Magazines linked to unwanted sexual behavior, WSU study finds

LAURA GUIDO | Evergreen reporter

Men who read magazines like Maxim and Men’s Health are more likely than others to engage in unwanted sexual behavior, according to a recent study by WSU researchers.

Published in The Journal of Sex Research, the study involved a survey of 313 college students, primarily freshmen, who were asked about their magazine reading behaviors and their attitudes and behaviors regarding sexual consent.

“This study demonstrates that as a society we should speak up when we see harmful ideas presented as the norm in our media,” said Emily Garrigues Marett, a former graduate student who was involved in the study. “What we read and watch in the media does influence our world views.”

The study found men who read men’s magazines are associated with lower intentions to seek sexual consent and lower intentions to adhere to decisions about sexual consent. In contrast, it found women’s magazines might empower women to refuse unwanted sexual activity.

Kathleen Rodgers, an associate professor in WSU’s human development department, said young teens are most susceptible to the effects of men’s magazines because they lack relationship experience and turn to media for guidance.

Rodgers said parents should be mindful of the messages their kids receive from media during their early years, and health educators should teach adolescents how to properly interpret those messages.

Lead researcher Stacey Hust, an associate professor in The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, said she hopes the results of the study will help bring a change in the men’s magazine industry.

“Changing the content of men’s magazines is a hard sell because they need to make money, and I understand that,” Hust said. “But I hope that this information will at least give writers and editors pause the next time they write about romantic relationships.”

Hust hoped this study and others like it will demonstrate the importance of educating youth about sexual relationships.

Although the study has strong implications, Hust said more research is necessary to validate the findings. She said the study indicates a correlation, but it remains unclear whether only men who disrespect sexual boundaries read men’s magazines or the content of those magazines causes such behavior.

Hust said the study is being reviewed for publication in other journals.