You might think that women take sexy selfies in the hopes of attracting men, but a new study suggests that this isn’t the case.
Instead, the study indicates that women sexualise themselves in environments with greater economic inequality.
In the study, researchers from the University of New South Wales analysed tens of thousands of selfies taken across 113 countries.
The team also looked at any tags with the selfie, including ‘sexy’, ‘hot’ or similar.
Dr Khandis Blake, who led the study, said: “We then looked at where in the world these things happened most.
“The number one way that psychologists usually look at women’s preoccupation with their appearance is that it happens because of patriarchal pressures – that women live in societies that value their appearance more than their other qualities.
“The argument is usually that when you see sexualisation, you see disempowerment.
“What we found instead is that women are more likely to invest time and effort into posting sexy selfies online in places where economic inequality is rising, and not in places where men hold more societal power and gender inequality is rife.”
This applied across different geographic locations, even after taking into account other factors – including population size, human development and internet access.
The researchers suggest that income inequality increases competitiveness and status anxiety amongst people at all levels of the social hierarchy.
This makes them sensitive to where they sit on the social ladder and want to do better than others.
Dr Blake explained: “That income inequality is a big predictor of sexy selfies suggests that sexy selfies are a marker of social climbing among women that tracks economic incentives in the local environment.
“Rightly or wrongly, in today’s environment, looking sexy can generate large returns, economically, socially, and personally.”