Which Magazines Have The Most Obnoxious Ads?

Science tells us.

It should come as no surprise that magazine ads aimed at men sometimes glorify violence, sexism, and/or general boorishness. But researchers decided to study exactly how boorish different magazines' ad pages were, and they found that in some magazines, over 90% of the ads endorsed beating people up, treating women badly, or other so-called "hyper-masculine" activities.

For a study published in the journal Sex Roles, Megan Vokey and her coauthors went through the ads in eight magazines, subjecting each ad to a checklist of questions. These included:

• "Are any weapons present/discussed and/or being used (e.g., fists, guns, bombs?)"

• "Does it appear that having/obtaining heterosexual intercourse is portrayed as an integral part of being a man (e.g., to be a 'stud')?"

• "Does it appear that fast, dangerous driving is fun/exciting?"

Over half the ads they surveyed included at least one of what they called "hyper-masculine beliefs," with the most common being "toughness as emotional self-control" (in 36% of ads) and "danger as exciting" (28%). The eight magazines, ranked in order of highest to lowest percentage of hyper-masculine ads:

Playboy: 95%

Game Informer: 94%

Maxim: 84%

Esquire: 67%

Wired: 49%

Field & Stream: 49%

Golf Digest: 22%

Fortune: 20%

In general, the study authors found that "the vast majority of advertisements targeting young, less educated, and less affluent men depicted hyper-masculine beliefs, whereas only a minority of advertisements targeting older, more educated, and more affluent men did so." They speculate that for younger, less-wealthy men, "behaviours such as acting tough and fighting may be viewed as acceptable, alternative ways of gaining power, respect, and desired resources," and that advertisers know this and exploit it. For those unhappy with ads that heavily feature sexism and "fists, guns, bombs," the authors suggest, "perhaps the most effective influence on advertisers would be consumers declining to purchase products advertised in this way."

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