Whether it's Facebook, Instagram, or Tinder, a lot of effort goes into perfectly crafting our online profiles.
But if you think a sexy photo or two on your dating profile is enough to get people to swipe right on you, a recent study is shedding light on how it might actually be having the opposite effect.
It's today's digital age, it's no surprise that many of us have made the foray into online dating.
So whether you're a man or a woman, if you're scrolling through Tinder and you come across a sexy dating profile with suggestive images, are you more inclined to swipe left or right? Or are these profiles a huge turnoff altogether?
Are Sexualized Profiles A Turnoff?
Noting how sexual objectification is "inherently dehumanizing," a team of researchers from the Universities of Arizona and California decided to put their theories to the test.
They hypothesized that contrary to popular belief, overly sexual profiles on dating apps are actually counterproductive in that viewers would see them in a non-flattering light.
The study, "The Costs of Sexualization: Examining Viewers' Perceptions of Sexualized Profile Owners in Online Dating," was published in January 2022 by the American Psychological Association.
Researchers first noted the popularity of online dating in that nearly half of Americans (48%) between the ages of 18-29 have used it before. But the idea for this particular study is actually thanks to Dolly Parton.
In 2020, country icon Dolly Parton started an Instagram challenge where users shared four photos representing themselves on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder. The first three photos were family-friendly, but the Tinder photo was sexualized. In Parton's case, she was dressed as a Playboy Bunny in her Tinder photo.
Researchers then realized that very few studies have actually examined the effects of sexualized photos on dating profiles.
Why Is Sexualization A Bad Thing?
Researchers felt this trend illustrated how "self-presentation in online dating are expected, if not encouraged, to be sexualized." They add that it's a negative because "viewing sexually objectified images of women activates cognitive processes typically reserved for objects, not humans."
In addition, people who are sexualized are often seen in poor light and are prone to harmful stereotypes, such as being viewed as less intelligent and possessing low morality.
How Was The Study Conducted?
The study employed 14 male and female models. Researchers obtained a variety of Instagram images from each, five of which were sexualized and five of which were not.
Some of these photos were non-suggestive, such as wearing clothes with high necklines or playing the guitar, while the suggestive poses included a model in a bra and thong. Researchers then used the photos to create fake online dating profiles.
The experiment included 262 heterosexual participants, 63% of whom were women and 37% were men. The average age of the participants was 21 years old, and their ethnicities were mostly white, but also included Hispanic/Latin, Asian American, African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Native American.
Participants were then told they were selected to test a new online dating website for college students.
The primary task of the participants was to evaluate the dating profiles, which included two randomly selected sexualized or two non-sexualized profiles belonging to someone of the opposite sex.
Participants had to stay on the profile page for at least one full minute, and give their input regarding the dating candidates, including competence, warmth, humanity, social attractiveness, romantic attractiveness, and perceived dating intentions.
What Did The Results Reveal?
The study revealed that sexualized dating profile owners were rated as less competent, less likable, and having less social attractiveness than their non-sexualized counterparts. In addition, they were also seen as less likely to seek long-term relationships.
Researchers also noted that "Men were also judged more harshly when they sexualized their dating profile photos compared to women."
What Can We Learn From This?
So why is this information important? Researchers first caution that their experiment "documented the costs of sexualization in online dating" in regard to being unfairly viewed in a negative light.
But, they also caution that people who utilize sexualized photos are more likely to be the targets of sexual cyber dating abuse, including unwanted propositions (like unwarranted sexual photos), or the belief that their pictures mean they're "asking for it."