Let's talk about (selling) sex, baby: a phenomenological approach to understanding how romantic couple communication is impacted by sexualized advertising
Sexualized advertising invokes gender-sensitive responses. While it has been proven to be an effective sales strategy, research indicates that it can have detrimental effects for women's body image and self-esteem, and it can lead men to objectify and sexualize the female body. This phenomenological study aims to address how this discrepancy in women and men's responses affects communication in romantic heterosexual relationships. Five couples took part in this study. First, each partner assessed their relationship using Welch and Rubin's (2002) Relationship Stage Descriptions; next partners watched a sexualized advertising video with together; finally, each partner was interviewed individually about reactions to watching the video. Through thematic analysis, this study found that individuals experienced discomfort and hyper-awareness of their partners' reactions to the video. This led participants to experience a short-term break in communication with their partners, which then added more discomfort, which the author termed "The Discomfort Cycle Effect." Joking and laughter were used to release tension and re-connect with partners. Using Knapp's (1978) Stages of Coming Together and Coming Apart, findings of this study indicated that participants experienced a momentary de-escalation in their relationship due to an awareness of their differing gender-sensitive responses to the video, which caused tension in communication. These reactions motivated participants to re-escalate the relationship by improving the experience through jokes and laughter, which diminished the tension. This dynamic is termed "The Equilibrium Effect". Implications of findings are discussed as well as opportunities for future research.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Elliott School of Communication