Sexual Objectification of Women and Men in the Media

Sexual objectification of women has increased in the last years and most of it we find in our everyday life. Whether you buy a fashion magazine, watch a music video or look at photos of people you know on Facebook. Some people will ask “Why do you bother? It’s their life, they can do what they want.” However, if we take a closer look at these images and what message they contain, we have a different discussion going on here. But not only women are being objectified, men are too.



In the last weeks, I’ve been reading women’s magazines again and to be honest, I’m fed up. If you’re a critical reader, you know that these promising titles are just lies. For example, there is an article about getting the right body. You just have to follow certain tips or rules in order to fulfil this dream. First of all, is there a right body? Second, why do I have to conform to this body? And finally, everyone’s body is unique and special, and the body you find on the cover or in the magazine is probably photoshopped. Even though many are aware of it, they fall into the trap and this is what makes it dangerous. I’ve just discussed this with a friend and both of us agree that the media promotes a certain type of beauty ideal which has become the norm. It has become the norm that women have to be sexually attractive in music videos and movies. You have to be, to put it very frankly, ‘fuckable’, otherwise it won’t work. 


However, men are also being sexually objectified, but less than women. In some advertisements, we can identify role-plays between men and women. Men are often dominant and women are being submissive. Men take off their tops, and their bodies remind me of the male canon such as the ‘Spearbearer’ sculpture from Ancient Greece. Movies such as Magic Mike or Fifty Shades of Grey portray men in these roles.


Why are these images so powerful? And why do they subconsciously influence our behaviour in different aspects of life? Sometimes, we want to look like these models with their perfect skin, hair, body because they are beautiful. But beauty and sex are social constructs, and as Judy Butler says in her book Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex: ‘sex is an ideal construct which is forcibly materialized through time.’ Media prevails that we have to be like these people featured on these different magazine covers. They are ‘the elite’, ‘la crème de la crème’. 


What makes me anxious is that so many young people and children seek their inspiration from these sexualized images. It creates the ‘Lolita effect’ for girls, according to Gigi Durham who has written an interesting book with the same title on ‘how to raise sexually healthy young women in this kind of environment?’


We also have to think beyond gender roles and sexual orientation. Heteronormativity is considered as the normal way of life. Still, in reality we know that you can be more than just being categorised as ‘female’ or ‘male’.


In the end, how can we intervene? We have to become more critical. I don’t think that boycotting is the right action plan, we are still humans and we have this incredible gift of imagination. Use your imagination to create something better, something that can change the view of our world for later generations. You’re not just a body, you have a mind as well. Become active!