Women take sexy selfies to compete with other women in economically disparate environments rather than patriarchal oppression, according to researchers from the UNSW.
A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal, found women took erotic selfies in environments with greater economic inequality where they could be suppressed because of their gender.
The researchers analyzed more than 68,000 sexual self-portrait photographs or "selfies" published on the social media platforms Instagram and Twitter in 1
They also looked at where in the world most selfies took place.
Researchers noted that the link between sexual selfie prevalence and income inequality is directly related to greater sexualization in unequal income settings and people are engaged in relative social status.
"We found no link with sex suppression," the study said.
"It's about how women compete and why they compete," said lead author of the study, Khandis Blake of UNSW Science's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
She said women are "more likely to invest time and effort in publishing sexy selfies online in places where economic inequality is rising, and not in places where men have more social power and inequality."
Researchers have found in the past that women take more selfies than men.
The PNAS researchers said income inequality raises competitiveness and status anxiety among people at all levels of the social hierarchy, making them sensitive to where they want to sit on the social ladder and do better than others.
"Right or wrong, in today's environment, looking sexy can generate large income, economically, socially, and personally," says Blake.
"So, when a young woman provokes her bikini with her phone at the ready, do not think of her as empty or as a victim.
" Think of her as a strategic player in a complex social and evolutionary game. She is anxious to maximize her life, just like everyone else.
Australian Associated Press