. (Eds.). (2007). Pornification: Sex and sexuality in media culture. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
- Paek, H.-J., & Nelson, M. (2007). A cross-cultural and cross-media comparison of female nudity in advertising. In T. Reichert (Ed.), Investigating the use of sex in media promotion, advertising. Binghamton, NY: Best Business Books.Google Scholar
- Paul, P. (2005). Pornified: How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and families. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
- Pope, H. Jr., Phillips, K., & Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis complex: The secret crisis of male body obsession. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Reichert, T. (2003). The erotic history of advertising. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.Google Scholar
- Reichert, T., & Carpenter, C. (2004). An update on sex in magazine advertising: 1983 to 2003. Journalism & Mass Communications Quarterly, 81, 823–837.Google Scholar
- Reichert, T., Lambiase, J., Morgan, S., Carstarphen, M., & Zavoina, S. (1999). Cheesecake and beefcake: No matter how you slice it, sexual explicitness in advertising continues to increase. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 76, 7–20.Google Scholar
- Rolling Stone. (2006). 1,000 covers: A history of the most influential magazine in pop culture. New York: Abrams.Google Scholar
- Rush, E., & La Nauze, A. (2006). Corporate paedophilia: Sexualisation of children in Australia. Canberra: The Australia Institute.Google Scholar
- Soley, L., & Kurzbard, G. (1986). Sex in advertising: A comparison of 1964 and 1984 magazine advertisements. Journal of Advertising, 15, 46–64.Google Scholar
- Soley, L., & Reid, L. (1988). Taking it off: Are models in magazine ads wearing less? Journalism Quarterly, 65, 960–966.Google Scholar
- Taylor, E., & Sharkey, L. (2003). Em & Lo’s sex myths: Women’s bodies are sexier. The Guardian (22 March). Retrieved 20 December 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2003/mar/22/weekend.emmataylor.
- Turner, S., Hamilton, H., Jacobs, M., Angood, L., & Dwyer, D. H. (1997). The influence of fashion magazines on the body image satisfaction of college women: An exploratory analysis. Adolescence, 32, 603–614.Google Scholar
- Weaver, J., Masland, J., & Zillmann, D. (1984). Effect of erotica on young men’s aesthetic perception of their female sexual partners. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 929–930.Google Scholar
- West, C. (2009). Still on the auction block: The sexploitation of black adolescent girls in rape music and hip-hop culture. In S. Olfman (Ed.), The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar