Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Than Music to My Ears: Music Lyrics and Self-objectification

Mary Ellen Volgman, Fielding's School of Psychology

The sexualization of girls and young women in the mass media is an area of increasing concern. The majority of research on sexualization in the media has focused on visual media, such as magazines, television, and music videos. This mixed method study examined the relationship between listening to music containing sexualized/ degrading lyrics and selfobjectification in young women ages 18 through 22. The association between music listening habits and negative consequences of sexualization was also examined. A total of 151 women recruited through Twitter completed an online survey comprised of five standardized measures and one researcher-created questionnaire. Multiple regression analyses revealed no significant relationship between the amount of time spent listening to rap/hip hop music and levels of self-objectification, self-surveillance, depression, and eating disorders. Measures of body shame were shown to significantly correlate with measures of surveillance, depression, and disturbed eating. Thematic analyses of responses to open-ended questions suggested that music influences how young women feel about their appearance, as well as their mood. These findings were somewhat contradictory to those of the regression analyses. It may be that the number of participants in the sample who listened to more than 1-2 hours of rap/hip hop music per day is too small to show any significant associations. This discrepancy between quantitative and qualitative findings points to the benefit of mixed method research designs. While this study did not clearly demonstrate an association between sexualized music lyrics, self-objectification, and the associated negative outcomes, some of the participants’ responses suggest that some such relationship exists. The sexualization of girls and women has far reaching implications for not only girls and women, but boys and men, as
well. Understanding the mechanisms through which objectification occurs is the first step toward creating and implementing preventive interventions and treatment strategies.

Key Words: female adolescent development, sexualization, sexual objectification, selfobjectification, sexualized music lyrics, depression, disturbed eating, body shame, Twitter.

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