Sample Ethics Essay Paper on Music Videos representation of African American Sexuality


The advent of MTV in 1981 was instrumental in increasing the popularity of music videos. Since then, scholars have undertaken numerous studies to explore the influence of music videos on consumers, especially adolescents (Turner, 2011).  It is no longer a secret that sex is a major selling point for the entertainment industry, and is often used as a revenue stream by way of increasing record sales. While men are prominently featured on music videos, women are often depicted as objects of sexual desire. Music videos propagate love and sex as central themes of humanity, and are also sufficient evidence of existing stereotypes in society on issues of gender, sexuality and race (Stephens & Phillips, 2003).

Since sex sells, the entertainment industry therefore makes music videos available. While MTV does not rely on music videos as their central programming strategy, audiences can still access them via other platforms, such as YouTube and BET.  Moreover, music videos are particular popular with young adults and adolescents, and this could have a bearing on their representation of gender and sexuality (Balaji, 2010). Adolescents are more likely to watch music videos more than any other entertainment genre on television.

Many music videos amplify sex and the physical attributes of Black women (Balaji, 2010). According to Curtis, “Black women are represented as having uncontrollable sexual desires which is exactly how they are represented in nineteenth-century colonial discourse” (2009, p. 72). This is indicative of a dominant historical discourse in as far as the issue of gender and sexuality are concerned. Music videos are an ideal tool for studying the representation of African American sexuality based on social and theoretical contexts. From a social context, the availability of music videos to audiences is determined by demand for the same. From a theoretical context, the construction of music videos revolves around simple and common social themes and events represented in memory. Besides, music videos tend to arouse stimuli, and this increases the likelihood of stimulating the stored representation. For this reason, music videos are a powerful representation for concepts affiliated with sexuality and gender.

While many mainstream artists have no qualms with popularizing the sexualized culture, a few female artists such as Erykah Badu and Queen Latifah have taken to Hip Hop music videos as a tool to uplift and empower women. The sexual content on music videos potray women as submissive and promiscuous. Content analyses of music videos involving African Americans reinforce the female sexual appeal with the Black woman being seen as sex objects whose goal is to please the male spectator (Aubrey & Frisby, 2012).

Turner (2011) undertook two related studies to examine sex role and sexual behaviors as portrayed by music videos in the United States. In the first study, Turner examined some 120 videos recorded from mainstream television stations such as BET, MTV VH-1, and MTV2.  What emerged from this study is that African American women were more likely to be portrayed as being dressed in revealing or provocative dressing compared to white women, confirming the idea that the body of a female African American woman is more likely to be objectified in a sexual context, compared to that of her white counterpart. In the second study, the author reviewed some 20 videos drawn from the program Un:Cut that features on BET. Research findings indicated that the program under review featured sexual acts seven times more than the other leading music video channels (Turner, 2011). These findings underscore the significance of race in examining sexual content and gender roles in music videos.

The link between materialism and sexuality is so evident in hip-hop music videos. Hip-hop culture fuses together sexuality and eroticization of material wealth in the form of cars, jewelry and mansions. Scenes of women trading sexual favors for material things like promotions and financial gains are not unusual, and this seeks to portray the Black woman as a gold digger (Curtis, 2009). In both rap and hip hop videos, women are periodically sexualized, trivialized, and brutalized by men (Battle, Bennett and Lemelle 117). They are further depicted as submissive, weak, easily aroused, and dependent. Men often abuse and demean women in such music videos.  Conversely, men are routinely presented as negative, sexist, distorted and violent. Many of the music videos depict young male artists perceiving their female counterparts who perform minor roles in the videos in a negative light. For example, they often refer to them as “bitches and whores” (Battle et al. 117).

In sum, media is a powerful tool for propagating cultural values. Since music videos stimulate the stored representation, they are hence popular with the youth and young people who need to form a schema about gender and sexuality. Leading African American channels such as MTV and BET transmit sexual images indicates that in the African American culture, women are largely seen as sexual objects to please the male artists featured prominently on such videos that propagate the themes of love and sexuality. They are also meant to please the male viewer. Women are depicted as being submissive, materialistic, and as possessing uncontrollable sexual desires, and hence the use of such derogatory terms as whores and bitches.


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First Century. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Curtis, D. (2009). Pleasures and Perils: Girls’ Sexuality in a Caribbean Consumer Culture. New

Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Frisby, C.M., & Aubrey, J.S. (2012). Race and Genre in the Use of Sexual Objectification in

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Stephens, D.P., & Phillips, L.D. (2003). Freaks, gold diggers, divas, and dykes: The

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