sex

Animals Awake, a Dutch organization for animals akin to PETA in the U.S., “takes a page from [their] playbook,” according to David at Adfreak.   This commercial, in which a stripper is brutally murdered in front of a live audience, is so shocking that my first I thought was that it was a parody. It’s not.

Major major major trigger warning:

The critique, of course, is that Animals Awake is contributing to an atmosphere in which violence against women is ubiquitous (see Jezebel, for example).  But I actually think that this commercial works in that we are (I hope) genuinely horrified by the murder at the end.  I don’t think it normalizes violence against women like so many other ads/media/products do (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples).

BUT it does normalize the connection between violence and sex.  There is absolutely no reason why the person murdered in this ad had to a stripper.  There is no reason to spend the first half of the commercial titillating us, only to have it suddenly turned into a horror show.  There’s absolutely no connection.  But because sex and violence are so frequently linked in the American imagination, it actually took me a few minutes of thinking about it to remember that.  And I’m kind of horrified that, in my mind, sex and violence go together like peas and carrots.  This ad only reinforces that connection.

Sorry I made you watch it.

More images of sexualized violence here, here, here, here, here, here, here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Here’s another PSA, this one from the U.K., with exactly the same idea.

UPDATE: In the comments, jeffliveshere points out that the commercial is based on a pun:

I agree that the sex and violence connection is unnecessary–but, to be clear, there is wordplay involved–“stripping fish” is apparently a technical term for removing the guts of fish…

Okay, so maybe there isn’t “absolutely no connection.” Even so?

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

Genderkid sent in a link to a story in The Morning News about the Teen and Transgender Comparative Study, an art installation by Charlie White at the Hammer Museum in L.A. A description from the story:

The series is a correlation of two stages of transformation, pairing teen girls (12-14) with like adult [transgender] male-to-female…

More from The Morning News:

In the images in White’s series, both figures are blossoming into womanhood, though each along a different path. As observers, however, we have been taught to view the subjects in much the same way: with sheer terror.

For just as the original 1950s Invasion of the Body Snatchers warned of Communism’s impending doom, and stories of men with hooks were concocted to frighten young girls from riding in cars with boys, so often have Hollywood summer comedies acted as cautionary tales for the male who would cast his desire toward either the pubescent or transgendered woman. Because in the right skirt or the right application of makeup, each has proved alluring to our hero…

Indeed, both sexy underage girls and transgender women who “fool” unsuspecting men are often portrayed as threats to (straight, adult) men. The “Lolita” figure is long-standing, and portrayals such as the Ally McBeal plotline in which a man falls in love with a transgendered woman without knowing she is trangendered present the possibility of men being “fooled” into having sexual or even long-term romantic relationships with a transgender woman. Both teen girls and transgendered women are threatening and can get a guy in trouble.

Of course, we’re more accepting of one of these types of trouble than the other, and we shouldn’t be surprised that transgendered individuals who are “discovered” may face dire consequences for “fooling” men who have an intense investment in a rigid type of heterosexual identity and fear ridicule by peers, such as the three men who killed a transgendered teen in California. (And I don’t mean to imply here that women don’t ever feel uncomfortable with or attack transgendered individuals, but the murders I’m aware of all included male perpetrators.)

Anyway, it’s a pretty fascinating set of images. Thanks, genderkid!

UPDATE: Commenter EGhead says,

This analysis also neglects that society insistently refuses to acknowledge transgendered women as women, even though they are, while insistently acknowledging girls as women, even though they aren’t.

Fair enough–I think that’s a good point.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

And while we’re at it…

Another theme re-emerged among the safer sex ads that Julie C. pointed us to: the use of insects arachnids and reptiles to symbolize sexually transmitted infectiousness (you might have already seen a preview here).

After the jump, partly because of the creepiness factor:

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Tracy J. sent in this ad aimed at encouraging women to get pap smears to check for cervical cancer (originally found here, but the page was taken down, so Ashley in the comments thread found us this cached page):

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And along with the ad she offered this great commentary:

The message is essentially that pap tests have the potential to save the lives of women, but rather than pointing out that, you know, this is good cause… women deserve the opportunity to live a long and meaningful life in whatever way they may wish, or whatever… [But this isn’t the message, instead] they use the ad to scare us into thinking, “if all our women were to die, well then who would we objectify? men? gasp! wouldnt that be horrible”…

…it also sends a very clear message that one of the requirements of women in our North American society is to stand as objects for our admiration. Of course this is only certain kinds of women as this ad could easily be used for some sort of diet pill with an ‘overweight’ woman replacing this man with the statement “the world needs skinny women.”

This is very much like the breast cancer awareness efforts that revolve around how hot boobs are (see here, here, here, and the bottom of this post).

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

Given how common they are, ads that use a woman in a sexy pose for no good reason don’t really surprise me anymore. But every once in a while I come across one that makes me do a double-take, such as this advertisement for gold coins:

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Really? A woman in what appears to be a sexually aroused state? Who can apparently be the “trophy in your collection,” a statement which is all kinds of creepy? I also like the naturalization of current female beauty standards–thin, long-legged blond women who will lie around in lingerie and heels are “just more attractive”! It’s, like, a universal law, just the way it is.

Ugh. That is all.

I found this list of rules posted by the Lansing, Michigan, Chief of Police in dance halls during the 1920s in Allan Brandt’s book No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880:

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I don’t know what a “gratusque” dance, from point 3, is–maybe “grotesque” spelled incorrectly?

Notice the association of jazz with sexual impropriety. And although I think most readers, like me, will read the list and laugh at the fact that people thought dancing was so problematic, keep in mind that there are still many people who do. In college a friend told me he had never been allowed to go to a dance of any sort because his parents were from an evangelical Christian group that thought dancing was evil and led to sexual promiscuity. He’d also never eaten a single piece of Halloween candy, which horrified me way more than never going to a dance. I apparently am a tool of evil because I insisted that he enjoy the pleasures of Halloween candy for the first time. Next thing you know, he was drinking and smoking pot, proving that candy is a gateway drug.

True story.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.


Nadya L. sent in a video, embedded below, produced by a Christian anti-pornography initiative. It uses the logic that all women involved in sex work are “somebody’s daughter” and, thus, men should not consume pornography.

Ross Rosenberg at Coilhouse points out that the video erases the possibility that participating in the production of porn does not, inherently, ruin women foreverandever (and, thus, dads and moms should not necessarily be disappointed when their daughter participates in sex work). More provocatively, he asks:

[Why is] the idea of that the object of ones lustful desires is ‘somebody’s daughter’… a functional deterrent…[?]… Really, what is this video talking about here? Is it a serenade to the sanctity of our children’s innocence; the preciousness of their safety or merely the thinking that, if someone masturbates to images of my daughter, she has embarrassed me. If this was your daughter, what shame would it bring down upon you, her father? [Why would it] …be terrible for you and your family if it was discovered that your daughter was a pornstar or a stripper?

In my Power and Sexuality course, I discuss sex work and empowerment. Instead of essentializing both femininity and sex work and arguing that all sex work is inherently oppressive to women, I suggest that social conditions (such as patriarchy) and institutional features (such as pro- versus anti-unionization measures) shape the work environment of sex workers in positive and negative ways. Instead of asking: “Is sex work oppressive to women?” I ask: “What makes sex work more and less oppressive to women?” I think the latter leads to a much more interesting conversation.

For more posts trying to think through the topic of sex work, see here, here, here, here, and here.

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

The following is a print ad from those one-trick ponies over at Axe Body Spray in an ongoing effort to market shower products to men.

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The text pointing to the black part of the “Axe Detailer Shower Tool” (the name of which is worth a post all by itself) says:

“Washes Jessica’s perfume off your ear.”

The text pointing to the red part of the “Tool” says:

“Scrubs Jessica’s Mom’s perfume off your knees.”

I guess the take-home message is that you can exfoliate, but still be masculine enough to have a creepy three-way sexual relationship with women who are related to each other by blood.

By the way, what’s up with that?  The heterosexual male fantasy of being sexually serviced by two women is so common as to have become a cliché, but what about the less-frequently endorsed but still prevalent fantasy about those women being sisters (or better yet, identical twins!) or a mother-daughter pair?  Is it simple attraction (i.e., if you’re attracted to one woman in a family, it’s likely you’ll be attracted to other women who look/act like her)?  Is it the taboo element?  Or does the power to coerce women into an incestuous situation serve as its own reward?

Still, Axe got one thing right with this product.  When I think about a guy who would buy this sponge in the hopes of securing sexual relations with a woman and her mother, I can’t help but think of him as a, well…tool.