sexual orientation

Watch how this 60 Minutes clip from August 2006 manages to completely confuse three very different things: sex identity (believing you are biologically female or male), gendered behavior (conforming to cultural rules about girls/women and boys/men are supposed to do and like), and sexual orientation (which sex you are attracted to sexually). For examples, you know your boy is going to grow up wanting to have sex with men because he likes to “help out in the kitchen” or thinks he’s a girl. These are all very different things. It also includes some wretched study design.

Part I


Part II


By the way, funny story: When my nephew was about 2 years old he loved brooms and vacuums. My parents told me that it was because he liked “tools.”

Thanks to Joseph DeM. for the tip!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


I borrowed this image years ago from Myra M. F. Thanks Myra!

NEW! More satirical pro-gay marriage messages (found here and here):



In case you weren’t aware, is a website run by Fred Phelps, leader of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. They’re the ones who have anti-gay protests around the U.S., including at some points showing up at the funerals of gay men, and have moved on to a general “God hates America” theme, due to all our depravity. He makes Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s pastor) look like a teddy bear–at least he was just saying God ought to damn America.

These t-shirts depress me more than anything I have seen in a really long time.

A completely unrelated Kansas story: When I was living there, in a small town, I discovered that my vet was the head of the Board of Education and was leading the anti-evolution efforts at the time (this was before voters elected a new Board and got rid of a lot of the anti-evolution people).

Anyway, thanks to Larry H. from The Daily Mirror for this photo (found here). I guess.

I thought these two images were interesting because they are using sexualized images of men in a magazine called Metropolitan Home. It struck me at first because it’s pretty unusual to find sexualized male bodies used in ads targeting a general audience that might include straight men. Then I started thinking–maybe the fact that it’s in an interior design magazine means advertisers assume the readership is mostly female or, if male, gay, so there is little fear of offending straight men with these types of ads.


This ad for Star Wars on Spike TV suggests that Darth Vader turned evil because he was called a girl’s name as a kid. After all, what could be more insulting than that? (His name, before he was Darth Vader, was Anakin Skywalker.)

Thanks Craig S.! Craig saw the ad in the New York City subway.

Also in men must avoid femininity at all costs: eat like a man, I have to act so masculine, denigration with feminity, and my wife makes more money (the shame).


One of my favorite things to do in class is to show students that advertisers target their images to the audience. Students are often resistant to the idea that advertisers consider every aspect of an image, or that gendered or racialized elements are used intentionally. Showing ads for the same product that are targeted at very different audiences can be a way to get students to think about the fact that marketing is very deliberate and nothing in a multi-million-dollar ad is left to chance.

I previously posted this Cadillac ad:

Then I found this one in QVegas, which targets the GLBT community:

These might be useful for sparking a discussion of how advertisers alter their message based on the desired consumers, and that they know what kind of image will resonate with various demographics. And note that the second ad doesn’t have the menacing tone of the first one. Other examples: here and here.

I have a feeling this ad is not meant for lesbians (the other half of the page showed a half-naked woman; both were for mainstream, non-lesbian-oriented clubs). This might be useful for discussing different attitudes toward gays and lesbians–it is difficult to imagine an ad of two men kissing aimed at straight women. In this case, women kissing is not about THEIR sexual pleasure, but about that of the audience–presumably straight men. The assumption accompanying images such as these, of course, is that the women are not actually lesbians–they’ll still be sexually available to men. This is another difference in cultural views of gays and lesbians–lesbians’ sexual orientation is often doubted (they just need to find the right man) in a way gay men’s usually isn’t.

From Las Vegas Weekly.

I found these two Miller Lite ads in QVegas, a magazine aimed at the GLBT community.

It would be interesting to pair with these ads for Skyy vodka to illustrate how companies make different ads to target different audiences. If you find an ad offensive or dumb, it’s not necessarily an ineffective ad, it’s that you probably aren’t the target consumer and it’s not supposed to appeal to you.

NEW! Philip D. sent in a link to a post by Sister Toldja at Me, Myself An Eye about slightly different versions of ads for Crown Royal. This one is presumably aimed at a general audience:


Text: “Have you ever seen a grown man cry?”

Sister Toldja suspects that this one is targeted more specifically at African Americans:


Text: “Oh, hell no.”

Now, just to be clear, I’m not arguing these are racist ads. I just think they would provide a good example to start students thinking about the fact that a) advertisers actively market to various groups by trying to appeal to them in specific ways that may differ from an ad made for a “mainstream” or “general” audience (i.e., one that would presumably appeal to just about everybody) and b) they do this by playing on stereotypes or cultural assumptions about what different groups like (or are like). What separates these two ads into “mainstream” and “Black” ones? Simply the presence of a phrase that many people associate with African Americans (although I have to admit I mostly associate it with one of my male cousins more than anyone else). You might start with this example, which is fairly innocuous, I think, and then start asking students to think about other ways advertisers might indicate who an ad is supposed to appeal to (men or women, gay or straight, or more broadly to “everyone”). When do these efforts become problematic?