Clearly depicting a sexual encounter between two women, this billboard — posted on Doheny Drive in Los Angeles — looks like it would undermine heteronormativity: an invisibility of same-sex sexual and romantic relationships.


In fact, I don’t think it does.  For one, the aim of the advertisement is to appeal to male consumers. The women’s appearance is in conformity with the demands of the hypothetical heterosexual male gaze.  They have long groomed hair and are wearing sexy lingerie and make-up. They are arching their backs and sticking out their busts and butts. The performance of male gaze-compliant femininity is clear, making the male viewer an implicit part of the advertisement.  This enforces heterosexuality and promotes heternormativity instead of undermining it.

Moreover – and stay with me here – that implicit male manifests himself symbolically in the shaft of the champagne bottle.  The woman’s hand gripping the bottle turns this image into a depiction of a threesome rather than a lesbian encounter. This billboard, then, reinforces heterosexuality instead of disrupting it.

Sianni Rosenstock is a freshman at Occidental College. She is an intended Sociology major and Studio Art minor.