How Attraction Impacts perceived Sex Appeal --- and Stigma
The silver screen of Hollywood past often included white plumes of smoke as men and women lit each other’s cigarettes and puffed on cigars in so many major films. Flash forward 50 years and you are hard pressed to find examples of smoking actors. When you do, the question for modern viewers is, how do they look now? Research has examined exactly that question, and provides some surprising answers.
As Coy Callison et al. noted in an aptly titled study, "The Aura of Tobacco," "Movie nerds don’t smoke; should they try, they don’t manage to do it quite right."
True, and they are no doubt healthier for it. What about famous, attractive movie stars?
Other researchers have uncovered some surprising answers.
Hollywood Role Models
David Hines, et al. examined whether smoking cigarettes in popular films increased the likelihood that viewers would light up.
They sampled 151 college students ranging in ages from 17 to 41 years old and had them rate main characters in selected scenes taken from popular films. They rated on 12 characteristics, including categories such as sociable, sexy, and attractive.
Compellingly, the subjects rated female smokers less favorably on all characteristics, but not male smokers.
Regarding impacts on smoking behavior, they found that male regular and occasional smokers reported a higher desire to smoke when presented with smoking film characters.
They additionally found that both female and male participants viewing smoking characters were more likely to report their own likelihood to smoke than participants who viewed nonsmoking characters.
Regarding exposure to specific actors and actresses, incorporating both smoking and nonsmoking scenes, their research used male actors such as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta, and female actresses including Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Aniston.
Hines et al. (ibid.) reported that their results revealed that individuals are more likely to model people they like, consider to be attractive, and perceive as similar to themselves.
They also found that the manner in which smoking impacts a character’s perceived attractiveness depends on character gender.
Apparently, both women and men apply a double standard when judging male and female smokers, rating female smokers less favorably than nonsmoking females, while at the same time, failing to perceive male smokers less favorably than their nonsmoking counterparts.
Noting that popular films are more likely to portray male smokers than female smokers, they observe the possibility that increased acceptability is due to more frequent exposure, resulting in male characters not being rated as less attractive when they are smoking.
YouTube Smoking Fetish?
In addition to movie portrayals, smoking is alive and well on the internet. Kyongseok Kim et al. studied "Smoking Fetish" videos on YouTube.
Specifically, they looked at the prevalence, accessibility, and "smoking fetish," described as the eroticized portrayal of smoking on YouTube. They analyzed 200 smoking fetish videos that are prevalent and accessible to adolescents, which depicted young, healthy, sexy females engaging in content consistent with PG-13 to R movie ratings.
Kim et al. (ibid.) observe that sexual imagery impacts adolescent smoking behavior, which is an unfortunate consequence of viewing such content, because depicting smoking as sexy may influence young people to smoke notwithstanding their exposure to warnings about potential long-term negative health consequences
A Modern View of on Old-Fashioned Habit
The bottom line is that despite advantages in smoking research, and the extent to which we have come promoting smoking stigma over sexualization, we apparently still have a long way to go.
Understanding how smoking is glamorized through media portrayals and internet content is one more step towards fashioning methods to combat harmful advertising, in the hopes of changing cultural norms which can impact youthful trends, behavior, and habits, and ultimately save lives.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patricks's Reports — More Here.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.