chapter  6
Music and Sexualization
Pages 20

Music videos were originally introduced as a promotional device for music artists seeking wider public exposure to their music. Videos either focused on performances or integrated songs with story-telling.1 Early ‘performance’ videos depicted the artists singing their songs or playing their instruments in studio or concert settings. Eventually, production formats developed in terms of narrative complexity and depicted actors in support of the artists playing out specific roles. These ‘concept’ music videos did not simply represent a platform for the music but integrated musical compositions with dramatic narratives – music videos told stories. Soon, the visual imagery became as important as the music in this production context. Artists were rated by their markets not just in terms of the quality of their latest musical creations, but also for the originality of their videos. From early on, sex became a prominent thematic component of these videos. It is not specifically the depiction of sexual themes within music videos that is problematic, but perhaps more the way in which sex is used as a vehicle for distinctive portrayals of women in a highly sexualized way. If images that objectify women are also combined with lyrics that reinforce the same messages, the ingredients are put in place to cultivate sexualized perceptions of women. Although sexual depictions in music videos have not been as graphic as

those found in many drama productions made for the cinema or television, they nevertheless have attracted criticism for the stereotyped way in which women tended to be treated.2 The raw sexuality nature of these video products was often underpinned by sexually explicit lyrics. For observers of music videos, the sex was predominantly masculine in perspective and women were treated as decorative sexual objects whose primary purpose was the (actual or virtual) sexual titillation of men. Occasionally, role reversals would appear in the videos of female artists whose status in the music industry accorded them a masculine-like potency – such as Lady Gaga and Madonna – and who would use attractive young men in similarly

decorative roles. In general, however, women’s bodies were depicted much more often than men’s bodies in a hyper-sexualized fashion.3