Women With 'Sexy' Profile Pictures On Social Media Are Apparently Looked Down Upon

by Alexia LaFata

A new study from Oregon State University suggests women who post revealing or sexy photos on social media websites like Facebook are viewed by fellow females as less competent and less socially and physically attractive.

In other words, people are judging books by their covers.

Researcher Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who studies the media's effect on body image, conducted the study, which was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

She created two mock profiles of a fictitious 20-year-old female named Amanda Johnson.

In both profiles, Amanda liked books like "Twilight," musicians like Lady Gaga, and movies like "The Notebook;" things that would be appropriate for a person her age.

(Side note: I'm 20, and I don't particularly love any of these things, but I digress.)

The sole difference between the two Amanda Johnsons was the profile picture used.

One Amanda's was a photo of her at prom wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up one of her legs and a garter belt, and the other Amanda's was of her high school senior portrait in jeans, a short-sleeved shirt and a scarf.

The photos were of a real young woman who allowed her personal pictures to be used for the experiment.

The study asked 60 young adult women who were no longer in high school, ages 17-25, and 58 teen girls, ages 13-18, to answer questions based on the profile of each Amanda.

They were asked to assess Amanda's competence ("I have confidence in her ability to do a job"), social attractiveness ("I think she could be my friend"), physical attractiveness ("I think she is pretty").

They were asked to answer the questions on a scale of one to seven, one meaning "strongly disagree" with the statement and seven meaning "strongly agree."

The non-sexy profile scored higher in all three areas, so those who viewed that photo found Amanda prettier, a better friend and more competent. The major difference between the two photos was in task competence.

People really thought  "sexy" Amanda couldn't complete a task.

Daniels said,

There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive.

According to Daniels, women can find themselves in a "no-win" situation. If they post sexy photos on social media, they'll receive negative reactions from peers, but if they post more wholesome photos, they might lose out on attention from boys and other potential social rewards.

It's important, said Daniels, to "understand what [young people are] doing online and how that affects their self-concept and their self-esteem.”

To me, the more important discussion here should be on why we focus so heavily on girls' appearances to judge the kind of person they are in the first place.

If you ask me, "youths" -- as Daniels calls us -- are very aware of what we post on social media. A young woman is not oblivious to the fact that her "sexy" Facebook photo is sexy; she knows she looks hot. And a hot girl can be very intelligent and a great friend. Obviously.

But this study is rather limited in that it insists on putting girls in rigid categories of "bad" -- the red dress, the slit up the thigh, etc. -- and "good" -- the wholesome t-shirt and the scarf that the study specifically indicated "cover[ed] her chest." 

What if my picture has me in modest jeans, but I'm wearing a belly shirt? What if I'm wearing a sweatshirt over a bathing suit, and all of my legs are revealed? What do either of those mean, huh? 

Hey, "Amanda," if you're feeling judged, just unfriend those b*tches. That's the power of social media.

via Oregon State University, Photo Courtesy: Instagram