Is rape that exciting?
by Deduction on February 27, 2017 - 5:33pm
This is a 2010 Calvin Klein advertisement which publicizes jeans. The image contains three men and a woman enclosed in a cage. Two of the men are half naked and wear only the advertised jeans, while the other man is wearing a half-opened shirt. The woman however is almost completely naked, wearing only a sexy bra.
Calvin Klein is well known for overly sexualized advertisements which are meant to transmit the idea that men who buy their products will become more confident and sexual around women, which will result in a better sexual life. However, this advertisement is especially problematic because it expresses more than just a normal sexual interaction. The way the woman is forced by the man in the right to sit with the head on his leg by pulling her hair and the way the man in the left approaches the woman to kiss her neck imply that this is rape. In other words, this advertisement not only publicizes jeans, but also promotes the rape culture and the objectification of women.
However, the question is: why does an advertisement for jeans also promote the rape culture and the objectification of women? Well, “(i)f an advertisement is to be successful, it must first grab our attention. But is no attention better than negative attention?” (Cortese 78). The answer is clearly no. Moreover, since rape is already a socially accepted concept in our rape culture, there is no wonder why an advertisement like this can excite many men to the point of buying the advertised product. Yet, there is another question that arises: how can an advertisement like this influence the real world?
Firstly, this advertisement transmits the message to women that they should act like sexual objects, “being the thing men want” (Wade and Sharp 168). In other words, women should just accept to be raped without protestation, because their only purpose is to satisfy men. What is really disturbing about this massage is that more and more women start objectifying themselves by overly monitoring their physical appearance, a phenomenon called self-objectification (Cortese 61). In fact, this sexual objectification relates to body shame, which is the main cause of many eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction (Cortese 61). Consequently, the saddest thing in this objectification of women is that today’s society puts more value on women’s physical appearance instead of their intellectual capacity, which makes women look inferior to men.
Secondly, the promotion of the rape culture in the advertisement has a serious impact on the male audience. In fact, “(a)ggression is a learned behavior. Media violence teaches us aggression as children” (Cortese 79). This way, even non-aggressive men are thought by the media to be aggressive. Moreover, “(m)odern masculine archetypes in mainstream magazine ads normalize, legitimize, and excuse male violence” (Cortese 85). Returning to Calvin Klein’s advertisement, we can deduce that one of its massages is that if you buy their products, you are free to rape any woman you like. These massages can easily explain why almost all violent crimes are committed by males and why “(m)ore women each year are killed or injured […] by their domestic partners than by car accidents” (Cortese 80). It is indeed disturbing that masculine images are almost always dominant and violent, while feminine images are subordinate and passive.
There are many ways of fixing the ad while still selling the product. By fixing the advertisement, we should eliminate any negative attention that this advertisement draws and replace it with a positive attention. If we really want the ad to transmit the same message as the original one which is that men will become more confident and sexual around women if they buy the jeans, we can simply create a similar scenario where the woman is enjoying herself and is actually attracted by these men on her own free will. The main problem with this change is that the woman might still be objectified in the advertisement, which means that the ad will not be fixed completely. In my opinion, a jeans advertisement does not have to be sexual at all. This way, we can change the scenario completely. We can show that a man wearing the jeans is winning a sports competition or is passing a job interview. In both cases, the message transmitted is that the jeans inspire the man confidence and make him succeed in life. In conclusion, an advertisement does not have to draw negative attention in order to be successful.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising. 3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008, pp. 57-89.
Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp, “Selling Sex.” Susan Dente Ross and Paul Martin Lester, Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. Praeger, 2011, pp. 163-172.