Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 256–278 | Cite as

Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Sexual socialization Sexualization Gender Media Popular culture 

References

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. Attwood, F. (2009). Mainstreaming sex: The sexualisation of western culture. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  4. Aubrey, J., Stevens, J., Henson, K., Hopper, M., & Smith, S. (2009). A picture is worth twenty words (about the self): Testing the priming influence of visual sexual objectification on women’s self-objectification. Communication Research Reports, 26, 271–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aubrey, J. S., & Taylor, L. (2009). The role of lad magazines in priming men’s chronic and temporary appearance-related schemata: An investigation of longitudinal and experimental findings. Human Communication Research, 35, 28–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Bordo, S. (1999). The male body: A new look at men in public and in private. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  9. Bradley, P. (2004). Mass media and the shaping of American feminism, 1963–1975. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, J., Halpern, C. T., & L’Engle, K. L. (2005). Mass media as a sexual super peer for early maturing girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36, 420–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, J., L’Engle, K. L., Pardun, C., Guo, G., Kenneavy, K., & Jackson, C. (2006). Sexy media matter: Exposure to sexual content in music, movies, and magazines predicts black and white adolescents’ sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 117, 1018–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Castro, G. (1990). American feminism: A contemporary history. Paris, France: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques.Google Scholar
  13. Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender & power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. de Beauvoir, S. (1949, 1972). The second sex. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  16. Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  17. 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
  18. Farley, M. (2009). Prostitution and the sexualization of children. In S. Olfman (Ed.), The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  19. 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.
  20. Gatten, J. (1993). The Rolling Stone index: Twenty-five years of popular culture, 1967–1991. Ann Arbor, MI: Popular Culture, Ink.Google Scholar
  21. 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
  22. Gill, R. (2007). Gender and the media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gill, R. (2008). Empowerment/sexism: Figuring female sexual agency in contemporary advertising. Feminism & Psychology, 18, 35–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 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
  25. Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Groesz, L., Levine, M., & Murnen, S. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gross, L. (2001). Up from invisibility: Lesbians, gay men, and the media in America. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  28. 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
  29. Hargreaves, D., & Tiggemann, M. (2004). Idealized media images and adolescent body image: “Comparing” boys and girls. Body Image, 1, 351–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harrison, K. (2000). The body electric: Thin-ideal media and eating disorders in adolescents. Journal of Communication, 50, 119–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 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
  32. Holmstrom, A. (2004). The effects of the media on body image: A meta-analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 48, 196–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 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.
  34. 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
  35. Kabouter. (2010). Rolling Stone magazine cover gallery. Retrieved 1 April 2010. http://rateyourmusic.com/list/kabouter/rolling_stone_magazine_cover_gallery.
  36. Kalof, L. (1999). The effects of gender and music video imagery on sexual attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 378–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kang, M.-E. (1997). The portrayal of women’s images in magazine advertisements: Goffman’s gender analysis revisited. Sex Roles, 37, 979–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Krassas, N., Blauwkamp, J., & Wesselink, P. (2001). Boxing Helena and corseting Eunice: Sexual rhetoric in Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines. Sex Roles, 44, 751–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Krassas, N., Blauwkamp, J., & Wesselink, P. (2003). “Master your johnson”: Sexual rhetoric in Maxim and Stuff magazines. Sexuality and Culture, 7, 98–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 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
  41. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33, 159–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lanis, K., & Covell, K. (1995). Images of women in advertisements: Effects on attitudes related to sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 32, 639–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Levy, A. (2005). Female chauvinist pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  44. Lindner, K. (2004). Images of women in general interest and fashion magazine advertisements from 1955 to 2002. Sex Roles, 51, 409–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 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
  46. 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
  47. MacKay, N., & Covell, K. (1997). The impact of women in advertisements on attitudes toward women. Sex Roles, 36, 573–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 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
  49. Malamuth, N., & Check, J. (1981). The effects of mass media exposure on acceptance of violence against women: A field experiment. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McNair, B. (2002). Striptease culture: Sex, media and the democratization of desire. London, New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 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.
  52. Milburn, M., Mather, R., & Conrad, S. (2000). The effects of viewing R-rated movie scenes that objectify women on perceptions of date rape. Sex Roles, 43, 645–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 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
  54. 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
  55. Ohbuchi, K.-I., Ikeda, T., & Takeuchi, G. (1994). Effects of violent pornography upon viewers’ rape myth beliefs: A study of Japanese males. Psychology, Crime, and the Law, 1, 71–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Olfman, S. (Ed.). (2009). The sexualization of childhood. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  57. Paasonen, S., Nikunen, K., & Saarenmaa, L. (Eds.). (2007). Pornification: Sex and sexuality in media culture. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  58. 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
  59. Pardun, C., L’Engle, K. L., & Brown, J. (2005). Linking exposure to outcomes: Early adolescents’ consumption of sexual content in six media. Mass Communication and Society, 8, 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Paul, P. (2005). Pornified: How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and families. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  61. Pope, H. Jr., Phillips, K., & Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis complex: The secret crisis of male body obsession. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  62. Reichert, T. (2003). The erotic history of advertising. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.Google Scholar
  63. Reichert, T., & Carpenter, C. (2004). An update on sex in magazine advertising: 1983 to 2003. Journalism & Mass Communications Quarterly, 81, 823–837.Google Scholar
  64. 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
  65. Roberts, T.-A., & Gettman, J. (2004). Mere exposure: Gender differences in the negative effects of priming a state of self-objectification. Sex Roles, 51, 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Rohlinger, D. (2002). Eroticizing men: Cultural influences on advertising and male objectification. Sex Roles, 46, 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rolling Stone. (2006). 1,000 covers: A history of the most influential magazine in pop culture. New York: Abrams.Google Scholar
  68. Rush, E., & La Nauze, A. (2006). Corporate paedophilia: Sexualisation of children in Australia. Canberra: The Australia Institute.Google Scholar
  69. Schwarz, N., & Kurz, E. (1989). What’s in a picture? The impact of face-ism on trait attribution. European Journal of Social Psychology, 19, 311–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Soley, L., & Kurzbard, G. (1986). Sex in advertising: A comparison of 1964 and 1984 magazine advertisements. Journal of Advertising, 15, 46–64.Google Scholar
  71. Soley, L., & Reid, L. (1988). Taking it off: Are models in magazine ads wearing less? Journalism Quarterly, 65, 960–966.Google Scholar
  72. Stice, E., Schupak-Neuberg, E., Shaw, H., & Stein, R. (1994). Relation of media exposure to eating disorder symptomatology: An examination of mediating mechanisms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 836–840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 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.
  74. Thompson, M. (2000). Gender in magazine advertising: Skin sells best. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 18, 178–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Tiggeman, M., & Slater, A. (2001). A test of objectification theory in former dancers and non-dancers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2, 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 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
  77. Umiker-Sebeok, J. (1996). Power and construction of gendered spaces. International Review of Sociology, 6, 389–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Villani, S. (2001). Impact of media on children and adolescents: A 10-year review of the research. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 392–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Ward, L. M. (2002). Does television exposure affect emerging adults’ attitudes and assumptions about sexual relationships? Correlational and experimental confirmation. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 31, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Ward, L., Monique, E., & Hansbrough, E. W. (2005). Contributions of music video exposure to black adolescents’ gender and sexual schemas. Journal of Adolescent Research, 20, 143–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. 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
  82. 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
  83. West, C., & Fenstermaker, S. (1995). Doing difference. Gender & Society, 9, 8–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1, 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zillmann, D., & Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations