Sexualized Female Video Game Protagonists Don't Negatively Impact Women's Body Image, Study Says

Published: July 12, 2019 10:00 AM /


sexualized female video game characters

A study by psychiatrists on sexualized female video game protagonists has found (contrary to their expectations) that it doesn't have an impact on women's body satisfaction or aggression towards other women. A group of four researchers — Danielle Lindner, Melissa Trible, Ilana Pilato, and Christopher J. Ferguson — conducted a study on the topic by surveying female players who had played a Tomb Raider game.

Titled "Examining the effects of exposure to a sexualized female video game protagonist on women’s body image.", the study on sexualized female video game protagonists had women players going through a session of an unspecified Tomb Raider title. They were randomly given either a more sexualized or less sexualized avatar for their gameplay session. Following the conclusion of play, the women reported on their "self-objectification and body dissatisfaction." Additionally, the four researchers measured levels of hostility and aggression towards another woman.

The research team appears to have expected sexualized female video game protagonists to have some kind of effect on their research subjects in this area, but the science proved otherwise (as it sometimes is wont to do). Here's the relevant conclusion from the paper's abstract:

Results indicated that exposure to a sexualized avatar in a video game did not influence any outcomes for female participants. These results indicate that, at least for video games, exposure to sexualized females may not have a substantial impact on female players. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
While this study may seem to indicate that sexy video game characters don't negatively impact women's' body image, it is but one study on a topic that is still being thoroughly explored. The strength of a study depends on how well it can be replicated and how often it is cited, so we'll have to see how that turns out in the coming months and years.

What do you think of the results of the study on sexualized female game protagonists and women's body image? Do you think they came to an accurate conclusion? Let us know in the comments below!