Gender Differences In Mainstream Media
- 3736y15w (oct) (ICS): Version 1.2: I edited section "References".
- 3735y46w (oct) (ICS): Version 1.1: I edited section "References".
- 3735y0-4w (oct) (ICS): Version 1
Notes: A complete collection of example clips from the medias I documented can be downloaded here: Gender Differences In Mainstream Media Research Files.
Table of contents
I spent 1 year documenting gender differences I found in mainstream media. I used google.com, imdb.com, and tvtropes.org to assist in finding examples of gender differences. I didn't limit myself to any time period, and it's unrealistic to consume all mainstream media from the beginning of television until now all by myself. This research has limitations precisely because of that. Not only would you need to be confident that I didn't succumb to confirmation bias, you'd also need to be confident that whoever else I got information from didn't succumb to confirmation bias. Nonetheless, hopefully my research provides some insight and considerations. Another research plan that could supplement this research is to study similar variables but limit oneself to a specific year. It'd be plausible to consume all mainstream movies, for example, within 1 year's time, and this could reduce confirmation bias.
Fairly strict guide lines were placed on most of the categories. This was to ensure better comparability and validity of results, as well as due to time limitations. The following guide lines apply to all categories.
- Any medias rated X or higher.
- Arcade, computer, downloadable, or rare console games.
- Non-human or obscure-looking characters are still organized as male or female, if possible.
- Series and multiple adaptations are only counted as 1 media.
- Television shows.
- Video games.
- Unwanted relationships.
- Mere references to relationships.
- Cases in which someone's attractiveness suddenly changes.
- Transient events and trivial characters.
- 55 medias with more attractive female.
- 6 medias with more attractive male.
- On a related topic, Smith & Cook (2008) found:
- In G, PG, PG-13, and R rated movies, females were more than 5 times as likely as males to be shown in sexually-revealing clothing.
- In television for ages 11 and under, females were nearly 4 times as likely as males to be shown in sexually-revealing clothing.
- Females are more likely than males to be shown with idealistic or unrealistic bodies.
- Perhaps society overemphasizes the importance of attractiveness for females and underemphasizes the attractiveness for males.
- It could be considered unfair to heterosexual females and homosexual males that they get less eye candy in mainstream media.
- Television shows.
- One of the most fundamental principles of dreams is that there's continuity between waking life thoughts and what we dream about (Domhoff, 2008).
- Men have a 2:1 ratio of males:females in their dreams. (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p. 164)
- Women have a 1:1 ratio of male:females in their dreams. (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966, p. 164)
- However, the above ratios are not a universal difference as many societies have been found in which the genders have fairly equal male to female ratios in their dreams. (Domhoff, 2005)
- Between ages 2 years 5 months to 2 years 11 months, boys have about a 7:3 ratio and females have about a 3:7 ratio of males to females in their stories. Notice that the results are quite opposite. Between ages 3 years to 3 years 11 months, boys maintain about a 7:3 ratio while females drop to about a 4:6 ratio of males to females in their stories. Between ages 4 years to 5 years 11 months, aside from some fluctuations, the ratios start to better resemble the adult findings. This research suggests that society might influence such changes, but what in society could do that?
- There's a study that's already been done in regards to gender differences in mainstream media, so the following isn't my own findings. In G films, there was a 72:28 ratio of male to female speaking characters. In G, PG, PG-13, and R films, there was a 73:27 ratio of male to female characters. In TV for kids 11 and under, there's roughly a 2:1 ratio of male to female characters. (Smith & Cook, 2008) Aside from television, males most often have leadership positions as well, consider priests and politicians. These gender differences in waking life are likely to sculpt our dream life. Male children would likely identify with the frequency of male characters in the media and in leadership positions and so it'd play a role in their dreams. As females, they'd be less likely to identify with the frequency of male characters in the media and in leadership positions, and so they end up with a more even ratio of males to females in their dreams.
- Having less females than males in mainstream media, as well as having females more often than males in sexually-revealing clothing or with idealistic or unrealistic bodies (as mentioned in the Mismatched Attractiveness section), could potentially incline people to view females as less than males, thereby decreasing empathy towards females.
- The more we see a particular circumstance in media (so long as it's not treated negatively), the more acceptable it'll seem when we encounter it in real life. Therefore, it might be of benefit to feature more females in leadership positions and more males in sex-worker positions in mainstream media.
- Immediate emergencies.
- In regards to video games, no mid-game rescues.
- 22 medias with a male saving a female.
- 8 medias with a female saving a male.
- It should be noted that video games have a big impact on this difference. This can be seen when I differentiate between movies and video games.
- 7 movies with males saving females.
- 15 video games with males saving females.
- 6 movies with females saving males.
- 2 video games with males saving females.
- This difference between video games and movies might be mostly due to differences in gender ratio in combination with video game developers wanting a simple plot for their video games. As noted in the Gender Ratio section, there are far more male characters than female characters in mainstream media. The protagonist in video games is usually male. Video game developers are likely to focus more on game-play than on plot, yet they probably want some degree of a plot so that the play doesn't seem pointless. Therefore, having a damsel in distress might simply be an easy excuse of a story line for a protagonist to play to.
- Having more females being saved than males might incline females to feel more helpless and vulnerable than males. However, at the risk of sounding sexist, males generally are stronger than females, so maybe it's only realistic to have a higher frequency of males saving females rather than vice versa. On the other hand, males aren't necessarily any less prone or any more resilient to emotional or psychological damage. Furthermore, males can be just as helpless as females if held captive.
- In regards to violence in general:
- Television shows.
- Video games.
- In regards to sexual torture:
- Only violence towards the genitals for males.
- Only violence towards the genitals or breasts for females.
- Mere references to acts.
- Attempts at attack.
- Comical cases.
- I found violence in general too difficult to quantify, however, I did find differences in regards to what circumstances certain kinds of violence occurs. It's a popular meme to say that males shouldn't hit females, yet I found several medias in which both female-on-male and male-on-female violence are common, so that meme seems to be more popular in preach than in practice. I also found several medias which exclusively or nearly exclusively feature female-on-male violence. It's a popular theme in mainstream media for females to hit males just for being socially awkward, yet it's rare for males to hit females just for being socially awkward.
- 52 medias contain male sexual torture.
- 14 medias contain female sexual torture.
- The gender differences in sexual torture could simply be due to the male genitals being more well-recognized as being susceptible to pain than the female genitals or breasts, and so can more easily elicit a response in viewers. Another possibility is that males are more likely than females to be viewed as sexual monsters and so there's a stronger vengeance drive towards males and sexually torturing males in mainstream media can satisfy that vengeance drive.
- Television shows.
- Only penetrative/engulfing acts of the genitals or anus, whether shown or implied.
- Coercive cases.
- Attempts at rape.
- I capped the list off at 100 medias containing male-on-female rape, there was actually much more.
- 28 medias that contain female-on-male rape.
- 13 medias that contain male-on-male rape.
- 6 medias that contain female-on-female rape.
- 6 medias that contain etcetera rape.
- Perhaps it's only realistic that there are more male-on-female rapes than female-on-male rapes in mainstream media. Males are generally stronger than females and the physiological mechanics of sex can make certain forms of female-on-male rape more difficult. If the physical strength obstacle can be overcome, a female can do a damn good job at raping a male's mouth and anus. When it comes to penile rape, however, things are more complicated:
- "Paradoxically, while some believe that if a male has an erection, sexual abuse cannot have taken place, others believe that if a male does not have an erection that sexual abuse cannot have taken place." (Hislop, 2001, p. 33)
- I've often encountered the meme that if a male has an erection then that means he wants to have sex and so he can't be raped, but I've never encountered the meme that if a female is wet then that means she wants to have sex and so she can't be raped.
- With all that being said, it's possible for a flaccid penis to be forced inside a mouth, or stuffed inside a vagina or anus. Furthermore, sexuality is complex, and it's possible for the body to respond sexually even if the mind doesn't want it.
- 7 of the female-on-male rape medias treated the rape comically.
- 0 of the male-on-female rape medias treated the rape comically.
- It's a wonder why there are more male-on-male rapes than female-on-female rapes in mainstream media. One thought is that male-on-male rape is easier to portray than female-on-female rape, but consider that there's more female-on-male rape than all of the homosexual rape combined! That might simply be because heterosexual sex (or heterosexual rape) has eye candy for both heterosexuals and homosexuals or both genders and so it can appeal to a wider audience.
- Movies released after 1984.
- Television shows released after 1984.
- 3 medias with male breasts.
- 3 medias with female breasts.
- It's common to see male nipples yet rare to see female nipples in mainstream media. I thought the reasoning was that females generally have breasts while males generally don't. However, I found 3 cable television shows that showed the nipples of males that had gynecomastia, meaning they had breasts just like females. However, I found 0 instances of female nipples being shown in cable television shows, so next I looked at PG or lower rated movies, on the basis that PG movies are often tamer than a lot of what's shown on cable television. I found 3 PG or lower rated movies that showed female nipples. To clarify, I found 3 male breast nipples and 3 female nipples, so they're both rare but at least they're both also equal. However, there's an important note. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) changed its rating system in 1984 to include the PG-13 category. Before then, some movies might have contained female nipples yet not be offensive enough in other areas to qualify for an R-rating. Because of that, there were more female nipples in PG movies before 1984. After 1984, movies that displayed female nipples could potentially qualify for a PG-13 rating for that reason alone. Also for that reason, I only reviewed movies released after 1984. Interestingly, all the movies I found for this category were released in the 1980s. So it seems in recent years, American society is even more strict about displaying female nipples in low-rated medias.
- Only cases in which courtship occurs after multiple instances of resistance.
- Cases of ambiguous resistance.
- 5 medias with a token resistant female.
- 1 media with a token resistant male.
- The more frequent display of token resistance by females than by males could incline females to feel shame if they quickly get sexual with someone new and incline males to feel shame if they don't want to get sexual right away with someone new. It might additionally incline males to feel that they're expected to be sexually aggressive or even coercive when a female is resistant towards sex.
- Television shows.
- Characters that frequently become infatuated.
- Characters that frequently have sex.
- Characters that frequently seek opportunities for sex.
- Characters that rarely or never decline opportunities for sex.
- Characters that mostly or only have sex for ulterior gain.
- Mere references to behavior.
- 30 medias with hypersexual males.
- 19 medias with hypersexual females.
- In terms of those applying for therapy or self-labeling, males and females might be roughly similar in likelihood to be hypersexual, and females somewhat more likely to be hyposexual. This could easily be because it's less socially acceptable for a female to have a high sex drive than males, and so females are more likely to label themselves and seek help for their high sex drive than males. However, in terms of actual statistics based on behavior, males are more likely to be hypersexual and females are more likely to be hyposexual. (Stroud, 2014a; Stroud, 2014b; Terman, 1938, p. 290)
- The gender differences in regards to hypersexuality in the media could incline females to feel shame if they want/have a lot of sex and males to feel shame if they don't want/have a lot of sex.
Physiological Sexual Functioning
- I found physiological sexual functioning too difficult to quantify, but I still found some interesting examples that contrast how they're treated differently between males and females.
- Magazines seem more inclined to promote improving orgasms for females yet delaying orgasm for males.
- Television shows.
- I found sexual objectification too difficult to quantify, but I found plenty of examples of both females and males being treated similarly for their sexual attractiveness.
Implications To Porn
- It's said that porn spreads negative memes such as:
- 1) Females secretly want to be raped.
- 2) Males want to have sex with any female that's available.
- 3) Females should be able to easily orgasm through sex and do so multiple times.
- 4) Males should be able to get and stay erect on command.
- The Token Resistance section, the Hypersexuality section, the Physiological Sexual Functioning section, all provide evidence that these memes function even outside of porn.
- There's also the complaint that porn sexual objectifies women. On a side note, it's rarely or never said that males are sexually objectified in porn. Regardless, the Sexual Objectification section provides evidence that both males and females can be zoned in on for their sexual attractiveness (if that's what's meant when people bring up the issue of "sexual objectification") even outside of porn. In other words, the memes in porn are just an extension of what's already extant in society.
- Mainstream media is simply an extension of society and they work as a 2-way process.
- If the content of mainstream media changes then it can have an effect on society, but the desires of society as a whole including the individuals that create and control mainstream media would also have to change, in order for there to be any successful long-term change in mainstream media content.
- Domhoff, G. W. (2004). Finding meaning in dreams: A quantitative approach. Retrieved October 8, 2008, from www2.ucsc.edu/dreams/Library/fmid.html. (Original work published 1996).
- Domhoff, G. W. (2005). The dreams of men and women: Patterns of Gender similarity and difference. Retrieved January 23, 2009, from www2.ucsc.edu/dreams/Library/domhoff_2005c.html.
- Hall, C. S., & Van de Castle, R. L. (1966). The content analysis of dreams. New York, New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.
- Hislop, J. (2001). Female sex offenders: What therapists, law enforcement, and child protective services need to know. Washington: Issues Press.
- Smith, S. L., & Cook, C. A., (2008). Gender stereotypes: An analysis of popular films and tv.
- Stroud, J. (2014a). Gender and sexual orientation differences in sex frequency, sex partner quantity, and extrarelational sex. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from gloryhood.com/articles/gender-and-sexual-orientation-differences-in-sex-frequency-sex-partner-quantity-and-extrarelational-sex.php.
- Stroud, J. (2014b). Gender differences in masturbation incidence and frequency. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from gloryhood.com/articles/gender-differences-in-masturbation-incidence-and-frequency.php.
- Terman, L. M. (1938). Psychological factors in marital happiness. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
- Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women. National Institute of Justice - U.S. Department of Justice.