What Exactly is Sex Selling?

Let us take a moment to look at a print ad outside of racism and explore sexism. It is no secret that the advertising industry has used human sexuality to sell any and every product under the sun, but this Dolce & Gabbana ad certainly takes things to another level; in particular it is difficult to ascertain what is being advertised other than the company itself. We can assume that it is jeans, shirts, and/or a dress, but the scene that the ad portrays is disturbing. When push comes to shove the ad looks like the beginnings of a gang rape. The women is completely in a position of submission and vulnerability. She is being pinned down by a muscular male, sans shirt, who seems to be lustfully leering at her through his sun glasses. Three other men stand around watching, seemingly captivated by the exercise of power and control of their supposed companion over the hapless woman. The most suggestive part of the entire advertisement is the positioning of the man’s hands over the woman’s wrist. This is a more than obvious position of power and is essentially the lynchpin that makes this ad feel so uncomfortable after you witness it.

This ad serves to deeply continue a long standing practice of objectifying women. Although rape is much more an act of power and control than sexual conquest, many people misinterpret the act as profoundly sexual in nature. This ad lucidly portrays both. The other aspect of the ad that seems like a small detail but is actually a very powerful, provocative gesture is that the women’s hips are thrust upward toward the male who lingers over her. This seems subtle, but if we look more deeply at body language and question what this is communicating it reflects a disturbing attitude. Although some might suggest that it is reflective of the women struggling to get away from the man who has pinned her down, from my vantage point it seems that the ad is attempting to communicate that the woman is a willing partner and that she is sexually stimulated by becoming subservient and dominated. I think this ad sends a deplorable message, particularly in terms of the bedroom-esque scene it portrays.

Stemming back to a decidedly puritanical views toward human sexuality, Americans are not having conversations about sex (or if they are they happening behind closed doors, only with a trusted friend or partner). In most of American culture sex is taboo. This leads to the conclusion that our thoughts and ideas about sex are learned through socialization by the mass media and that is why this seems to be such a dangerous vision of sexual behavior between men and woman.

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