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Sexual Priming: Social Media And Sex

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As human beings we are naturally programmed to crave sex; however, sex comes at a cost. Our exposure to sexual stimuli influences our behavior, sexual permissiveness, relationship-initiation processing, self-sexualization and our conscious and unconscious processing of sexual cues. Social media and sex go head to head in present day society as we unknowingly fall victim to an implicit memory effect called priming. Exposure to a specific stimulus, for example, an individual who is exposed to multiple sexual advertisements followed by subliminal sexualized words or phrases when accessing someone’s Facebook profile page might be more susceptible to associating the Facebook user with a sexual manner or persona. Previous research has established that social behavior is largely driven by how we think about ourselves and others leading to the concept (sex-priming) that exposure to sexual stimuli changes how men and women perceive themselves, and then it should also influence how they behave and their mental representations of sexuality (Hundhammer & Mussweiler, 2012). The process of priming is a fleeting and indirect exposure to a Social stimuli that leads to a subsequent result of; a mere exposure to socially relevant stimuli facilitates, or primes a host of impressions, judgments, goals, and actions, most often outside of people’s conscious state of intention or awareness (Molden, 2014). The primary focus of this study is to analyze whether sexual priming of our participants on an individuals Facebook profile page will have an affect on their perception of the actual Facebook user. In short, if the participant is exposed to a controlled stimuli prior to knowing who the actual Facebook user is, will they form a miscued perception of the user before being informed of the truth.

The development of sexual priming depends on exposure to supraliminally and subliminally presented sexual stimuli that demonstrates changes in both affect and motivation sexual cues presented outside of one’s conscious awareness (Gillath & Collins, 2015). According to Gillath and Collins, Exposure to subliminal cues most often leads to opposite results compared to when a stimulus is delivered consciously. Social topics such as sex, relationships and modern family hover in our subconscious and work to influence our mental state during consciousness. They concluded that unconscious stimuli led to an increased motivation to have sex, however, various factors such as sexual orientation, sexual desire, sexual strategies, or different life experiences play influence into their behavior which is shaped not only by people’s motivation but by the different environmental conditions that facilitate different trajectories leading to potentially different affects on someone’s reaction to sexual priming.

In a similar a study performed by Hundhammer and Mussweiler (2012), discovered that the difference between the mental representation of both male and female allows for a person’s self-perception to create consistencies with gender stereotypes, which results in prominent influences on social and sexual behavior in a gender-stereotype complex. Sexuality is something that influences the salience of any gender drastically, leading to the exposure of different behaviors for men and women. Social media can heavily influence gender differences in sexuality, categorizing females and males and what is to be expected from them weighing down on the gender stereotype niche. Imagery and script found throughout social media reinforces gender sexuality, this priming may be seen to positively influence the sexes but it causes many adverse affects on society as well.

Another factor sexual priming contributes to is the potential to facilitate relationship initiation and maintenance; it may bring potential partners together initially and provide the magnetism that holds them together as the relationship develops (Birnbaum, Mizrahi, Kaplan, Kadosh, Kariv, Tabib & Burban, 2017). Birnbaum et al, conducted a study to analyze whether exposing people to sexual stimuli (Sexual priming) will implicitly or explicitly further increase an individuals desire for future interaction with someone. Sex suggests contribution and initiation of a relationship, however, it is used as a buffer and motivator to connect with a prospective partner and the initial glue that holds partners together long enough for the attachment system to take over and the maintenance begins. Similarly to Birnbaum et al, a study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of sexual priming in increasing young adults’ sexual permissiveness, as well as the effects of romantic cues in decreasing permissiveness (Carpentier, 2016). Sexual permissiveness is defined as attitudes that favor casual sexual encounters, isoften paired with casual sex, multiple partners,“ hookups” and irresponsible and irrational sexual behavior.

The study concludes that romance overshadows sexual permissiveness by a long shot; hence sexual social media should distinguish between relational and recreational conceptions because this priming influences sexual talk and behavior.In pursuance of sexual priming and its heavy influence by social media, we have devised a study that analyzes the affect of sexual priming on one’s ability to form an accurate perception. We created a fake Facebook profile page with a falsified biography and advertisements to run our study based on. We then provided three participants with a questionnaire that was identical, however we changed the condition on which these questions were based (the advertisements located on the Facebook profile page); we instead had three different primes given to different participants (Sexual prime, educational prime and romantic prime). We have two primary predictions. First, we predict that participants who see sexualized advertisements accompanying a fake Facebook profile will view the Facebook user in a more sexualized manner (more flirtatious, seductive, sexy and provocative) than participants who see romance or educational advertisements. Second, we predict that participants who see romance advertisements accompanying the fake Facebook profile will view the Facebook user in a more romantic manner (more sensitive, kind, tender, and sentimental) than participants who see sexualized or educational advertisements.

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