Posted by: eliseanne | May 22, 2009

Guest blogger – The Husband

What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man…

“advertising rape”

Dear Radiance Spa of Woodbury,

There is a billboard on east bound I94 just outside of down town St. Paul that is advertising for you and you need to know that it is very offensive! The only picture on the billboard is a giant zoomed in picture of a woman’s crotch in a bikini bottom. Now I know you are advertising for hair removal services but displaying pictures of basically soft core pornography on the side of the freeway is not an appropriate way of doing that.

Not only is the picture indecent but it perpetuates the idea that women’s bodies are sexual property and can be objectified and used for whatever one desires. Such as a close up picture of a barely clothed crotch of a woman and calling it appropriate advertising for a medspa!

This type of objectification and abuse of women is a contributing factor to the tens of thousands of sexual attacks and rapes that occur against women in this country and I know you do not want to be contributing to that, but the truth is, with advertising like this, YOU ARE!

I am letting my wife, sisters, and plainly every other person I know not to go to your medspa unless this horrible and degrading advertising is taken down!

I trust this was not done maliciously but you need to know the effects this kind of behavior has and the resentment that it stirs up. I trust the billboard will be taken down (along with any more like it) so no further action needs to be taken.

Thank you

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Responses

  1. As Tony’s message said, it is more than just putting out a woman’s body as a stumbling block for people. It is also perpetuating the concept that our bodies can be bought, sold, and used. Sex sells, right? Well I am tired of our bodies selling things. I am tired of objectification of and violence against our bodies being ok. I am tired of the promotion of a culture that robs women of our physical integrity, privacy, and global respect. They are selling that woman’s body for all to abuse it.

  2. I’m sorry, but if you think a woman in a bikini constitutes soft core pornography, you’re completely unaware of the definition of the word “pornography”.
    (For the record, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, it’s “Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” Pay attention to that ‘primary purpose’ qualifier)

    If you think that such an image is tantamount to advertising rape, well that speaks more about your own mental state than about the advertiser’s intent. I frankly find it disturbing that anyone could perceive a vaguely erotic image as ‘advertising rape’. It tends to suggest that you think this shifts some responsibility for the act of rape onto anyone who displays erotic imagery, or their own bodies. After all, she was asking for it by walking around in that tiny skirt, right?

  3. Pay attention to that ‘primary purpose’ qualifier

    I haven’t seen that particular billboard in question, but I’ve seen other billboards with women in bikinis. It would seem to me that the primary purpose of those pictures is to cause sexual arousal, and then use that sexual arousal to sell products.

    Am I missing something?

  4. “It would seem to me that the primary purpose of those pictures is to cause sexual arousal, and then use that sexual arousal to sell products.

    Am I missing something?”

    So only heterosexual men and lesbians get bikini waxes?
    The purpose of that sort of billboard is *obviously* as a “this is what you can look like,” message, not as a “come get a bikini wax and hot babes will have sex with you,” message.

    And even if it were, even if I’m totally missing out on the message (which is unlikely, considering I have experience in advertising) the primary purpose is not to cause arousal, but to sell bikini waxes. Causing arousal would be counterproductive to any business except strip clubs and bordellos. Sexually aroused people tend to want to have sex, not to go shopping or go get bikini waxes.

  5. The purpose of that sort of billboard is *obviously* as a “this is what you can look like,” message, not as a “come get a bikini wax and hot babes will have sex with you,” message.

    And even if it were, even if I’m totally missing out on the message (which is unlikely, considering I have experience in advertising) the primary purpose is not to cause arousal, but to sell bikini waxes

    Ok, I’ll give you that, even though there are nuances to this that would be worth discussing. However…

    Causing arousal would be counterproductive to any business except strip clubs and bordellos. Sexually aroused people tend to want to have sex, not to go shopping or go get bikini waxes.

    … if this is true, then why are bikini clad, well-endowed women being used to sell me beer, body sprays, hamburgers, cars and clothes?

    It seems to me that a large proportion of the messages in advertising boil down to “buy this product and hot babes will sleep with you” or “buy this product and you will be the type of hot babe that guys want to sleep with.” Both of which reinforce the idea that a woman’s worth is embodied solely in her being an instrument of sexual pleasure for someone else.

    • … if this is true, then why are bikini clad, well-endowed women being used to sell me beer, body sprays, hamburgers, cars and clothes?

      The point is to get you to watch the ad. Men are naturally drawn to images of attractive women, so advertisements which contain them will attract attention. The whole “buy this product and beautiful women will sleep with you” angle is generally reserved for goods which men use to attract beautiful women, and that being the case, it’s a natural and acceptable method of advertising: They’re not doing anything but selling up the effectiveness of the product.

      “buy this product and you will be the type of hot babe that guys want to sleep with.” Both of which reinforce the idea that a woman’s worth is embodied solely in her being an instrument of sexual pleasure for someone else.

      You are distorting the truth. Neither of those messages even implies that a woman’s worth is solely based on her attractiveness. Those messages merely assert that attractiveness is desirable. I could easily use the logic you’re using here to claim that ads for albums and ringtones on MTV imply that a person’s worth is decided entirely by whether or not they listen to the most popular music. I could claim that organic food advertisements imply that a person’s worth is decided entirely by whether or not they eat organic foods.

      • “buy this product and you will be the type of hot babe that guys want to sleep with.” Both of which reinforce the idea that a woman’s worth is embodied solely in her being an instrument of sexual pleasure for someone else.

        You are distorting the truth. Neither of those messages even implies that a woman’s worth is solely based on her attractiveness. Those messages merely assert that attractiveness is desirable.

        What else are these messages conveying about a woman’s worth then?

        Below you describe someone who is attractive not just because of her breast-waist-hip ratio, but because of the ways she carries herself, her attitude, and other characteristics. Do the aforementioned messages convey that the other characteristics that make this woman desirable to the men in your office make up a part of a woman’s worth?

        Do these messages even acknowledge the the existence of any other characteristic other than their sexuality that makes a woman valuable?

  6. I hear what you both are saying.

    I think we are missing the point when we talk only of sexual arousal from that one billboard. As Richard pointed out, women’s bodies and our sexuality are used to sell everything and anything (White Castle and Burger King, anyone?).

    The greater picture is that we have created and continue to perpetuate a culture that perpetuates the violence and abuse of women and their bodies.

    By saying we can use bodies and sexuality for something like selling and advertising, is to say that a woman’s body is not her own. It is to be used. And I hope you can see the correlations even to physical rape, in that?

    Yes, women models choose to be women models. But lets look at the broader cultural context of what causes them to make that choice….oh, we came back to marketing, power, etc.

    Basically, I am told every day by my cultural context that I am nothing but a body. And that my body, if deemed desirable enough, is for someone else to use, and if not, then i have no value.

    I thank my God for men like my husband, Richard, and others for speaking and living the Truth into my life in the midst of this cultural barrage of crap.

    • The greater picture is that we have created and continue to perpetuate a culture that perpetuates the violence and abuse of women and their bodies.

      I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, the evidence couldn’t disagree more. Look at highly conservative cultures like those found in the middle and far east. Women are expected to subjugate themselves to men in those cultures, and they are all cultures which ban the public display of the female body in any form. In many Muslim cultures, a woman can legally be raped under a whole host of circumstances. In many of these cultures, the woman is held responsible if she is criminally raped. As a result, the abuse of women and their bodies is far more prevalent in those cultures than in the western world.

      By saying we can use bodies and sexuality for something like selling and advertising, is to say that a woman’s body is not her own. It is to be used. And I hope you can see the correlations even to physical rape, in that?

      As with Richard’s last response, I could use the logic you espouse here to assert any number of ridiculous claims, such as the use of a carpenter’s skills by his boss means those skills belong to the boss, and not the carpenter. Surely you can see the corelation between that and forced labor?

      The women you see in these advertisements aren’t forced to do them, they’re paid. Many of them are professional models, who eat a strict diet, exercise daily, and work very hard to maintain an attractive body, for the express purpose of being paid to display either her body, or designer clothing. Others are women who have been fortunate enough to have been born with attractive bodies, and take advantage of this by using them to supplement their income.

      Basically, I am told every day by my cultural context that I am nothing but a body. And that my body, if deemed desirable enough, is for someone else to use, and if not, then i have no value.

      If that is what you take from these advertisements, then it seems to me that you have some serious insecurities about your own body. The truth is that that message is not the one the advertisers, models or businesses intend to convey, and it can only be interpreted by ignoring many aspects of the advertising process and methodology.

      Trust me, there are many men out there who care very little about a woman’s body. I used to work with a woman who weighed over 200lbs, and she was considered by all my coworkers to be more attractive than another woman who worked with us, who had done professional modeling.
      It was their respective attitudes and personalities that did it. The heavier girl was much easier to get along with, she understood the difference between a joke and harassment, she was interested in many things her male coworkers were. Her physical attractiveness was there too, she knew exactly how to dress and how to wear her makeup. Contrast this with the “perfect 10” model who expected every guy in the office to wait on her hand and foot, took any remark which could be construed as sexually suggestive as harassment, shared no interests with any of the men, dressed to show off her body and wore way too much makeup. Any man at that office would have said the first woman was the more attractive, or even the more “doable” of the two. All of us had been bombarded with the same images you are referring to here, yet for each of us there was something much more important in the judging of attractiveness in a woman than the ratio of butt to hips to waist to breasts.

      • If that is what you take from these advertisements, then it seems to me that you have some serious insecurities about your own body.

        Dude, that is one of the most condescending, patronising, ad hominem statements you could make in this discussion. It’s very much not cool.

  7. You say,
    “The point is to get you to watch the ad. Men are naturally drawn to images of attractive women, so advertisements which contain them will attract attention”
    (i haven’t learn how to indent quotes all cool like yet!)

    I get what you’re saying, from the advertiser point of view. You say my point there for myself – the woman’s body is being used to sell the product, to attract attention to the product and to the advertisement.

    I mean heck. I saw an advertisement trying to sell vegetables that had women in lingerie being extremely sexual with the veggies, to sell the idea of eating more veggies.

    That’s it. Being used.

    That’s my point. And it can’t be compared to using anything else as a tool for selling, because we are humans with souls, not a piece of meat or screwdriver.

  8. First off, I want to apologize for the confrontational tone of my first response. I fully expected you to simply delete it, and typed it up with less civility than I now see is appropriate, given your willingness to engage in a discourse.

    (i haven’t learn how to indent quotes all cool like yet!)

    That’s simple, it’s basic HTML tags. You use the keys (press shift and then comma or period, respectively) to enclose the tag you wish to use. For the quote, the proper term is “blockquote”, so an example of how to do it would be this (I’m not going to press shift, so you can see the code, but be sure to press shift to get the brackets)
    ,blockquote.text you wish to quote,/blockquote.
    Note the / at the front of the word in the ending tag.

    I mean heck. I saw an advertisement trying to sell vegetables that had women in lingerie being extremely sexual with the veggies, to sell the idea of eating more veggies.

    I’ve seen the same or a very similar ad. If it’s the same one I’ve seen, then the ad was obviously meant to mock the prevalence of sexual content in advertising.

    That’s my point. And it can’t be compared to using anything else as a tool for selling, because we are humans with souls, not a piece of meat or screwdriver.

    If you are a mainstream christian, then you must believe that our soul defines (or at least helps define) our personalities, intellects, etc. If so, then the logic you’re using here would hold that any advertisement touting the skill or talent or intelligence of the company’s employees would be worse than those touting a woman’s body, because the body is just the container within which the soul resides, while the talent or skill or intelligence of these people is a part their actual soul. Such ads would be demeaning that which defines the people, according to this logic.

    But nobody in their right mind sees it that way. At worst, such ads could be said to be overly prideful, but we all know there’s an ulterior motive for this public display of pride.
    We see ads that tout a company’s employees skill as valid and inoffensive, because our culture has absolutely no taboo against skill. We do, however, have a long standing and highly ingrained taboo against our sexuality.

  9. What else are these messages conveying about a woman’s worth then?

    Very little. The messages mostly convey the idea that buying their product will make you happier than not buying it, or buying a competitor’s product.
    Now, I acknowledge that it could be interpreted from them that a woman’s worth can be increased by becoming more attractive, but I hardly think this should be construed as oppressive or offensive. A man’s worth can be increased by becoming more attractive just as well as a woman’s, and everyone’s worth can be increased by the increase of any favorable qualities, including intelligence, knowledge, patience, good health, etc, etc, etc…

    Below you describe someone who is attractive not just because of her breast-waist-hip ratio, but because of the ways she carries herself, her attitude, and other characteristics. Do the aforementioned messages convey that the other characteristics that make this woman desirable to the men in your office make up a part of a woman’s worth?

    No, they don’t.
    However, I don’t believe it is the responsibility of advertisers to convey any message other than “buy this product.” So long as they do so within certain ethical guidelines (by not excessively glorifying socially harmful behaviors such as pedophilia or heroin addiction), they are free to do so however they wish.

    My point in relating that story was not to imply that advertisements glorify women with likable personalities (although some do, such as a recent Jaguar commercial which portrayed a woman figuring out that the best gift she could buy her husbands was a new Jag), but to both illustrate that the target audience of such advertising (heterosexual men, mostly) are not raising their expectations as a result of being bombarded by so many images of beautiful, scantily clad women, and to illustrate the subsequent lack of any need for women to conform to such standards of beauty as put forth by these advertisers.
    I have never met any man worth the label of “man” whose standards of beauty are comparable to those evident in such advertisements. To be sure, there are some, but these men tend to be shallow, insecure, unintelligent and untalented (except for a silver tongue) individuals who never managed to attain an emotional age beyond that they had in college. They are the among worst sorts of men in western culture, not the typical men of western culture.

    Dude, that is one of the most condescending, patronising, ad hominem statements you could make in this discussion. It’s very much not cool.

    Check out my blog. One of the entries is about the difference between a criticism and an insult, I think you should read it.
    An ad hominem is an argument from an insult. It is when someone says “Well, you have negative attributes, so your argument must be wrong.”
    That is not at all what I have done, here. I made the statement you quoted in the very same paragraph in which I went on to explain why I offered the opinion contained within the quoted segment. The meaning of the entire paragraph was not that Elise has insecurities, and so her objections were invalid, but that her objections were focused on a specific interpretation, one which requires ignorance of many aspects of advertising. The suggestion that she may have insecurities was the conclusion, not the foundation of my response. Perhaps I should have presented that suggestion at the end to make it clearer what my meaning was.

    I admit it sounded very condescending, and I would extend an apology for any offense engendered by me saying it, but I am not in the habit of not saying something because it’s difficult to express it with the same level of understanding online as I could in person.
    I did not intend it as a insult to Elise personally, as we all have insecurities. I merely included it as a criticism, one intended to be helpful when read in the context of the entire post, and I specifically included the last paragraph in order to accomplish this.
    In truth, I find Elise to be remarkably graceful and thoughtful in her responses, and I am enjoying this discussion as much as or more than any such discussion I have ever had online.
    You yourself have been far more civil than my experience with the more conservative elements of our culture led me to expect. I would like to apologize to you as well, for the confrontational nature of my first response to you.
    I am used to discussing such matters with those of differing opinions in the form of arguments, and both you and Elise have engaged me in the form of a civil discussion, which is both pleasant and surprising.

  10. thank you for clarifying those things.

    and i am glad that this space has been a positive one, that is my goal.

    that sounds like a good wrap-up for the discussion, at least on my end.

    welcome to the blog!

    🙂


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