Females With Sexual Messages on Facebook Leave Mixed Impression on Males
Madison, Wisconsin - The rap on male college students is that they have only one thing - sex - on their minds when it comes to female college students.
However, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison study on social-networking sites says that male students have a mixed reaction to sexually explicit messages from women on these sites. While the males expected sex from the women, they also judged that those messages made a dating relationship with the women less attractive.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. The UW schools of Medicine and Public Health, Nursing and Human Ecology worked together on the research.
Heterosexual males, age 18-23, participated in focus groups where they were asked their opinion of Facebook profiles of female college students. All males described using Facebook to evaluate potential female partners, and offered their impressions of profiles that featured sexually explicit pictures and messages such as "Jessica wants to get naked" and "Jennifer is sluttin' it up."
The participants said they interpreted those messages to mean sexual activity would be forthcoming if they met those females.
But the male students also said they weren't sure that's what the women meant to imply. They also thought those messages might make a dating relationship less appealing.
Lead author Dr. Megan Moreno, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, has conducted several research studies on the use of social-networking sites by adolescents and teens.
"Our study is not about judging who these women really are," she said. "After all, we don't know them. The study is about showing that if a woman displays overtly sexual images or comments on Facebook, these displays may lead to judgments about who she is."
"Even if the displays are meant to be funny, or a private joke among friends, Facebook is a very public place and these displays may lead to judgments made by other people, including people you may be interested in dating," Moreno added.
Moreno said she wasn't surprised males considered the sexually explicit messages on female Facebook profiles as a possible pathway to sex. However, she was surprised at their willingness to say how they considered their judgments to be based on stereotypes or generalizations.
"Many men in our study commented they understood these displays may be intended to be funny, or a private joke, but also acknowledged that even if that is the case, viewers will still make stereotyped judgments about these women," she said. "Based on the frequency of these displays, it may be something that is a fad, similar to other current fads such as sexting. Both are behavioral fads with consequences that can be quite negative."
Co-author and UW-Madison School of Nursing researcher Dr. Heather Royer said it's important for female college students to be aware of the power of sexual references they place on their social-networking profiles.
"These references-either intentional or unintentional-may be influencing dating intentions and sexual expectations in a way that they do not intend," she said. "Sexual education programs could be enhanced with the inclusion of content specific to the impact of these sexual references on social-networking sites."
Moreno said the focus groups included only males looking at female Facebook profiles because previous studies had shown more women than men displayed sexual content on social-networking sites. She said a future study is needed to evaluate opinions of females toward male Facebook profiles with suggestive messages and images.
In 2009, Moreno co-authored a study that concluded more than half of adolescents mentioned risky behavior such as sex, violence, and substance abuse on MySpace profiles. Another 2009 study determined adolescents, ages 11-18, who see depictions of risky behaviors on social-networking sites believe they are real.
Date Published: 02/10/2011