Entertainment Sways Young Adults’ Perceptions about Sexual Violence

Melinda C. R. Burgess of Southwestern Oklahoma State University recently conducted a study on two highly popular topics: music videos and sex. And the results were highly disturbing. The goal of Burgess’ study was to determine whether, in a world saturated with sexual implications and objectification, teens and young adults exposed to sexually explicit music videos would perceive sexual aggression differently than those exposed to less sexually-nuanced images. The motivation for this research was the increasing availability of unrestricted video content via the internet, television, and other media outlets and the apparent indifference among college-age individuals about the dilemma that is date rape.

Burgess recruited 132 college students and had them watch a music video by Jessica Simpson that was overflowing with sexual objectification (These Boots Were Made for Walking), or a video by Faith Hill. Both videos were performed by attractive, white, female pop idols and both were about romantic relationships. However, Faith Hill did not wear “daisy dukes” and cover her near-naked body with bubbles while washing a sports car. After viewing the videos, the students read a hypothetical scenario about date rape and were asked to appraise the guilt of the male rapist and the role of the victim.

The results of this study may be a wake-up call to educators, entertainers, and young people everywhere. The students who watched These Boots saw the male rapist as less guilty of a crime than those who watched Faith Hill’s video. They also were more likely to comment that the victim was somehow responsible for the rape. These findings demonstrate that as hard as clinicians and educators may try to empower young people about their sexuality and inform them of acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, the entertainment industry is getting their message across equally as well if not better. In fact, Jessica Simpson’s video received numerous accolades and awards from young people and associations catering to them. Burgess noted that the mixed messages these adolescents are receiving are contributing to the ambiguity surrounding date rape and other social issues. She also revealed that her findings were limited. “While we were able to demonstrate short term exposure effects on sexual attitudes/beliefs in college students, we do not know how this material effects younger teens,” she said. Burgess hopes future work will look at how this type of media content affects younger adolescents and how much exposure children are getting.

Burgess, Melinda C.R., and Sandra Burpo. The effect of music videos on college students’ perceptions of rape. College Student Journal46.4 (2012): 748-63. Print.

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  • Kellen


    January 18th, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Sorry but these “entertainers” don’t care
    they care about the $$$ that the music brings them, not the messages they are sending

  • Thom


    January 18th, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    Kellen, it would be great if these people were only after the money. It is not necessary to corrupt young minds to make big bucks, you know. This is nothing but a systematic attempt at corrupting young minds and thereby causing moral and sexual degradation in society. It is not a conspiracy, the proof is everywhere to see, just look around!

  • hank


    January 19th, 2013 at 4:16 AM

    It is always easier to blame an industry and take none of the blame, but in this case I find this to be a little too limited. There is far more exposure to this kind of message and bahvior than you will find in one or two video games and music videos. Let’s not narrow our scope and vision so much that we failt to see the big picture anymore. Yes, these things do influence our kids and the ways that they think but I don’t think that it is only this. It is these things along with the other images and messages that they receive daily that cobine together to give them their messages that they believe about right and wrong. There is no way that you can single this one thing out and say that this is what caused that response.

  • Johnna


    January 21st, 2013 at 4:59 AM

    The one thing that I would like to add to the conversation is that it is impossible to shield wour kids from every negative image or message out there. So what has to be done is that you give them a strong enough foundation at home so that when they see or hear these things they know deep down that it is not right and that this does not need to affect them in the way that it may have had you not talked to them about this before. Juat waiting until they see or hear ot from somewhere else is probably not the wisest route to take. Parents have to be a little more proactive than maybe our parents were and talk to our kids about the situations that they could encounter and how to best know who they are and how these things do not necessarily apply to them.

  • Herbie


    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    This is an alarming result. Although it is something that many people knew was true now that there is evidence for the same should mean we take some steps. Where are the rating agencies now? The effects that such media and popular culture have can be devastating to all of us as a society and it needs to be curbed.

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