Lindsey V., who recently sent in the excellent film clip in which “scientists” “tested” gendered battle gear, also sent us a link to images showing that the breast size of two video game characters — “Ivy” from “Soul Caliber” and, to a lesser extent, Lara Croft from “Tomb Raider” — have increased over time (source).

Ivy:

Lara Croft:

What might drive their ever-inflating breasts?

Speaking in terms of advertising, Sut Jhally wrote that advertisers must:

…now worry about clutter and noise. That is, how do you make your ads stand out from the [5,000] commercial impressions that people are exposed to [every day].  So if you’re Pepsi, you’re not just competing with Coke anymore. You’re competing with every other advertiser who wants our attention. As advertising takes over more and more space in the culture, the job of the individual advertiser gets harder and harder.

Martin Barron and Michael Kimmel make a similar argument about the rise of “extreme” and violent sexual acts in pornography.  The increase in the sheer amount of porn that emerged with the Internet has created a competitive market in which “sexual victimization of women is a currency” (p. 350).  You have to get noticed somehow.

So, insofar as this boob inflation is a trend, we may be able to explain it, at least in part, with the greater number of cultural products.  Proliferation creates conditions in which each one has to up the ante to “stand out” against the “clutter and noise.”

Sources:

  • Barron, M., & Kimmel, M.S. (2010).  Sexual violence in three pornographic media. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 161-169.
  • Jhally, S. (2000). Advertising at the edge of the apocalypse. In Anderson, R., & Strate, L., Eds. Critical studies in media commercialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 27-39.

Thanks also to Caroline Heldman; I borrowed some of the text in this post from a forthcoming co-authored essay.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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