Advertising Promotes ‘Hypermasculinity’

Aggressive advertising may make for aggressive men, hypermasculinity

A new study, published in Springer’s Sex Roles, suggests magazine advertisements may be subconsciously encouraging negatively audacious behavior and aggressive attitudes in young men.

Researchers claim some ads promote hypermasculinity. Hypermasculinity is a psychological term for an exaggeration of the stereotypical male, emphasizing on physical strength, uninhibited aggression, and sexuality.

The alpha male ideology suggests everyday men should embody an extraordinary standard of ruggedness, emotional self-control, dominance, and operate as cavalier womanizers.

However these embellished beliefs have been shown to lead to serious social and health problems including reckless driving, heavy drug use, and pejorative attitudes towards women.

Megan Vokey, a PhD candidate at the University of Manitoba, and her colleagues evaluated ads from eight, high-circulating magazines marketed specifically towards men.

The team selected sample imagery from US men’s magazines published between 2007-2008, differentiated by readership age, education, and household income. They only analyzed photographs where a man was shown, compiling a study sampling of 527 adverts.

The glossy Adonis’ were then categorized into one of four subsets indicative of hypermasculinity: toughness, violence, dangerousness, and calloused attitudes towards woman/sex.

Of the total images selected for the study, using behavioral checklists, researchers were able to determine 56 percent of ads depicted at least one or more of the hyper-masculine principles. Some magazines alone reflected at least one principle in 90 percent of their ads.

The authors of the study found the pervasive imagery concerning. To them the messages being suggested in the advertising had the potential of being psychologically detrimental to both men and women.

Based on the readership statistics, the demographic the ads primarily focused towards were young, less educated, less affluent men. The authors of the study noted this as a point of concern as young men are still learning appropriate or acceptable gender behaviors, and their beliefs and attitudes can be subtly influenced by mass media.

Men with lower social and or economic power are already more likely to use a facade of aggression or be physical violent as methods of gaining power and respect. The ads were perceived as reinforcing the belief that this was a desirable behavior.

[Image via Shutterstock]