The Sexualization and Objectification of Women (Who According to Mass Media Are Really Only Here for Man’s Amusement) It’s hard to refute the fact that it’s a “man’s world”. For example, of all the Fortune 500 companies only 12 of them are run by a female CEO. Even “Victoria’s Secret” advertisements are geared towards men. I’m hard pressed to find a female out there who sees a woman striking a sexy pose in lingerie as speaking to her, enticing her to buy their product. That alone tells us the consumer industry is a male driven industry, where the buying power lies with the man.
The sexualization of women is prominent in everything from beer and fast food commercials, under garment advertisements to video games, movies and literature. Sexualization of women has gotten so bad that it is even trickling down towards children as seen with the push up bras for 7 and 8 year olds for sale at stores like “Abercrombie”. Objectifying women for men’s own pleasure, increased sales of a specific product or for shock value can not only influence a woman’s level of self-esteem but it can potentially lead to increased violence towards women.
Throughout history and in various cultures around the world gender has been the key factor in determining our role within society. These prescribed roles – or rather, “gender roles” – have been influenced by many aspects of society. The way in which we learn these gender roles comes from gender socialization. This is described as how individuals learn gender roles from socializing agents such as the family and the media. In the film “Dreamworlds 3”, we see media’s role in the process of gender socialization.
Each gender is shown in various scenarios, but the script is always the same in regards to male and female gender roles. Through the use of countless music videos and other imagery, it shows males portrayed as being in control (powerful) and domineering over women while women are shown as sexual beings (nymphomaniacs) who are dependent upon males and whose primary function is to please men. Music videos are not the only pieces of film in popular culture to portray women as sexual beings who have an uncontrollable lust for men.
Pornographic films usually follow a very similar, cliched format – A sexy nurse is checking on a comatose patient, eyeing him up and down, admiring his muscles until she can no longer take it and she starts becoming aroused where the man of course wakes up and has his way with her, giving her what she wanted. In many action films, the hero – more often than not a man – would save the damsel in distress. Despite only knowing one another for a day or two, after his daring rescue they would share a moment that leads to a kiss and then she would offer herself to him in a fit of passion which more often than not ends up with them having sex.
This not only portrays a woman as easy but it can also be interpreted as her form of “payment” to the man for saving her life as it rarely happens before she is in trouble or rescued. Horror films take it a step further, often incorporating sex and violence in a less subtle manner. In many horror films, rape is used by the antagonist to dehumanize and degrade a main character and assert their dominance over her. Of course, in most cases she gets her revenge in the end more often than not but at what cost?
It used to be where a hero the likes Lt. Ellen Ripley of the “Alien series” would go in guns blazing to the Alien Queen’s and save the day all while barely getting a scratch. In films today it’s not uncommon to see a woman beaten or raped before she can find her true soul, her inner strength, and come out the victor, all the while showing no psychological scarring from her ordeal. What type of message does that send to a society that is so easily desensitized? “It’s okay, they get over it quickly”?
It takes away the severity of rape if an individual is seen as overcoming the trauma of it so rapidly. The emotional scars are never addressed – Just the big comeback where the heroine shows those rapists who they were really messing with. All while wearing a tight, torn up, revealing outfit. One movie, “Straw Dogs”, goes so far as to show a woman enjoying being raped. When that type of message is sent out to audiences, some men may not view their sexually aggressive behavior as harmful or offensive.
One study, carried out in 1981 entitled “Victim reactions in aggressive erotic films as a factor in violence against women” by Donnerstein, Edward; Berkowitz, Leonard found the following: “80 male undergraduates were angered by a male or female confederate. (A confederate is an actor who would pretend to be shocked but the participant thought they were really shocking the individual. )They were then shown a neutral film or 1 of 3 erotic films. The erotic films differed in terms of their aggressive content (2 were aggressive and 1 was not) and the reactions of the female victim in the 2 aggressive films (positive vs negative).
Subjects (Ss) were then allowed to aggress against the confederate via electric shock. Results indicated that films had no effect on male targets, whereas both types of aggressive erotic films increased aggression toward the females. In Exp II with 80 male Ss, the effects of the above films on nonangry viewers were investigated with only female confederates. Results indicate that angered Ss were more aggressive toward the female after viewing either aggressive erotic film but that only the positive-outcome aggressive film increased aggression in nonangered Ss. The results of that study are alarming as the adult film industry has grown exponentially since the creation and popularity of the internet. Rape and violence has been around for centuries and it is nothing new. The inclusion of sexualization in our everyday lives, the social stigmas of being a “man” in charge and the portrayal of sexual violence increasing in mass media only make rape and violence more prominent and justifiable or easier for individuals to look down upon women.
In one study carried out in 1995, 57 female undergraduates were shown scenes of sexual violence towards women and the reports afterwards demonstrated the women exposed to the footage had feelings of disempowerment and reported increased anxiety and anger. Even if sexual violence is not leading men to commit crimes, it is still leaving women feeling disempowered and angry. In a male driven society, it would be a shame to feel less empowered than some already do.