What do Fortune, Wired and Field & Stream have in common? They’re all read mostly by men, and contain large numbers of ads that may contribute to “hyper-masculinity,” leading to “troubling behavior in young men,” according to a new study just published in Sex Roles, an academic journal.
The researchers, led by Megan Vokey, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Manitoba, tracked advertising in eight magazines with a primarily male audience, scoring each ad on four components: Toughness, violence, dangerousness and callous attitudes toward women and sex. The authors found that these “hyper-masculine depictions” were common in all titles, regardless of age or earnings.
At least one of these four attributes was found in 56% of the total sample, while in some magazines, it was as many as 90%. But titles aimed at younger, less affluent readers were more likely to contain such ads. Game Informer, Playboy and Maxim had the most; Fortune and Golf Digest the least.
Ads with either a sexual or violent tone were less common. “Masculine ideology valuing toughness and danger may be more accepted generally by men than are overt violence and callousness towards women and sex,” the authors say. Other studies have linked hyper-masculinity with such problems as “dangerous driving, drug use and violence towards women.”
Increasingly, academic researchers are examining the impact ads can have on public health issues ranging from obesity to anorexia to binge drinking. Sometimes, as in the case of food marketing to children, the result has been stepped-up regulations.
Meanwhile, don’t expect many men’s mags to wade into the debate: Neither Field & Stream or Fortune responded to queries. And in an email, Wired VP and Publisher Howard Mittman told Marketing Daily, "we'd prefer not to comment on something designed to try to get us to comment."