Document Type

Conference Paper

Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

International Communication Association. Annual Meeting. Feminist Scholarship Division

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

Total Pages



This paper interrogates the semiotic processes by which semiological codes operate to construct female sexuality in a top-circulating fashion and beauty magazine targeted to adolescents. While a number of studies have found the representations of femininity and sexuality in teen media to be restrictive, unrealistic and conservative, this paper fills a gap in the literature by presenting a close analysis of the strategies by which sexuality is constructed. Given that there is a documented difference between the real-world exigencies of girls’ sexual lives and the representation of sexuality in teen media, this paper uses Barthes’ concept of myth and Debord’s understanding of spectacle to frame media rhetorics of sexuality. For Barthes, a myth is a rhetorical figure that supports ideological social beliefs; for Debord, the spectacle is a system of capitalism that manifests itself via mediated images. On the basis of these ideas, the paper claims the semiological method of myth analysis as a feminist practice. Using myth analysis, patterns of representation of adolescent female sexuality in the 2006 issues of Seventeen magazine were analyzed. The analysis uncovered four overarching myths of girls’ sexuality in the magazine: the myth of sexuality as a function of body hierarchies, the myth of sexuality as spectacle, the myth of sexuality as a heterosexual male domain, and the myth of girls as sexual victims. The paper calls for myth analysis as a media literacy strategy that offers feminist emancipatory potential.


Adolescent, girls, sexuality, myth, spectacle, Seventeen, feminist methodology

Journal Article Version

Author's Original

Published Article/Book Citation

Durham, G. (2007, May). Sex and spectacle in “Seventeen” magazine: A feminist myth analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Francisco, CA .


Copyright © 2007 Meenakshi Gigi Durham. Posted by permission.