Female artists increasingly portrayed with sexually suggestive movements in popular music videos

There has been a rise in sexually suggestive movements in popular music videos, according to published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

“Given that today’s mainstream media (e.g., television, print materials, video games, social networking sites) are marked by depictions where sexual appearance, physical beauty, and sexual appeal to others are emphasized, both experts and members of the general public have called attention to this omnipresence of sexualization in mass media,” said study author Kathrin Karsay of the University of Vienna.

“However, the majority of content analyses represent cross-sectional designs. Given that it is commonly assumed that the presence of sexualizing media content increased over time, longitudinal content analyses are needed to support this statement. Thus, the study provides the first visual content analysis of music videos from a longitudinal perspective—namely, from 1995 to 2016.”

In the study, the researchers systematically quantified various types of sexual content in 462 popular music videos. They found that depicted sexuality (such as passionate kissing or intimate touching) and sexual objectification were common, but did not increase or decrease significantly between 1995 and 2016.

However, the researchers did find an increase in ambiguous sexual expressions, such as sexually suggestive movements and gestures.

“A central finding of our study is that depicted sexuality and sexual objectification in music videos have been and continue to be pervasive in mainstream music culture. More importantly, our findings suggest that depictions of ambiguous sexual expression did increase over time,” Karsay told PsyPost.

“That is, female artists were increasingly more often portrayed with sexually suggestive movements, sexual posing, and sexually ambiguous facial expressions than male artists. With regards to the tendency towards visual media in today’s society, it is likely that the accumulated exposure to sexualizing media such as in music videos will lead women (and men) to learn that (a sexy) appearance is a central element of femininity which it is worth to strive for.”

The study also found that non-White artists were more likely to been shown expressing ambiguous sexual behaviors than White artists. But music videos from the R&B/hip-hop/rap genre did not contain more or less sexual content than music videos from other genres.

“We encourage researchers to build upon our study to provide even more nuanced visual content analyses in the field. Particularly, in the future, researchers should consider combining the analysis of visual content and lyrics,” Karsay said.

“The study contributes to the growing and needed literature that examines the prevalence of sexualizing media. and the effects resulting from the use of such media content. From the perspective of media effects, we deem it important to further investigate how such depictions affect adolescents and young adults in their daily lives.”

The study, “Increasingly Sexy? Sexuality and Sexual Objectification in Popular Music Videos, 1995–2016“, was authored by Kathrin Karsay, Jörg Matthes, Lisa Buchsteiner, and Veronika Grosser.