According to a recent study, women who dress sexily in their Facebook profile photo may have an endless list of male callers but are also likely to not be so popular among other women. This is no new revelation. The idea that women don’t warm up well to other outwardly “sexy” women has been previously acknowledged. The study does, however, give us a unique glimpse of how this perception extends into the world of social media.

'Amanda Johnson'

In the study, researchers from Oregon State University created two Facebook profiles for the fictitious 20-year-old Amanda Johnson, according to a recent press release. Both profiles are identical in every aspect except for the profile picture. One features “sexy” Amanda in a red, low-cut dress with a mid-thigh slit to reveal a garder. The other profile photo is more wholesome and features Amanda wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a scarf wrapped around her neck. Two groups of women, one group featuring 58 teen girls aged 13-18, and the second featuring 60 young adult women no longer in high school aged 17-25, were randomly assigned one of the profiles. The participants were then asked to rate Amanda’s physical attractiveness, whether or not they would want to be her friend, and confidence in her ability to get a job done.

Results showed that the non-sexy Amanda profile scored higher in all three areas. Interestingly, however, the biggest discrepancy was in the area of task competence, with an overwhelmingly large amount of respondents feeling that sexy Amanda was incapable of getting a job done.

Need To Celebrate What Women Do, Not How They Look

Lead author on the study, Elizabeth Daniels, believes this study highlights our society’s attitudes toward gender roles. “I think these findings reflect the double standard we have in society where women are encouraged to be sexy but are then penalized for doing so,” Daniels explained to Medical Daily. She went on to explain how it’s not exactly dressing sexy that reinforces female gender roles in society but the heavy value that is placed on a woman’s physical beauty. “We need to shift away from such a heavy emphasis on female beauty and instead celebrate what girls and women do in the world,” Daniels suggested. She urges young girls to replace profile pictures that emphasize their sex appeal with photos that emphasize their interest and hobbies.

Future Study Will Include Men

Daniels told Medical Daily that she is currently studying men’s reactions to sexualized and non-sexualized profile photos. For now, she predicts that although “men might be more positive than women about the attractiveness and socializing potential of a woman with a sexualized profile picture,” they are likely to also “negatively evaluate the competence of a woman with a sexualized profile photo."

Attractive Photos For Women May Also Cost Them Professionally

An Israeli study from 2012 presents compelling evidence backing this concept that sexy women are perceived as being incompetent. In their study, the photos were categorized on their overall level of physical attraction, regardless of sex appeal. Photos of attractive and unattractive men were attached to identical resumes to see if beauty had anything to do with the likeliness of one to be called back for a job interview. Similar results were achieved. Attractive women were less likely to be called back for an interview in comparison to the identical resumes of less attractive women. According to Forbes, "an attractive woman would need to send out 11 CVs on average before getting an interview; an equally qualified plain one just seven.”

Same Stigma Isn’t Seen For Men

What’s even more interesting is how this pattern did not seem to exist for the attractive men in the study. Photos of attractive men were more likely to get passed through the hiring process than the photos of the “unattractive.” It was noted that 93 percent of those responsible for the hiring process were females. This led the researchers to the "unavoidable and unpalatable conclusion that old-fashioned jealousy,” caused the discrepency in the interview selection.

However, if Daniels' hypothesis is proven correct and men also equally classify sexualized or attractive women as incompetent, this conclusion may be proved wrong. Regardless, the combination of these studies’ results serves as a warning to women that sexy Facebook pictures are likely to hurt them both socially and professionally. Whether or not you’re willing to take that chance is entirely up to you.

Source: Daniels EA, Zurbriggen A, Eileen L. The Price of Sexy: Viewer’s Perceptions of a Sexualized Versus Nonsexualized Facebook Profile Photograph. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. 2014.