Music Videos and Sexuality


MusicVideos and Sexuality

Musicvideos and Sexuality

Goodwin,a musicvideo researcher,establishesthatmusicvideos startedway backin 1930s (Goodwin, 1993). During thisperiod,shortfilmsweremadein orderto showcase a musicartist.Godwin addsthatthepromotional jazzfilmclips madein the1940s weremorepopularlynotedin theentertainmenthistory.Withtheadventof therock-n-roll genrein 1950s musicvideos becamemorepopularas theybeganto showthevideos in filmsandon television.According to Prof.Peter Christenson, a professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies,“theuseof girlsas ‘eye-candy’ andas backgrounddancersstartedbackin the 1940s, when videos became popular.”He adds that, “thistechniquehascontinuedinspirevariousupcomingartists,andtheinfluenceis stillgrowingin musicvideos today.”Thispaperpresents remarks obtained from an interview with Prof. Christenson onmusic videos, and will also focus on the role of these videos in thecontemporary society. Furthermore, the interview will primarilyanalyze the role of music video and their genresin order to establishing their relationship with sexuality.The paper is also aimed at highlighting&nbspthemoralityofthese music videos, as well as, theirimpactson theimagerytheyportrayamong youngpeopleandadults.

Musicvideos havebecomehighlypopularamong youngpeoplesince the1980s (Christenson andRoberts, 1998). Prof. Christenson support this view and argues that“a massive number of teenagerslistenandwatchmusicvideos whilejogging,walking,driving,andpartying,which would not be completewithout music.However, a substantialproportionof thesongsandmusicvideo that appealto a largenumberof youngpeoplehavesexual themesandimagerythatvaries from one genreto another,”Anotherstrikingfeatureof musicvideos is thattheycontain visual images than tend to be sexierthan themusic.

Onthe same note, there are variations in the gender roles in thesemusic videos. “Themoststrikingfeatureof thesemusicvideos is thattheyportraya sharpdemarcationof genderroles,especiallyin relationto sexuality”Prof. Christenson points out.Of course, this raises the question of why there should be variationsin the proportion of gender in particular music videos or genres.Prof. Christenson argues that, “womenareusedas propsandnot characters,not evenpeople,really.Theyappearon mostvideo briefly,longenoughtodance as theyshaketheirbuttsandexposethebodiesin orderto attracttheattentionof theiraudiences.”Forthisreason,amajorityof musicvideos are becomingsexistandcontinueto depictwomenas sexualobjects.

Prof.Christenson gives aprimeexamplewhere women are viewed as ofsexualobjects,whichis inthe musicvideos by RickyMartinin his song Livin’la Vida Loca”.In thevideo, Ricky danceswith nakedwomen,buthenevershowsanyskinunlikethewomen.One of thescenesthatstandouts outis whenRicky dancesin therainwith allhisclotheson, whilethecircleof womendancingaround himstriptheirsoff. Thisalsoportraysa doublestandard,which reachesabsurdproportionsin thevideo, as thesonglyricscontainslineslike“She’ll makeyoutakeyour clothesoff andgodancing in therain”.

Analysisof sexuality in Music videos

Studiesshow that the reasons for sexualizing music videos even when thetopic of the song is nonsexual is possibly because sex sells in musicvideo as elsewhere. For this reason, many music videos tend tofeature sexual dancing, scantily dress young women dancing, boys andgirls meeting flirting, displaying women curvy body, pairing up andparting again among others. According to Oppliger (2004), an analysisof one thousand music video character found that males are oftendepicted as aggressive, dominant and adventurers. The same analysisfound that females are depicted as the affectionate, fearful, andnurturing, thus, used as the eye-candy.

However,it is well noted that there are variations in the level of explicitsexual content on different genres. Indeed, scholars have alwaysunderlined the fact that the genre in which a particular music videofalls would determine the type of contents it incorporates. Findingby Tanner, Christenson and Roberts (1998) established that theproportion of music videos with sexual imagery varies by genre, fromabout 85% hip-hop and dancehall videos, 50% of pop and rap videos, tojust 8% of heavy metal videos. Hip-Hop music and rap culture becamepopular in the 1980s among the blacks and continues to influence manytoday.

Theseskimpily dressed ladies featured in a video that was highlycontroversial. It is clear that they are half naked and were seentwerking throughout the video.

Theyare seen wearing colorful bikinis in the video and appear in scenesranging from swimming pools to parking yards.


Oneof the fundamental concerns pertaining to this music revolves aroundthe question on why male artists and dancers do not at least take offsome of their clothes and the song lyrics suggest. On the same note,audiences should be concerned on why women are depicted in so muchmore alluring ways than men in music videos. It is, therefore,evident that the sexual double standard of music videos, reflect thesexual double standard in the large society. It is because of thisreason that we have many strip clubs featuring naked female dancersthan naked male dancers, as well as, more pornographic magazinesfeaturing naked female than male. This is because, in this currentage, it is becoming more acceptable to reduce females to theirsexuality, than to reduce male to their sexuality.

Variousstudiesassociatehip-hop musicandvideos with glamorized pimping andprostitution.Thisindicatesa formof sexualexploitation with materialism expressedinformof flashyattire, money,expensivehousesandcars.Findingsby Shelby (2009) suggestthan manypeoplefeelthathip-hop representationdegrade women,glorify violence,belittlethevalueof educationreinforcenegativestereotypesabout theblacks, andencouragedrugabuse.Ontheotherhand,thosewhoidentifywith thehip-hop culturebelievethatifaffirmswomen’ssexualfreedom,highlights thehypocrisyof thewaron drugs,critiquesa failingschoolsystem,depictstherealitiesof ghetto life,andprovidesa soulpreservingsourceof comfortin impoverishedconditions(Shelby, 2009).Thiscontroversialdebatehas beenongoingover thepastyearsproponentsclaimingthatthevideo are effectivewaysof highlighting persisting problemsamong theblacks suchas racialinjustice,classdifferenceanddiscrimination.

Interestingly,aresearchconductedamong girlson theblack communityon hip-hop video imagesfoundout thatmosthavemixedreactionsabout thevideo images.Afewgirlscomplainedabout sexualized imagesin musicvideo whileothers seemedobliviousandattemptedto mimicthestylesandmannerismsof thedancers.Forinstance,whenone ladywasaskedwhosevideo theywould liketo appearin, herresponsewasthehardcore rapper, Jay-Z. Sadly,mostof Jay-Z’s musicvideo featurenakedwomenbutattractsmajorityof youngpeople.

Thisis a picture of a half naked lady in swimming pool with young menlooking on. She featured in a video half naked in an effort toattract the young people.


Inone of his many interviews, Michael Jackson pointed out that dancingaccompanying singers make performances livelier (Herbert, 2009). Headded that “a large number of choreographers have made immenseinvestments neither in the time nor the effort in their training orin training their dancers. Although in most cases choreographer saybehind, an artist should not be any less a talented dancer. EvenJanet Jackson, Michael’s sister, is arguable one of the mosttalented artist and dancer of all time. In the past, music videostypically did little more than showing the artists singing with aninteresting background. However, the music videos by this legendaryartist, made music television into art and continues to influence theway artists and his fans move on the floor for an eternity. Inparticular, the use of special effects and elaborate dance routine inmusic videos such as “BillieJean”,“Thriller”,and “BeatIt,”became highly influential, and are considered classics today.

Thisis a picture of renowned musician Minaj slithering provocatively on atree together with other four skimpily dressed women. They featuredin the video anaconda that has attracted worldwide audienceespecially the youth.


Anothercommongenre notableforitsflauntingof femalesexualityandpromotionof maleprowessis dancehall music.In one of theirobservation,Chang andChen (1998) statethat,Carlene, who was one of the biggest sensations in the late 80s and90s, owed her fame to her exemplary whining dancing capabilities,skimpy dancehall designs, as well as the superbly rounded figure orshape of her body. Thisfamehas attractedmassivenumbersof femaledancers,anditis becomingsurprisinghowwomenare willingto degradethemselvesforfame,moneyandpleasure(Railton&ampWatson,2011).This may support other scholars’ statements to the effect that,going by the music videos, it is evident that African American andJamaican women do not see sex as a form of vulnerability rather itcomes off as a source of domination and power for them.

Someof thebestknownartistsandtheir musicvideos that portraysexualimageryinclude,Snoopy Doggy Dogg’s“Doggystyle”,Ludacris’s “P-Poppin”NotoriousB.I.G’s “BigBooty Hoes”andBeenie man’s“Kingof Dancehall” amongothers.Thesemusicvideos are notablefortheirsexually explicitcontent with imagesof African-American womenbooty dancing. Therecenttrendfrom thecurrentvideos showsthatblack womenwith protrudingbuttshavebecomeundoubtedlyimportantin lyricalandvisualfeaturesof themusicvideo (Railton, 2012). Fromthisobservation,itispossible thatblack womenin thevideo donot feeltheneedto hidetheirsexualappealbutare comfortableshowingitoff to menwomen.Scholars underline the fact that the prevalence of these images inthe current times only propagate the acceptance of a stereotypepertaining to the notion that black women are money hungry, sexual,and pleasure-loving creatures. Of particular note is the fact that“sexy” in this case would be tantamount to power.


Musicvideos portrayingsexualimageryposegreatnegativeimpactsto itsaudiences,especiallya majorityyoungpeople.Someof thenegativeimpactsassociatedwith thesevideos includeidentityformation,socialacceptance,genderstereotypes,heightenedsexualarousal, negativeself-perception, andunrealisticideabodiesamong others. Tobeginwith, whenpeoplehearandwatchmusicvideo depicting womenin a derogatorymanner,theytendto developstereotypesabout genderdifference.Itis evidentthattheexistinggenderandsexualstereotypeshavebeenformedandappliedin thesocietythrough musicallyricsandmusicvideos. Tierney (2000) addsthatthere has beena perceivedincompatibilityevenon academicachievementas themenare knownto excelmorein their studiesthan women.

Accordingto Tierney, a maleadolescentbecomesmorefocusedon futurecareergoals,whilethefemaleisconfoundedby personalgoalsandfutureintimacyaffectingtheirabilityto achieveacademically (Tierney, 2000). Intoday’ssociety,womenandadolescentgirlshavebeenstrugglingwith socialacceptance,low-self esteemandidentityformationbased on their physicalappearance,sexualappealandtheneedto be acceptedby their peersin thesociety.Scholars have also stated that the physical appeal of womenisreinforcedby imagesof glamorousandunrealisticbodiesin themedia,especiallyfrom thesexualcontent of musicvideos manyadolescentswatch(Vernallis,2004).Asa resultof peerpressure,manyadolescentgirlsstruggleto achieveandmaintaintheemergingrounded andcurvy bodieswith dietsandstrictadherence to thewhimsof fashion.

Variousresearchstudieshaveestablishedthestrongcorrelationbetween theexposureto musicvideos andsexualarousal. Gunter (2002) pointsout thatstrongersexualfeelingare provokedby sexualvideos, than videos with littleornosexualcontents. Thesevideos producea blendof emotionalreactions,which createpsychologicalarousal through thenatureof imagesin thevideo. Since musicvideo areaimedat andconsumedprimarilyby theyoungmarket,teenagershavebeenregardedas moresusceptibleto a widerangeof potentialsocialandpsychologicalinfluencesthrough massmedia.

Inconclusion, it is evident that nudityandimmodestyin musicvideos has becomepartof theentertainmentin thecurrentsociety.Thisis because thesocietycontinuesto welcomeandnurturethedesireof nudism under thepretence of fashion,civilizationandentertainment.Needlessto say,theproblemitselfis not on nudity,butthesociety’sfashionedperceptionof it(Robertset al, 1996).Thisprolongedexposureto nudityhas alsomadethesocietylesssensitiveto derogatorymusicvideos. Inorder to overcome these perceptions,scholars have stated that theyoungpeopleneedto be taughton thevalueof self-importance, self-esteem,moralityandsocialvaluesin orderto protectthemfrom thisoffensivetrend(Railton&ampWatson,2011).Without teaching and instilling the right values and moral in thelife of young adolescents, they will continue looking up to musicartists as models, and definitely become part of the corrupt andimmoral entertainment industry.


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Prof.Christenson, P. One-oneinterview.November 25, 2014

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