chapter  4
Magazines and Sexualization
Pages 21

Offering one of the greatest potentials for exposure to sexualized content of all mass media are magazines targeted at young people. Teen magazines, in particular, abound with sexual images and themes. These occur in advertising and in feature content. We look at advertising separately elsewhere. Here, our attention will rest on the article content of magazines. These publications contain fictional stories with romantic and sexual themes, reports about celebrities that often focus on their romantic and sex lives, and a lot of ‘factual’ advice about relationships. These publications have long been thought to have influences on children and teenagers in terms of their values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. Most attention has been paid to the potentially harmful effects of exposure to this material, and this has given rise to the widespread impression that media effects are predominantly harmful in nature. Policy-makers have been quick to jump to conclusions that not only is sex-

ualization of contemporary culture widespread, but also that it represents a primary agent of social influence in children’s lives and a source of bad influence. Sexual content in magazines has been accused of encouraging premature interest in sex, under-age sexual activity, promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies and the spread among young people of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as distorted beliefs among young males about female sexuality that can contribute to sexually deviant behaviour. Such content is believed to encourage children to engage in behaviours that emphasize sexual attributes before they have reached an age when this is appropriate and, in consequence, can put them at risk of unwanted sexual attention.1