Tag Archives: sex

Power, Sex, and Shoelaces

Max shoes advertises its sturdy laces with sexualized and racialized violence in this Swiss ad:


NEW! Penny R. sent in these ads for Bisazza tiles.  They were banned in England, but she saw them in a waiting room in the U.S. in a magazine called Wallpaper:Bisazza1Bisazza2Both via Copyranter (here and here).


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Are You a Conservative? She Is”: Marking Politics with Pretty Women

William M. sent in an image (from Science Blogs) that ran in the Stanford Review to publicize a competition for the “most beautiful conservative woman.”


The tone is joking the magazine, from what I understand, is humorous, (Nerfmobile says, “the Stanford Review is not humorous (except unintentionally).  It’s a student publication that strives to present a conservative perspective on the Stanford University campus”) but apparently it was a real competition. The poster at Science Blogs said it ran in the late 1990s, not recently a few years back (Erik L. points out it can’t have been too far back because it references Bush and terrorists).  She appears to be not just pretty, but wearing a nightgown with no bra as well.

Of course, liberal women have been used in a similar way, as in the Vietnam draft resistance poster that says “girls say yes to boys who say no” (and a commenter pointed out the case of Obama Girl as a more recent example). In each case, pretty and/or sexually available women are offered up as the face of a political viewpoint, presumably to entice heterosexual men to consider joining as well.

UPDATE: Reader Michelle says,

I don’t understand. That’s Laetitia Casta, a French model. Does she even know she is being used in this way?

But another reader says it isn’t. I have no idea.

The Kiss-abilty Paradox

I have always found it bizarre that lipstick is supposed to make a woman’s lips more irresistible, yet kissing a woman with lipstick gets sticky red or pink smudge all over both faces.  NOT an attractive look.  So women dress up and look all gorgeous and then their dates can’t kiss them.  Or, one I always struggle with: it’s the end of the night and you want your date to kiss you, do you put on lipstick or go for the chapstick?  Gah, being a woman is hard.

And I supposed it can’t be that easy being the person who wants to kiss her in that situation either.

It’s odd to me that this kiss-ability paradox is never addressed in lipstick advertising.  So I was intrigued to see it in this vintage ad (source):



Now water cannot mar your lipstick . . . it’s protected by a coat of clear Lip-Stae.  Just brush on its liquid lustre . . . lips stay brillint, alluring for hours.   And clothes, cigarettes, glasses and the man in your life can’t carry lipstick’s tell-tale marks!  Safe, economical, and easy to use.  At cosmetic counters everywhere.

There is so much to unpack here, but I think it all revolves around the fact that women are supposed to wear make-up, but pretend that the face that they put on is their real face.  As the copy reads, lipstick leaves “tell-tale marks.”  Those marks reveal a degree of deception regarding her (supposed) true attractiveness.  This is why a woman’s lipstick must remain on her lips (and be left nowhere else) even when swimming or kissing.  Because, in principle, she’s not wearing lipstick at all.

I know that I always am slightly embarrassed when I’m wearing lipstick and I leave a lip mark on a wine or water glass.  It is because revealing that you are wearing make-up is to be caught in the act of making yourself up.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Nudity And Sexuality

A clothing-optional resort, Paradise Lakes in Land O’Lakes, is sponsoring a “g-string pageant.” It is advertising its event with the following ad:


In response, the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) has suspended the resort’s membership. They claim that the contest “sexualized the nudist experience.” Instead, the AANR promotes “social, family nude recreation” (story here, via).

What a fantastic example of the different ways in which we can interpret nudity.

See also this post and the thoughtful commentary it inspired.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Still Brutally Male”: Brut Deoderant Ad

Kelebek sent in an Australian commercial for Brut deodorant. In it, a male robot transforms various objects (a motorcycle, a drink) into “better” versions, more fitting of a super macho robot. One of the improved items is a Barbie doll/woman:

The woman is, quite literally, an object, to be “modified,” and then posed with his other belongings. And as we see, being “brutally male” is associated with drinking a lot, driving powerful vehicles, having hot women, and probably engaging in the type of risky behaviors that partially explain why men in many industrialized nations live shorter lives than women.

The commercial was pulled from TV by the Advertising Standards Bureau after they determined it was offensive to women. The commercial had to be recut…so that the woman isn’t one of the “objects” in the back of his vehicle at the end. The scene where he modifies the Barbie to be a live woman, and the phrase “reject, modify object,” weren’t removed. And:

Brut brand manager Deane De Villiers defended the ad, saying the robot carried the woman with the utmost of respect “as one would carry one’s bride”.

Yes. If your bride were an object you created to your very own specifications.

And for fun, read the comments to that Sun-Herald article.

NSFW!!! More Clothed-White-Woman/Naked-Black-Woman Images

Miz Belle sent us a set of photos from the September issue (#106) of Numéro, a fashion magazine. The fashion spread, titled “Best Friends” (I found at least one post online saying the two models are, in fact, good friends) features a White woman in at least enough clothing to cover her lady bits posed next to a Black woman whose breasts are on display as she is either entirely or partially naked.

These aren’t even vaguely safe for work.


Angry Green Girl: Sexualizing Women for the Environment

We’ve repeatedly posted about how PETA sexualizes women as a way to draw attention to animal rights issues (a Russian animal rights group has taken up the same tactic). And now we have Angry Green Girl, a website sent in by Andrea K. that applies the idea to environmental issues. The women claim to be “hot, green, and shameless.”

A hybrid-only car wash by women in bikinis:


A video that includes a fully-clothed man wearing a t-shirt labeled “Can’t Get Laid Guy”:

As we see, men are given at least the hope of sexual access to hot women if they make appropriate environmental choices.

From an article at treehugger, which seems to completely approve of this approach:

Angry feminists usually get the eye roll. But what about angry green girls? Seems like they’re getting plenty of attention – or at least this particular spokesperson for green issues. Basically, Angry Green Girl knows how to use her hotness for getting attention, but for a good green cause. From hybrid-only bikini car washes to nearly naked shower tips, check out how Angry Green Girl broadens the eco-issue umbrella through her sarcasm-laden eco-tips. Water issues have never looked quite like this.

These types of activism are based on the premise that a) sexualizing women is acceptable if it’s for a good cause (based on what the group cares about) and b) they actually get people to think about the issues and change their behaviors. Leaving aside the appropriateness of the first point for now (see Lisa’s post on the problems with this logic)–caution, not safe for work), the other question is…are these types of campaigns actually effective? Do people (presumably heterosexual males, that is) who wouldn’t otherwise care about environmental issues watch a video with a girl in a bikini and then rethink their driving habits or what kind of car they plan to purchase?

My first reaction is to be doubtful, but I dunno. What do you think, readers? Anybody have any direct (positive or negative) experience with something of this sort?

See also: quit smoking and get hot chicks, opposing the Vietnam War will get you laid, and Tila Tequila opposes human rights abuses.

On Metaphor (And Penis Fencing Flatworms)

I saw this footage of flatworm reproduction years ago on PBS and I was so excited when Robin H. sent it in!

Flatworms are hermaphroditic.  All flatworms can inseminate and be inseminated.  These flatworms also have two penises each. Flatworms are sexual.  That is, they reproduce sexually by finding a partner with which to trade genetic material.  (Asexual creatures do not trade genetic material, they reproduce by making copies of themselves.)

A flatworm reveals its two penises (in white):


What is interesting about this clip sociologically (in case you’re not already intrigued enough) is how the narrator describes what the flatworms are doing.

Let’s first suppose that it makes little sense to attribute human emotions and motivations to flatworms.  Let’s also suppose that narrations of animal behavior are often going to tell us a lot about how we think and only a little, if anything, about what’s going on with the  social lives of invertebrates.

As you watch the clip below, notice that they explain the behavior not descriptively, but metaphorically.  Flatworm mating behavior is like war and wars have winners and losers:

So the narrator explains that flatworm “sex is more like war than love.”  Worms are “swordsmen” who are “penis fencing.” (Mix metaphors much?)  They carry “double daggers” (penises).  And “the first one to make a successful jab, delivers its sperm.”

Notice how the narrator genders the hermaphroditic flatworms.  Because they have penises they are “swordsmen.”  Apparently their equally functional capacity to be inseminated is eclipsed by their dangerous daggers!

And notice, too, how they describe the flatworm who becomes inseminated as the “loser.”  The “losing flatworm,” the narrator explains, “bears the burden of motherhood, committing valuable resources to having offspring.”


Sperm on the “loser”:


Now it may be true that being the “mother” involves the use of resources. [Note: And this is a nod to the evolutionary logic involved.]  But even so, we would never call the females of non-hermaphroditic sexual species “losers” would we?  I mean, they both get to pass on their genetic material, and doesn’t that make them both winners from an evolutionary perspective?

No doubt it seems reasonable to call the functional female of the pair a loser in a sexist world in which childbearing is defined as a disability (according to the Americans with Disabilities Act) and childraising is defined as non-productive (it garners no wages or benefits and cannot be put on a resume).  Gosh, being non-hermaphroditic, human females are losers by default.  They don’t even get to play the game.

So sexism is one way to explain the wildly offensive characterization of the inseminated flatworm as a “loser.”  But it also may just be that, in choosing a war/sports metaphor to describe flatworm behavior, they inevitably had to characterize one or the other as a loser.  This is a great example of the folly of metaphor.  Metaphors can be used to make something unfamiliar make sense by comparing it to something familiar, but it also runs the risk of forcing the thing being explained to mirror the thing you use to explain it with.

It’s simply sloppy.  And, all too often, it results in projecting ugly realities with which we are all too familiar onto those things we don’t really understand.

For another example of the projection of socially constructed human relations onto the body, see our post on sperm, eggs, and fertilization.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.