Besties, let’s talk about the media. Specifically, how women are portrayed in the media and advertising. 


Women have been portrayed as objects of pleasure in the media since the 20th century. A post by Swagata Sen states: Advertisements, music videos, and films dehumanize girls and women and portray them as commodities […] Over the last 25 years, big clothing and cosmetic brands have started targeting young girls and women. The fashion industry hyper-sexualizes girls and women’s clothing. Wearing tights, extremely short, or revealing dresses are characterized by boldness. Advertisements show them wearing highly provocative dresses, make-up, and often in age-inappropriate, hyper-sexualized postures and body language.”

What is this idea of Sexual Objectification?

Sexual Objectification occurs when a woman’s body, body parts, or sexual functions are isolated from her whole and complex being and treated as objects simply to be looked at, coveted, or touched. 

  • Subjects are active beings (humans & interaction) 
  • Objects are stagnant/acted upon 
  • Objects don’t have feelings, Subjects may/do

This is important to note the difference to see how it truly impacts women and how they go in their day-to-day life.  

Is this only tailored to women? 

No, men are also exploited in the media. I’m sure we have all seen the shirtless firefighter calendars and some shirtless muscular man on a magazine cover with some title like “SHRED 20 POUNDS IN A WEEK WITH ME!” It is not just women, but we see it much more often. 

So, what is the problem here? 

Women are being sexually objectified in the media as a whole on multiple different platforms. We see this in places like magazines, social media like Instagram and TikTok, music videos, TV commercials and used for publicity and advertising in a variety of forums. 

I found an example on TikTok of how specifically black women are hyper-sexualized in the media. This is a TikTok video that stems from a documentary on Netflix titled: “The Principles of Pleasure”. This quoted TikTok shows the section of the documentary that discusses how black women (in her own personal experience) are being hyper-sexualized over the physical traits of their body. 

**If you would like to see the full segment/episode, you can find it on Netflix!**

Title: “The Principles of Pleasure” 

Episode: #2

Time to Start: 39:10

Additional examples of women being exploited/objectified in the media: 

  • Superhero Movies; women are seen as flexible and being sexualized while also being in high heels doing all the same moves as the men 
  • Seductive in Magazines/Social Media; women are usually less clothed and have different poses and movements
    • Example: hands in feminine advertisements
      • Women’s hands are more staged and not active (stagnant posing & usually awkward placements) 
      • Men are more active in their movements/posing

I did some digging into this, and found an article from 2021 titled “Not An Object: On Sexualization and Exploitation of Women and Girls.”

A quote that stood out to me is the following: 

After reading this, it tugged some heart strings. It is so sad that only 11% of girls worldwide would see themselves as beautiful. We see that this is a global issue between all genders and cultures around the world. Young girls should not have to constantly be worried about what others think, especially about their body. This negative thinking could lead to other issues like eating disorders and depression down the road. Beauty does not measure success, but self confidence is a huge aspect in development. 

How does all this even start??

Well, one major factor is the media. We are shown how our bodies “should” look and we are held to unrealistic expectations upheld by media users. This then leads to contextual advertising which are the advertisement banners you see in the media. So, not only are you seeing media photos of unrealistic bodies, you probably get ads based on similar images to uphold the unrealistic expectation of women. 

Social Media Shapes Our Social Realities: 

Social media shapes us, whether we like it or not. In another Communications course here at JMU we saw that it shapes: 

  • societal values 
  • who and what matters to us 
  • love 
  • what histories and major characteristics are important 
  • what sanctions action/behavior 

Concluding Thoughts

Remember: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, social media is fake. You are your own person, be unique! The world would be so boring if we were all the same; we all bring our own flare into the world and that’s what makes it so fun!

Beauty does not measure success by any means, there is so much more to us than this fake definition of ‘beauty’ portrayed in the media. 

Until Next Time Besties! ❤

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