Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

How does sexualization of females in the media impact boys?

This is an important question for us to ask. We’ve talked about how viewing yourself as an object and focusing on your value only in terms of your sexual attractiveness can impact girls. But what about boys? Do the messages that they get about women have an effect on them?

One of the most interesting conversations that I’ve had recently was middle school boys about this topic.  They say, in no uncertain terms, that the pervasive sexual images and depictions of women does impact them.

What they tell me is that it does three things:

1. Confuses them about how they should act toward girls. They get mixed messages “honor your sisters” and then again “it’s good for a girl to be hot.” As an adolescent male, how do you handle both of those messages?

2. Encourages them to make choices about the girls they choose to spend time with in a different way. Boys say, I really like this person, she’s fun and smart and we have a great time together. But….nobody else thinks she’s pretty or “hot.” People will make fun of me if I hang out with her.

3. Alienates them when they’re not at a stage where they’re ready to be in a romantic relationship. It’s really natural for a young adolescent boy to not be interested in having a romantic relationship with a girl yet. He just wants to hang out with friends of both genders. But, he often gets the message that his prime focus should be on getting a girlfriend. It’s hard to deal with this difference in his own wants and the pressures that he feels from others.

So, yes, the sexualization and objectification of females in the media does impact boys.  What can we do to help our boy see things differently?

2 comments on “How does sexualization of females in the media impact boys?

  1. Matt
    February 27, 2010

    Speaking strictly from my own experience as a father, part of the answer is to be a role model respect for women and for femininity in general. I can’t imagine that kids will learn to appreciate and value women for anything other than attractiveness unless they see others doing it. Specifically, for dads, I think that begins with the way wives and daughters are treated/valued.

    • drshew
      February 27, 2010

      I love that! No matter what we say, our kids notice what we actually do. One of my friends who has sons who are in middle school was talking about this the other day. She’s noticed that her boys talk about and treat girls differently from many of their friends. When she asked them about it, they replied, “Mom, that’s how Dad treats you.” Wow!

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This entry was posted on February 22, 2010 by in Recognizing.
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