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Sexing the Media

How and Why We Do It

Debra L. Merskin

Sex in the media is one of the hottest topics of the day. We know that advertising, television, cinema, and other forms of communication use sex to sell us products and pump up story lines. The question is: why are sex and sexuality such effective tools for getting our attention?
Sexing the Media: How and Why We Do It is a textbook that explores answers to this question through historical, sociological, psychological, and ideological perspectives. It explores how media and other social institutions use sex and sexuality (the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses) to advance economic and ideological interests.Cinema, music, music videos, television programs, advertising, and the Internet are discussed as carriers of deliberately constructed messages that contribute to and support a master narrative that privileges heterosexuality and monogamy.
This interdisciplinary text includes contemporary case studies as examples that would be useful in courses in media, cultural studies, sociology, and psychology.
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Chapter 4. Reviving Lolita: Sexualization of Adolescent Girls in Fashion Advertising


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Sexualization of Adolescent Girls in Fashion Advertising

How does a 7-year-old understand the plastic sexuality of Britney Spears? How do 10-year-olds cope with pressure to dress and act in sexually provocative ways?


We are not alarmed that today’s children are learning about sex and sexuality. … We are alarmed by the particular lessons that children are learning. The sexuality of childhood is having a profoundly disturbing impact on children’s understanding of gender, sexuality, and relationships.


Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta.

—NABOKOV (1958)

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