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Sexualizing women in women’s magazines has been normalized. Thanks in large part to the pornography industry, its popularity and the profits it generates, the demand for pornographic material has influenced all media, including movies, TV, music videos and magazines. In 2015 NBC reported that the global pornography industry generated $97 billion. In 2000 the New York Times reported that in the United States alone this industry generated $10 billion. In 2015 GQ stated that the pornography industry in Japan generated $20 billion. In 2013 The Huffington Post stated that pornographic websites got more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. Pornography is big business and mainstream media has taken notice and adapted accordingly.
Nowadays it is rare to see a woman who is not sexualized in a magazine, that is to say: considered in a sexual way. Now it is even common to see girls sexualized in magazines. The emphasis is always on sex and men’s sexual fantasies. Women’s sexual appeal and behaviour exclude all other characteristics, leaving only an object of men’s desires.
In 2015 The Economist reported on the most commonly searched words on pornographic websites. Among the most popular searches were lesbian, teen and anal. The male interest in these types of pornography is increasingly reflected in magazine ads and even in the ‘candid’ pictures taken of famous actresses and singers. Thanks to the pornography industry advertising has adopted some fetishes, including oral and anal sex, lesbianism for men’s viewing pleasure, bondage and even pedophilia. This should raise red flags for women because pornography objectifies and dehumanizes women, leading to increased violence against women and girls.
The sexualization of women in women’s magazines has many reoccurring themes, including the double standard about the amount of clothing men and women wear in ads, unnatural poses to appear sexy, reclining women who appear ready for sex, phallic objects near women’s mouths, the dehumanization of women, women as prostitutes and sexualized girls and women who appear underage.
Ads create unnatural associations, which are reinforced and normalized thanks to constant repetition. In the current world of advertising it would seem that everything must be sold by sexualized women: clothes, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics, perfume, hair products, diamonds, vodka, mineral water, contact lens solution, protein pudding, breast cancer research and everything else under the sun.
The vast majority of the following ads appeared in women’s magazines. The intended audience was therefore a female one. Two or three ads appeared in a Canadian fitness magazine for men and women.
© 2016 Alline Cormier