Sexy Pictures and Gender Differences

[photopress:model.jpg,thumb,alignleft]When viewing sexy pictures, will men or women focus more on the faces of the participants? Surprisingly, men tend to look at the faces more than women, according to a new eye-tracking study conducted at the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) in Atlanta.

Researchers hypothesized women would look at faces and men at genitals, but, surprisingly, they found men are more likely than women to first look at a woman’s face before other parts of the body, and women focused longer on photographs of men performing sexual acts with women than did the males. These types of results could play a key role in helping researchers to understand human sexual desires and its ultimate effect on public health…

“Men looked at the female face much more than women, and both looked at the genitals comparably,” said lead author Heather Rupp, Ph.D., a fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, who conducted the study in partnership with Kim Wallen, Ph.D., a Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. [From Emory University Press Release: Sexual Photographs: Surprise! Men Look At Faces, Women Focus On Sexual Acts]

Sex has often been a major theme in advertising, but it’s possible that the emphasis in some ads has been skewed toward assumptions about gender-based responses to sexy images. Bikini-clad beer babes attract male attention, but perhaps more emphasis on the faces might actually generate more interest. I don’t think the study should be interpreted to mean that attractive female bodies will be ignored by male viewers – there’s plenty of empirical evidence to contradict that notion. Still, in composing still photography or video camera angles, and even in selecting models or actresses, it’s important that advertisers pay attention to faces.

Similarly, sexy ads targeting a female audience shouldn’t assume that a handsome face is enough – clearly, women will look beyond the face if given the opportunity. Of course, many ads aimed at women already do incorporate a lot more than faces.

I don’t think this finding will change sexy ads very much – most are designed to appeal at multiple levels. Nevertheless, the non-intuitive nature of the finding is interesting and a good thing for neuromarketing-oriented advertisers to keep in mind.

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Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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2 responses to "Sexy Pictures and Gender Differences" — Your Turn

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nancy stone 3. June 2007 at 3:09 pm

I am a woman and when I look at softcore porn such as Playgirl magazine, I like to look at the entire man, not just the man’s penis. When I look at hardcore porn of sex, I wish they would show more of the man, not just his penis. I don’t care to see much of the woman. They make porn like this because they discriminate against women and make porn to appeal to males only. If women were making porn for only women, it would look at lot different than it does. Women are more likely to view sex as being moral and violence as being immoral. Porn is about sex being immoral, and violence being moral. Sadists and masochists believe that sex is immoral, but violence is moral. They believe that someone should be punished for sex, usually in porn it is the woman. Since most women don’t believe that sex is immoral, and most women believe that violence is immoral, most women don’t like most porn. It is about sexually repressing women and abusing women. Men sexually repress women by raping them and other forms of abuse. This abuse makes gives women bad attitudes about sex and many times makes them have little desire for sex. Women are sexually repressed in other ways. Viewing sexual violence against women in the media can also traumatize women and cause them to try think about sex as little as possible, since thinking about sex can be so traumatic. If women were sexually abused less in the media and in real life, women would have much more interest in having sex with men. I long for the day when females can feel feel to explore their own sexual fantasies instead of being given male fantasies which are based on abuse of females as a way to keep women sexually repressed. When women can truly enjoy sex as much as men do. I believe if men where abused by the media and in real life the way that women are, they too would develop a dislike for sex.

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Jon 16. December 2010 at 10:13 pm

Interesting research indeed. Trying to think what I look at…. cannot say I actually know! I think women are generally more critical of another woman, so will analyse more. Men will just see lots of skin, then check she is pretty. :)

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