Picture This: Women's Self-sexualization in Photos on Social Media

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The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which young women post sexualized photos of themselves on Instagram and Facebook, whether these photos garner positive feedback in the form of “likes” and friends/followers, explore individual differences that predict which women post self-sexualized photos, and test whether posting self-sexualized photos on social media actually relate to feelings of sexual agency (i.e., control over one's own sexuality). Undergraduate women (N = 61) downloaded the ten most recent photographs of themselves posted on Instagram and/or Facebook and completed a variety of survey measures. Systematic coding of the resulting 1060 photos revealed that rates of self-sexualization were relatively low, though participants posted more sexualized photos to Instagram than to Facebook. Wanting attention on social media was the strongest predictor of posting self-sexualized photos, and indeed, more sexualized photos garnered more likes on Instagram than less sexualized photos, and women who post more sexualized photos tend to get more likes in general and more friends/followers on both Instagram and Facebook. Interestingly, posting self-sexualizing photos was not associated with actual sexual agency in offline encounters. These findings suggest the importance of cultural differences between platforms and of understanding women's desire for attention on social media.

Original Citation

Ramsey, L. & Horan, A.L. (2018). Picture this: Women's Self-sexualization in Photos on Social Media. Personality and Individual Differences, 133(2018), 85-90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.06.022