Five Sexist Trends the Advertising World Just Can’t Shake

December 8, 2008

n4202756_30812171_2415 Alex Leo Operation Itch Contributor
This was a big year for women: The first serious female presidential candidate, the firstpredominately female state senate, the first female Top Chef. Yet the advertising world has not caught up to the advances of half our population and continues to use stereotypes and violence to prey on our most vile desires. Here are the worst of them–the trends that won’t die despite our cultural outrage, and personal boredom.

getinteresting2BONDAGE – This year Remy Martin debuted it’s “things are getting interesting” campaign that features a mediocre Website and a series of billboards/magazine spreads depicting women in degrading bondage positions. You may think, “hey this one shows two women, there aren’t even men involved, how can it be sexist?” But most of the ads (not available online) have men between the two women in controlling positions. And even without that, these women are obviously putting on a show for an outsider, not having a passionate lesbian love affair for themselves. These types of ads gain traction in cultural periods of female advancement–capturing the fantasy of “putting us back where we belong.”

Remy Martin describes its followers as“influential, social, and multicultural urban males, ages 25 to 35.” Men of this ilk and age range (read: over 16) should know better than to fall for this kind of pandering. If we switch the view from this being sexy, to this being a pathetic attempt to make an undersexed male feel powerful in the face of female accomplishment, the image loses its appeal. I would like to start a “things that are not interesting” campaign, which would include men insecure enough about themselves that they can’t talk to women who aren’t physically degraded. I would also include cognac.

RAPE — The world of high fashion has been the worst offender in the violence-as-art game. Cavalli hadpirates, Chanel had a wife beater, and now Dolce and Gabbana has this.dolcead090808

Let’s get this out there now: It’s not edgy, it’s ridiculous. This is a gang rape, and any woman that sees those shoes instead of that message deserves those shoes. Any man who doesn’t see that this is rape is probably looking at one of the hard bodies in the background and therefore not really a threat to women.


usedbmw“SLUTS” — Much like the Calvin Klein ads of the early 90s–you remember the ones that made you feel like you were watching child porn, cause you sorta were–this ad offers a young woman (with the face of a small child) posed in a sexually suggestive manner. They are offering you a virgin in looks and expression, and a slut in the tagline: “You know you’re not the first.”She’s been fucked before–she knows what she’s doing. She’s been used so you can do whatever you like to her. That’s the implicit message of this ad. She’s young and nubile, but not prudish. She’s the ultimate fantasy: a virgin who won’t say no to anything.

This combination of the Madonna and the whore is ultimately a fantasy of degrading both body and mind. This girl is in no way a threat: she’s young and won’t say no, no one has to offer her anything, she is just there for your needs, just like a car.

nikon Oh my god is this played out. We get it, some men find the idea of two women together appealing. MTV has reality shows devoted to it, casual and exploitative lesbianism is now a part of our culture. But aren’t companies like Nikon supposed to be better than that? They bring us goofy Ashton Kutcher commercials (not that those are okay either) and sponsor the Boston Red Sox (yeah, that’s pretty bad too). But they are a staple of the photography world and should be held to a higher standard than Tila Tequila. There are many meanings to the term corporate responsibility and one of them is not to fetishize female sexuality.
gwenadbukkake102407CUM SHOTS — Forgive me that lewd term, but I didn’t know how else to phrase it. I can’t open a magazine anymore without seeing a thinly-veiled coital moment posing as an advertisement for some sort of beauty product. Jezebel tracked these for a while, rounding up the worst offenders.

The images and tag lines reinforce the idea of women sex receptacle, and therefore simply a receiver of sex, not one engaging in an equal process. This ad reads “I Want You All Over Me,” which is as subtle as it is sexy. As Jezebel points out, women like orgasming too, sex is not just about male pleasure, it’s a two way road and all of these ads find their own way around that truth.
The fact that these trends are so widespread is not the fault of the advertising world–these people are paid to appeal to our ids, they are often self-aware in their tendency to make the world harder for women, that’s the life they’ve chosen. It is mainstream companies like BMW, Mitchum, Nikon, mainstream publications that host these images, and mainstream readers who use these products despite their appalling treatment of women that are truly to blame. The advertising world reacts to client demands and consumer activity–we have control over only one of those fields.





  1. Just want to know where I can buy a copy of the channel poster with the guy in the towel named violence?

  2. Richard,
    “Moron?” I am a moron for saying that the fact of the criticism is fine, but the basis is flawed? You sir, clearly know morons. I suspect that you have daily experience being one.

    Furthermore, “the author’s post even acknowledges that the audience of Remy Martin is all male of a certain age group . . .” First, she does not “acknowledge” this, she states it. Second, I *believe* that the audience in question is the theoretical viewer inside the ad, not the target of the ad. EVERYTHING in an ad is for the target of the ad. Since she does not know where these women are supposed to be (maybe at a lesbian bar?) her criticism that the couple is putting on a show for the theoretical viewer inside the ad is without merit. She should have simply stuck to the fact that the couple were having their (very hot, very attractive) sexuality commoditized for sales to men.

    Oh, and “sexes” should be possessive, and “hear” should be “here.” Moron.

  3. Yes, I am a man and I need to step forward and refute both Alex and David’s ridiculous responses.

    1) Alex – you are lying when you say this piece refers to men as villains – that is simply false. In fact, I just read and re-read the piece trying to find any criticism of men at all and it simply is not there. This article is critical of sexism in advertising – the fact that you do not see it is sad but the fact that you accuse the author of sexism is childish, completely off-base and moronic. If you disagree, be intelligent about it – where do you disagree? This is a classic male empowerment line – to accuse the feminist of being sexist. It’s ridiculous and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    2) David – seriously, open your eyes, man. These are clearly women who are putting on a show – the author’s post even acknowledges that the audience of Remy Martin is all male of a certain age group. They are clearly trying to communicate that these women are playfully flirting with each other for the amusement of those around them. Faux lesbianism is very popular at nightclubs and bars in just about any urban center.

    Now, I do not necessarily agree with every assertion in this article (for instance, I think there is a difference between “wet women” and “cum shots” – even if the end result of sexualizing women is the same) but I simply cannot let morons like David and Alex continue to ruin my sexes standing. Sadly, they represent about 80% to 90% of men that I routinely encounter myself. I am hear to let you know, that there are a lot of good men out there who see what the author is stating and don’t need to resort to grade-school bullying or flat out lying to defend “man kind” – pathetic.

    Keep up your articles!

  4. Im love it! I didnt really gte your last one. But I so agree. The first one is degrading to actual lesbians. It disgust me that men have ruined lesbians in the media for their own pleasure when lesbians aren’t even attracted to men yuch! Unless they are fake and attention seeking. She isn’t being sexist, she is putitng down men who degrad women not men in general, anyone who can read without stuff spelt out for them can understand this. Whats your real problem? I think only someone who disagrees with women standing up against this stuff is sexist. And her not buying it is irrlevant. This crap contributes to womne being sexually harrassed etc, low pay. It doesn’t matter if you don’t wanna buy it, women get discriminated in real life because of stuff like this. There are other ways to seel stuff with a little more creativity. And hott movie stars such as the guy from Twilight sure sell dont they? But I suppose to use hott male movie stars as much as hott womne to sell stuff would make some men feel to threatened if they could accept the fact it would cause a similair reactionv in straight women as the above does to straight men.

  5. you could’ve wrote “money shot” and we’d all know what you meant. subtlety isn’t just a lost art, no one’s even looking for it. despite the ‘happy’ endings to ‘idiocracy’ and ‘wall-e’, they’re a long way off and we’re at the beginnings.

  6. Sex sells. you don’t have too like it, and you don’t have to buy any of these products either, if it really bothers you that badly. Personally, I find this “piece” to be immature, shallow, and sexist. Yes, sexist. Throughout this piece of trash you refer to men as villeins, as something to be cast off, as something unworthy. No, you don’t actually say it, but it’s there in the language, and in the emotion. It’s there between the lines if you will. All I’m saying is check the mirror before you start calling someone or something else sexist. Maybe then you won’t be so biased.

  7. “And even without that, these women are obviously putting on a show for an outsider, not having a passionate lesbian love affair for themselves.”

    I don’t really understand how you know this? I mean, these ads are stupid, but this seems like a leap that you really can’t make. Can’t you criticize this ad under the rubric of girl-on-girl action without this leap of logic?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: