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The use of female sexuality in television advertising and its effect on adolescent girls

By Susan Beardsell


Content analyses of television advertising have\ud delineated two images of women, constrained-by their\ud domestic and sexual roles. The focus of this thesis is on\ud portrayals of sexuality in advertisements, targeted at\ud female consumers. A wholistic approch to the study of the\ud media is advocated, which involves analysis of the media,\ud the viewer and the nature of the interaction between the\ud two.\ud \ud Sexuality advertisements were content analysed using\ud quantitative and qualitative categories. A distinct\ud sub-set of these advertised beauty products. Analysis\ud revealed that women are portrayed in a way which\ud stereotypes their sexuality. Furthermore, the use of\ud various persuasive devices indicates more subtle forms of\ud sexism. \ud \ud The importance of developing sexuality to the female\ud adolescent is discussed. It is argued that media must\ud have personal relevance in order to produce any effects.\ud Teenage girls were therefore chosen to act as subjects in\ud experimental studies. Linear approaches to media effects\ud are critisised and a circular model adopted in which\ud concern with personal sexuality will make media portrayals\ud of sexuality more salient. This saliency will, in turn,\ud increase the probability of advertising images being used\ud as role models. It is argued that perceptions mediate\ud effects, therefore a before-and-after methodology is rejected for an investigation of attitudes towards and\ud perceptions of advertisements.\ud \ud Initial findings indicate an individual approach to\ud decoding of advertisements. Evidence was found for two\ud approaches. Advertisements could be perceived from\ud reality or marketing perspectives. Mere exposure to\ud portrayals of female sexuality does not ensure their\ud saliency to viewers. Norms of sexuality are not accepted\ud uncritically but evaluated in terms of personal reality.\ud An analysis of personal characteristics of adolescents\ud indicates that only a proportion are preoccupied or\ud concerned with their own sexuality. Evidence is presented\ud to suggest that a personal concern with sexuality may lead\ud to sexual images being more salient and accepted as desirable normative types

Publisher: Institute of Psychological Sciences (Leeds)
Year: 1989
OAI identifier:

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