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“[In the English language] there are 220 words for sexual promiscuous women and only 20 for an equally

promiscuous man” (Transforming a Rape Culture, 125). In this society, the equality which stands between men and women is almost nonexistent. It is widely believed that we live in a man’s world. Even something as common to our culture as the English language stands guilty to the possession of a rape content. With the “language of rape” surrounding our everyday lives and yet still being ignored as an issue seeking attention, it is common for many people to overlook the equally degrading images in which advertising agencies surround us with day in and day out. “Advertising contributes to people’s attitudes about gender, sex, and violence,” states Jean Kilbourne in her article, Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt. With advertising agencies standing by the notion that “Sex Sells” it isn’t uncommon to find sex tied into a number of advertisements seen everywhere on a daily basis. “Sex in advertising is pornographic because it dehumanizes and objectifies people, especially women …” (Kilbourne, 271). The objectification of women in our society is more prevalent than many would like to believe. Women being portrayed as passive, easy, innocent, needy, submissive and dependent beings creates an understanding that women are less human than men. “Turning a human being into a thing, an object, is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person” (Kilbourne, 278). When advertisers continuously use women as sex objects in order to sell their products they begin to form the mindset that “all women, regardless of age, are really temptresses in disguise, nymphets, sexually instable and seductive” (Kilbourne, 281). The United States, of all the industrialized nations in the world, has the highest rate of sexual


assault. Living in a culture with increasing violence against women, the objectification of a woman through advertisements does not help the females’ strive of obtaining equality in a male dominated world. When a community health class at the University of Illinois (CHLH 199-B) was asked to share different synonyms for what they believed meant the same thing as “sex” some of the responses included: bang, screw, fuck, hit it, tap it, smash, tappin’ that ass, and hump. As you can see all of these words in some way, shape or form relates the intimate activity, sex, as being some sort of violent act. Why do we connect sex with such violent, disturbing illusions? Kilbourne writes, “Male violence is subtly encouraged by ads that encourage men to be forceful and dominant, and to value sexual intimacy more than emotional intimacy” (272). The traditional role taken on by the male gender is a tough, assertive, powerful, experienced, and dominating character. With men, being perceived as powerful and women being seen as passive and dependant people begin to believe that these figures are the norm and something idealistic to follow. The violent messages given off by certain advertisements begin to be overlooked and just absorbed. Advertisers sell their products in the ways they do, one way being the objectification of women, because it not only appeals to the male consumer but it also appeals to the female consumer making her believe that the ideal women looks, acts, and thinks in the ways a man would want her to. The irony in this idea is that an ideal woman, which all other women are trying to be: a sexy yet innocent, thin yet nourished, beautiful and perfect individual in all reality, does not exist. How is it possible for a human being to possess all of these characteristics at the same time? The image of this “perfect woman” is something that has been brainwashed into this society’s head and is something that is nearly impossible to obtain. Advertising agencies contribute to the twisted thinking


scattered throughout our culture by portraying the “uncommon/nonexistent woman” as the “perfect woman” throughout their ads. Advertising constructs sex, gender and power in a very specific way. Advertisers typically use sex in the form of a woman, specifically her body, and if a man is not in the image she is portrayed as passive, innocent, sexy, and aggressive, all at the same time. On the contrary, when a man is in an image/shot with a woman she is portrayed as helpless, easy, needy, and dependent. Regardless as to which image the woman is captured, she most commonly is portrayed as more of an object than anything else. The men in the media are rarely portrayed as powerless. As Ann Quindlen said, writing about “reversed racism”: “Hatred by the powerful, the majority, has a different weight – and often very different effects- than hatred by the powerless, the minority” (Kilbourne, 279). Drifting to the idea of violence and hatred this idea still shows the overwhelming “power” men have on women. Men, being represented as the majority are always something for women, the minority, to worry about. Men are not the ones afraid to walk home alone at night. Men are also not the ones being raped. In the world of media, men are not the ones being portrayed as having a gun held to their head in a cartoon version advertisement for Bitch skateboards which clearly targets young people (Kilbourne, 277). Men have the power and this power blossoms as early as childhood. “Many boys grow up feeling that they are unmanly if they are not always ‘ready for action’, capable of and interested in sex with any women who is available” (Kilbourne, 285). Advertisements seen all over our television, magazines, internet/virtual world, and even billboards emphasis this idea of power and the people absorbing it are the ones with minds like a sponge, the youth. With young boys, as early as the seventh grade, laughter and name calling to the over weight,


not very popular girl is a moment of dominance and power. These children see their words break down the self confidence of an innocent being and feel no sympathy for the feelings of the individual they “hurt.” It isn’t very surprising to hear stories about boys mistreating girls. How can you blame them when our society has companies like Senate selling cloths with inside tags reading “Destroy All Girls” attached to the part of the label with the washing instructions? What is a child to think when they read something of that nature on the inner tag of their t-shirt? This goes to show the advertising world’s idea of the more “powerful” sex, the man. The advertisement industry is a multi-million dollar industry. If violence against women, objectification of women including their body parts, and segregation of women as the weaker sex is used as a marketing scheme, then how are these products selling and why are we “buying” them? “Perhaps it is simply designed to get our attention, by shocking us and by arousing unconscious anxiety. Or perhaps the intent is more subtle and it is designed to play into the fantasies…” (Kilbourne, 276). Both solutions are ultimately putting a concrete version of this inequality into our culture. We are exposed to hundreds and thousands of advertisements on a daily basis (Kilbourne video), if the majority of these advertisements somehow objectify women then we, as a society, become “numb” to the actuality of this problem and think nothing of these womanizing images. This isn’t to say that men are never objectified in advertisement because they too are captured with a women concentrating on a certain body parts rather than the man himself. These images might be funny to see at first glance but either way there is no right in objectifying any human being. We, as consumers, buy these products because we believe in the messages these products, in essence, send off. We become obsessed with


turning our bodies into the body of the bikini model on the cover of Vogue magazine. We strive to mimic the clear, beautiful skin that the girls on the Neutrogena commercials have. Women work to become this “perfect woman” who in all actuality does not exist. Computers are beginning to graphically combine a variety of body parts belonging to different women and creating this image of a flawless woman to advertise their products (Killing Us Softly). How are women possibly going to measure up to a virtual designed woman? This idea is starting to get ridiculous. Buying into these ads, we are buying into the idea that sex actually does sell. As long as we, as a nation, continue to feed into these ideas imposed by sex in the media the advertising industry will continue to put out whatever sex based ads they want. This country is a competitive, money based society. If we are continuing to make their money by buying their products then why would they stop putting out sex based ads? The truth is, they won’t. Sex in the media is most commonly targeted at women. Not only do a majority of advertisements objectify a specific body part belonging to a woman, but some also portray women as being the tolerant victims of male violence (Kilbourne video). Our society continues to grow believing this ideology that men are superior to women. Advertisement industries contribute to people’s attitudes about gender, sex, and violence. They surround us with different images, most of the time directed somehow at women, and these images end up staying in our minds as idealistic ways of looking, acting and thinking. There is no doubt in my mind that advertisement contributes to violence against women. With women being portrayed in the advertising world as nothing more than a pair of tits, or a piece of ass, how can any of us grow to believe otherwise?


Work Cited

“Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt” - Jean Kilbourne; Electronic Library “Killing Us Softly” - Jean Kilbourne; Video “The Language of Rape” – Helen Benedict; Transforming a Rape Culture C.A.R.E class discussion held by Ross Wantland about sex in the media