Sexualisation of girls in music videos and girls' magazine advertisements: prevalence and consequences
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Sexualisation occurs when a person’s value (a) comes only from his or her sexual appeal/behaviours; (b) is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy; (c) is sexually objectified; and/or when (d) sexuality is inappropriately imposed (e.g., children) (American Psychological Association, 2007). In 2007, the American Psychological Association created a taskforce concerning the sexualisation of girls in response to concerns that their sexualisation has become a broad, increasing, and harmful practice in our media-saturated culture. Evidence exists that regardless of media genre women are routinely sexualised; however, few studies have examined the prevalence of media sexualisation of girls. Research has shown sexualisation to have multiple negative effects on women including decreased mental and sexual health. Research examining the influence of sexualisation on girls is rare. Nonetheless, such results may well generalize to girls. Developmentally, girls may be even more affected than women because their identities are still being formed. The purpose of this research was to (a) assess the frequency with which girls are sexualised in two media forms; (b) determine if such sexualisation has increased over time; and (c) explore directly with girls the consequences of viewing sexualised images on them. First, a quantitative content analysis of magazine advertisements and music videos was conducted to assess the prevalence of sexualisation of girls from 1992-2008 and to determine if a higher proportion of images of girls (< age 18) in girls’ magazine advertisements and music videos have been sexualised in recent years than in previous years. Second, focus groups were held with girls to qualitatively assess how they are influenced by sexualised girl media messages. In magazine advertisements from 1992-2008, 64% of teenagers and 24% of children were sexualised. In music videos, 53% of teenagers and 13% of children were sexualised. Chi-square analyses indicated that the proportion of sexualised girls in advertisements and music videos has increased from 1992-2008. Girls’ reported that this media makes them feel negatively about themselves and that they feel pressured to imitate it. These studies provide evidence concerning the increasing prevalence of sexualised girls in the media and the negative effect this may have on them.