Female Sexualisation and Objectification in Advertising: Research Insights and Future Research Agenda for Advertising Ethics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



Many adverts continue to use executional appeals that represent sexualised violence towards women, trivialising instances of sexual assault and objectification that can shock and cause controversy among consumers. While research on the ethics of controversial advertising has progressed significantly over the past years, additional understanding of the societal impacts of female objectification and sexualisation (FOAS) in advertising is needed, to minimise advertising theory and practice leading to negative societal impacts. In response, this chapter seeks to identify and synthesise diverse, interdisciplinary research documenting the negative impacts of FOAS in advertising. It does so by highlighting the most relevant themes of a literature review covering 87 key articles published in cross-disciplinary journals over the past 30 years. Selected themes are summarised and reviewed according to: 1) gendered differences in consumer responses to adverts depicting FOAS; 2) ad FOAS effects specific to female consumers; and 3) ad FOAS effects specific to male consumers. Literature review themes suggest that FOAS in advertising can have negative societal effects, including long-term effects on consumers’ attitudes and behaviours towards sexual relationships, at times leading to normalisation of sexual violence and harassment. The chapter’s originality lies in its foregrounding of actual negative effects of FOAS in advertising. It contributes to the advertising ethics field by offering research propositions and illuminating new areas for future research where knowledge gaps still exist in the field.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sage Handbook of Marketing Ethics
EditorsLynne Eagle, Stephan Dahl, Patrick De Pelsmacker, Ray Taylor
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Advertising Ethics, controversial advertising, female objectification, female sexualisation, marketing ethics