Yes, sex sells in entertainment and perhaps women suffer for it. In her article “Girls Gone Anti-Feminist” Susan J. Douglas asserts that women suffer as a whole from their portrayal in mass media. She discusses different ways in which this takes place. One of her examples is the sexual objectification of women through both a false sense of empowerment and the old fashioned images as well. Whether it be through the new image of the barely dressed or promiscuous woman flaunting her body to “gain power” over men on the screen or through the classic portrayal of the all too conveniently curvaceous damsel in distress, it seems hard to deny that women are often objectified in movies and television. It also appears equally difficult to argue that women do not suffer from this as well.
However, are women really the only ones objectified and minimalized on screen? There are, of course, many examples of men being subjected to this treatment as well. In HBO’s True Blood, the audience sees Alexander Skarsgard’s character Eric Northman shirtless and flirting with the camera in every other episode. In other supernatural cinematic fiction, the Twilight series gives the audience a half naked, sometimes greased and flexing Native American lycanthrope to gawk at. Many romantic comedies will find an unnecessary excuse to show Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, or whatever other interchangeable male lead topless at one point in the movie or another. Most of these characters are arguably just as one dimensional, stereotypical, or fantasy driven as the damsel in distress or the promiscuous woman. Like the women, the bodies of these men are also displayed and prized for a predetermined set of attributes not necessarily shared or indicative of most men.
One could easily argue that these objectifications and false portrayals occur more frequently for women. One could also argue that it has a larger negative impact on the perception of women in society. However, regardless of how true, none of those arguments change the fact that it happens to men as well. With that in mind, the clear sexual objectification of both women and men in media becomes a testament to the selling power of sex and sexual fantasy. So yes, sex does indeed sell, but perhaps women are not alone in suffering for it when it comes in the form of thin plot devices and an oversaturation of stereotypical characters.