The impact of sexualized media on self-esteem and body image

Sexualized Media and Self-Esteem

The media has many powerful influences, including the promotion of sexualized idealized approaches to body image and self-esteem among its audiences. While media sexualization can be found in almost all mediums, including television, magazines and music, its primary focus has been on the female body. The goal that media outlets often have is to attempt to objectify females and offer unrealistic body standards for them to compare themselves against which can lead to many negative effects.

Negative Effects of Media Sexualization

Sexualized media has a range of negative effects on female self-esteem, body image and overall mental health, including:

  • Poor body image: The promotion of unrealistic body standards have caused many women to engage in negative body talk and to have distorted perceptions of themselves in comparison to what the media depticts as “ideal” shapes and sizes.
  • Depression & Anxiety: Constantly comparing oneself to what media sexualization presents as perfect can cause a range of negative emotions, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger and fear.
  • Disordered eating habits: Exposure to sexualized images can lead individuals to think that it is necessary to only consume very low calorie diets and exercise in order to be attractive.
  • Low self-esteem: Pervasive images of what is expected to be ideal beauty and sexiness can lead individuals to never feel satisfied with the way they look.


All individuals need to recognize the powerful influences of sexualized media and avoid idolizing what it presents as ideal body and self-images. Rather, individuals should strive to be healthy in both body and mind, as only then can true self-esteem be cultivated.

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