Ring the Alarm: Negative Impacts from Sexually Objectifying Women in Media Think about images of women presented in media nowadays, how do they look? Sexy, young, good-looking, and attractive: those are the features that images of female share in media, and predominantly these images emphasize the sexualattractiveness of women. One of the most common ways of making such emphasis is by sexually objectifying women. Sexual objectification of women in the media as a prevalent communication phenomenon negatively affects its audience: impacts including blindly-trend following, skewed judgment making, and self-objectifying.
Initially, it is important to give sexual objectification a precise definition. According to Caroline Heldman, a feminism advocate, during her TED talk “The Sexy Lie” defines sexual objectification as “the process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another sexual pleasure” (1). Basically, when sexually objectified, women are no longer considered as human beings; they are devalued as objects that solely satisfy the sexual desires of men.
Therefore, women can be as impeccable as any man wants them to be when sexually objectified in the media, while it is impossible for women to achieve such perfection in the reality. Now that we know what sexual objectification of women is, we should then learn about how this process becomes a communication phenomenon. The presence of female images is ubiquitous, but most of the images conform to the patriarchal rule of depicting women as objects that carry strong sexual implications. Heldman illustrates the scarcity of “real women” in media by asserting that, “we see more images, and 96% of them are female of sexually objectified bodies” (1).
This statistic is startling yet devastating; this means only 4 percent of the women in the media are telling the undisguised truth of what a natural female should look like. Such little representation of the reality is extremely problematic, because in the communication process, the message from the senders determines what the receivers, in this case the audience, decode and learn. By sexually objectifying women, the media sends out the biased and stereotypical images of women, and those images can have harmful impacts on its audience.
Many researchers strive to inform people to be on the alert for the harm. First, young people are highly susceptible to the images and values from the mass media, and they are very likely to be misled by the fallacy of women bodies and try to be like those perfect Barbie dolls (Ingrao 7). Teen girls are too young to make a rational judgment about whether the perfect body on the magazine cover is real. In fact, when living in a world that is filled with images of flawless women, young girls easily accept and adopt the stereotype that women should be sexually appealing to male in order to be appreciated.
If any girl does not follow this idea, they will be isolated and criticized for their unattractiveness (Ingrao 7). Second, men, though not experiencing objectification, are still influenced badly by this communication phenomenon. Sexual objectification of women largely aims to satisfy the desire of men, but this desire is not benevolent because it is built upon the patriarchal assumption that men is superior than women and women must please men in order to be valued. The messages containing sexual objectification are likely to emphasize as well as ingrain the inequality between men and women.
What’s more, men sometimes justify their sexual violence against women when influenced by over-sexually objectified images. According to an academic article concerning this topic, it claims that “males who viewed the sexually objectifying video felt that the victim in the date-rape condition experienced pleasure and ‘got what she wanted” (Milburn, Mather, and Conrad 645). When exposed to messages that convey wrong values of women, men might be overwhelmed and then adopt the misplaced legitimacy for acting on their desires. What’s more, women are the biggest victims of sexual objectification.
The negative impacts of sexual objectification on women are numerous, but the most destructive one is self-objectification. Depicting women as sex objects is already an unbearable insult, but women themselves even lose the ability to fight back; instead they give in and begin to accept the concept that women are supposed to be sexualappealing toys for men. By definition, self-objectification is the process when women start to adopt an outsider’s view on their bodies, and they pay excessive attention to but constantly feel anxious and unsatisfied with their appearances (Fredrickson & Roberts).
This process could be highly precarious for the fact that women always put too much effort on changing themselves for the “better” yet bearing the consequence of self-criticism, self-hurting and etc. Despite that women may experience depression or other mental illness when frequently seeing themselves as objects that please men, women will also have higher habitual body monitoring, a situation when women adjust their body of position constantly in order to look impeccable in other people’s eyes (Heldman 1).
What’s more, a psychology research suggests, “having a negative view of one’s body is thought to facilitate bodily harm because of the disregard for the body that can emerge from body dissatisfaction/disgust” (Muehlenkamp, Swanson, and Brausch 25). Thus, it is reasonable to say the sexual objectification of women in the media increases the possibility of suicide and selfmutilation. The damage of self-objectification is very alarming to know, because it can do both physical and mental harm on women, who are already devastated by the increasing media image distortion.
Therefore, sexual objectification of women is a rampant communication phenomenon that should allege for more attention to its negative effects on the public. Teenagers may blindly follow the idea that women as objects for men, and men may irrationally lose their judgment of sexual violence and gender equality. Most importantly, women bear the most damage from self-objectification, the byproduct of intensively objectifying women, including obsessive self-criticism and selfharm.