Orgasmic puppeteering: sex and sexuality in Portuguese women’s and men’s magazines


Sexual and sexuality representations in magazines


Daniel Cardoso – ECATI – ULHT / FCSH – UNL

The media constitute an integral part of our lives and are, as with many other things, technologies of gender, that shape/are shaped by social and historical constructions of gender, sex and sexuality. Women’s and men’s magazines are perhaps an obvious locus of such a construction, since their economic and editorial rationale is based on a rhetoric that presumes a division between male and female. A substantial part of these magazines deals directly with the topics of sex and sexuality, as well as relationship and romantic advices. Utilizing queer theory, foucauldian analysis and the feminist critique of postfeminism in the context of a more individualized western society dedicated to scientia sexualis, the work presented here shows the resemblances in the treatment of gender issues in Portuguese magazines with other international studies (e.g: Gill, 2009). The objective is to try to understand the structural organization gender and sexuality through the analysis of these magazines, understanding how they operate as organizers of a (sexual) gendered experience, and reveal the tensions between the notion of sexual freedom and the postfeminist recuperation of patriarchal values and attitudes.

Three men’s and three women’s magazines were chosen for this analysis, with 5 numbers collected from each one during a year-and-a-half period (spanning 2008 and 2009). The main articles, drawn from the references made on the cover, were then analyzed by using the Computer Assisted Quantitative Discourse Analysis software, NVivo8, through an analysis table that focused on the dichotomy between Liberal Feminism topics and Postfeminism topics, their relevance, presence and absence. From this corpus, a sub-set of articles were chosen for qualitative discourse analysis. The final results, which will be detailed during the presentation, point to an instrumental approach to (female) sexuality, the reification of the heterosexual monogamous couple and affirmation of the primacy of male sexuality.

Keywords: magazines, gender, feminism, queer theory, sexuality



Foucault, M., (1994). História da sexualidade I - A Vontade de Saber, trad. Pedro Tamen. Lisboa: Relógio d'Água

McRobbie, A. (2008). The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. Londres: Sage.

Gill, R. (2009). Mediated intimacy and postfeminism: a discourse analytic examination of sex and relationships advice in a women's magazine. Discourse & Communication, 3(4), 345-369.