The Hypersexualization of Society

We're all surrounded by images of attractive women doing everyday activities, of girls posing as adults, etc. All of this responds to what we call hypersexualization. Keep reading this article to learn more.
The Hypersexualization of Society

Last update: 22 June, 2021

By hypersexualization, we refer to the act of putting all or a good part of the attention on someone’s, especially women’s, sexual attributes and values. This way, you set the person’s other qualities to the background, as if they weren’t that important. Although hypersexualization as a phenomenon isn’t new, the debate that exists around it, as well as the use of this term, is more recent.

To understand this phenomenon, we need to go back to the 1960s and the 1980s. In the 1960s, the “sexual revolution” movement originated in the West. It stemmed from the desire and need to live sexuality freely, as well as with the intention of breaking the codes that regulated people’s sexual behavior.

Although the sexual revolution was liberating for everyone, it was a double-edged sword for some parts of the population. For many men, this revolution made it easy to put their sexuality to free use outside of marriage. In contrast, for women who also wanted to enjoy unlimited sexuality, it meant being sexually available to men whenever they wanted.

Now, around the 80s, outlets such as fashion, aesthetics, and television began establishing a sexual canon represented by women. These were used the sexualized female figure to promote and sell different kinds of products.

Hypersexualization and society

The most effective way of transmitting and modifying thoughts in a society is through the media. That’s how hypersexualization won the battle. Through the use of advertising, TV shows, movies, video clips, among others, the media contributed to creating a social representation of how women should look, emphasizing their body, which must be young and slim.

These qualities that govern the female body don’t respond to anything other than the idea that women should be sexually attractive. They should always look pretty, healthy, and seductive. Undoubtedly, this draws an image that can lead to risks for the physical and psychological health of women all over the world.

Now, it’s true that men are also subjected to the canons of beauty. However, the structural and hegemonic problem that occurs in women is way higher. The truth is that femininity became objectified. Women wear makeup to give awards to male athletes; groups of women in commercials, wearing very little clothes, move their bodies in positions that don’t even allow their faces to be seen, and little girls pose seductively in catalogs.

Causes and consequences

The origin of hypersexualization resides, fundamentally, in the sex culture that’s been created around the female figure. It came to a point where this became the main focus when it comes to media. As of now, the need to show off sexual attractiveness has become a norm. It’s safe to say that it’s been affecting women at all stages of their life.

As a matter of fact, this sex culture is its own perpetrator. The commercialization of the image of women continues to happen. It’s become strong, to the point where it became “normal” to objectify women in some way, and this has led to the gender inequality system to be maintained over time.

In turn, women continue to be victims and even slaves of the image that society imposes on them. According to Susan Sontag in 1975, the problem isn’t to want to be beautiful, but feeling the obligation to be. If people don’t think you’re beautiful, you may not think that you are. This is what society has come to.

Additionally, this representation plays a part of the collective imagination where heterosexual men become used to extreme, idealized, and objectified beauty. After all, they use this to comply with their desires, as indicated by pornography. This can lead to demands, evaluations, and judgments towards the rest of the women who don’t fit into that stereotype, who are most, if not all, of them.

Hypersexualization in children

This problem continues to grow and perpetuate because of the reality of current companies. In reality, they’re always launching new products and, as a consequence, constantly looking for ways to sell them. Thus, with new technologies, this message has spread to social networks. It’s no secret that social media is the way to get to younger audiences nowadays. Marketing has targeted said audience in order to sell things.

Furthermore, a huge idea nowadays is that the image a person projects to others determines their social success. Undoubtedly, the number of likes that young women receive on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter when they publish personal and sexualized content reinforces this.

Child hypersexualization is a concept that began in 2001. However, it seems to have more and more weight now than ever. It refers to the sexualization of expressions, postures, or dress codes considered too precocious for a certain age. It’s natural for children and teenagers to want to imitate adult behaviors. The difference is that they now have the means to do so without being mature enough to manage the consequences.

Social networks are amazing sources of entertainment. Without a doubt, they represent the best commercial showcase of this decade. They reinforce exposure behaviors since those who show them gain popularity and social recognition, two aspects highly valued in adolescence.

In short, hypersexuality is so ingrained in our society that you may not be aware of all the times you fall into it yourself. Open your eyes and don’t hesitate to criticize this type of value and recognition that does nothing but harm people and society as a whole. There’s no point in continuing to perpetuate inequalities and complexes. We need to fight against this, especially due to the impact it has on young men and women.

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  • Cobo Bedía, E. (2015). El cuerpo de las mujeres y la sobrecarga de sexualidad. Investigaciones Feministas, 6, 7–19.