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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