Sexuality in music videos

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Sexuality in music videos has become more widespread since the 1980s.[citation needed] Because of its commercial function, music videos must attract the audience's attention and convey a message quickly. The sexual attraction provides a means of both drawing attention and conveying a message quickly.

According to social learning theory, in order for a mediated model to have a legitimate chance at gaining the attention of a potential attendee, that model and its media-form must be salient, striking, conspicuous, and/or prominent.[1]

A survey found that 72.2% of black, 68.0% of white, and 69.2% of Hispanic youths agree with the suggestion that rap music videos contain 'too many' references to sex.[2][3][when?]


The nature of sexual activity in music videos has evolved over time in more or less the same way as cable and network television.[4] A sample of sixty-two videos from 1984 showed, that 60% included "some portrayal of sexual feelings or impulses".[5][6] The most sex-appealing videos of that year included "Legs" by ZZ Top and "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John.[6]

In 1990, suggestive sexual activity such as pelvic thrusts, long lip licking or stroking, was present in 89% of MTV videos.[7] The 1996 research showed, that the hip-hop and R&B were greatest in the sexual variables.[1] In further analysis, videos that mixed hip-hop and R&B displayed sexual content the most frequently, followed by hip-hop itself and R&B itself. Country videos depicted sexual content the least often of the seven genre categories picked, followed by rock videos.[1] However, country musicians such as Shania Twain and Faith Hill garnered substantial crossover success in pop after sexualizing their images ("You Win My Love" and "This Kiss" respectively).[8] The diverse content may occur within the one video, for example in Faith Hill's "The Way You Love Me", where she portrayed a waitress, a dominatrix and a nurse.

The 1997 study documented frequent instances of simulated intercourse, oral sex, masturbation and sexual dancing in hip-hop videos.[9] Snoop Dogg and Hustlaz had the top selling adult videos in 2001 and 2003 respectively, as well as 50 Cent, Lil' Jon and Ice-T.[10] As the hip-hop culture emphasizes the heterosexuality, the lesbians have been generally co-opted into the male fantasy of a ménage à trois on the order of Ludacris's "Splash Waterfalls", where female sexual arousal and coupling is arbitrated electronically by a virile male presence (particularly, Ludacris on computer screen).

BET's former late-night program "BET Uncut" often featured explicit music videos that ordinarily would not have been shown during the day, and many contain partial nudity. "Before, artists were mostly making sexually oriented material for the underground market — providing them to strip clubs, or selling them as part of videos or DVDs. Now, they're bringing them directly to television, through either "BET Uncut and Playboy TV. And more outlets are growing for those who want to see more — or less — than a bikini".[11]

Nelly's video "Tip Drill" became controversial by featuring women of various shades in thong bikinis or just thongs and topless.[12] In addition to slapping of each other's butts or having them slapped by men as they gyrate close to men's faces, the women are simulating oral, vaginal and anal sex both with men and one another. The Rammstein video for Pussy contains unsimulated acts of sex.


Gan, Zillmann and Mitrook found that exposure to sexually explicit rap promotes distinctly unfavorable evaluations of black women. Following exposure to sexual rap, as compared with exposure to romantic music or to no music, the assessment of the female performers' personality resulted in a general downgrading of positive traits and a general upgrading of negative ones.[13] A 2008 study by Zhang et al. showed that exposure to sexually explicit music videos was associated with stronger endorsement of sexual double standards (e.g., belief that it is less acceptable for women to be sexually experienced than for men). Exposure to sexual content was also associated with more permissive attitudes toward premarital sex, regardless of gender, overall television viewing, and previous sexual experience.[14] However, Gad Saad argues that the premise that music videos yield harmful effects and that the harm would be sex-specific (e.g., women's self-concepts will be negatively affected) has not been supported by research.[15] For example, in a study performed by Linda Kalof, viewing popular music videos had little to no effect on teenager's acceptance of interpersonal violence, acceptance of rape myths, and gender role stereotyping.[16]

Regulations and censorship[edit]

Shortly after the debut of MTV, it forced the English group Duran Duran to edit their 1981 video for "Girls on Film", which originally featured topless women mud wrestling.[17] Madonna had several of her videos banned from MTV and VH1, most notably "Justify My Love".

In 1993, the video for "Soon" by Tanya Tucker was banned from daytime airings on Gaylord Broadcasting's channels (The Nashville Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT)) because of scenes in which Tucker is in bed with a man along with a "nip slip" that was cut from the video. It was also flagged as inappropriate because of the simulated sex scenes on YouTube and the video may only be viewed on the video sharing website by registered users who are at least 18 years old.[18]

Later, another network, Black Entertainment Television (BET) refused to play the 2005 video "Naked" by Marques Houston.[17] In the same year a VH1-sponsored documentary Hip-Hop Videos and Sexploitation on the Set was released. On August 2, 2006 the Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued a notification which required all music videos a censor certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) before airplay. This was preceded by debate over so-called 'remix videos' - cover versions of popular Bollywood songs featuring scantily clad girls.[19] Particularly, the CBFC gave its "A" certificate to Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind".[19]

In spring 2010, a new wave of over-sexual music videos were released. Most notably is Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight" in which she simulates sexual acts with both men and women. This video was shown on MTV with a TV-PG rating.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c An Examination Of Sexual Content In Music Videos Jacob S. Turner
  2. ^ Cohen, Cathy J. Democracy Remixed. Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 71, ISBN 978-0-19-537800-9.
  3. ^ Reuters. "Young U.S. blacks believe in politics: study", February 01, 2007.
  4. ^ Tom Reichert, Jacqueline Lambiase. Sex in consumer culture: the erotic content of media and marketing, Routledge, 2006, p. 32-33
  5. ^ Baxter, Richard; Cynthia De Reimer; Ann Landini; Michael W. Singletary; Larry Leslie (1985). "A Content Analysis of Music Videos". Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. 29 (3): 333–340. doi:10.1080/08838158509386589. 
  6. ^ a b Patrick E. Jamieson, Daniel Romer. The Changing Portrayal of Adolescents in the Media Since 1950, Oxford University Press US, 2008, p. 323
  7. ^ Sommers-Flanagan & Davis, 1993
  8. ^ Reichert, Lambiase, p. 42
  9. ^ Hall, Ann C.; Mardia J. Bishop. Pop-Porn: Pornography in American Culture. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2007, p. 8, ISBN 978-0-275-99920-9.
  10. ^ Amber, "Dirty Dancing"
  11. ^ Associated Press (Apr 15, 2004). "BET provides more 'exposure' for music videos". Retrieved on February 11, 2006.
  12. ^ "Female students spurn Nelly over explicit rap video", The Houston Chronicle (April 25, 2011), accessed October 04, 2011.
  13. ^ Gan, Su-lin; Zillmann, Dolf; Mitrook, Michael (1997). "Stereotyping Effect of Black Women's Sexual Rap on White Audiences". Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 19 (3): 381–399. doi:10.1207/s15324834basp1903_7. 
  14. ^ Zhang, Yuanyuan; Miller, Laura E.; Harrison, Kristen (2008). "The relationship between exposure to sexual music videos and young adults' sexual attitudes". Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 52 (3): 368–386. doi:10.1080/08838150802205462. 
  15. ^ Gad Saad. The evolutionary bases of consumption, Routledge, 2007, p. 196
  16. ^ Kalof, Linda (1999-06-01). "The Effects of Gender and Music Video Imagery on Sexual Attitudes". The Journal of Social Psychology. 139 (3): 378–385. ISSN 0022-4545. PMID 10410622. doi:10.1080/00224549909598393. 
  17. ^ a b Vibe, № 2, 2008.
  18. ^ "My Kind of Country Album Review: Tanya Tucker- 'Soon'". My Kind of Country. 2009-06-26. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  19. ^ a b Billboard, 2006, № 35, p. 20

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