" Women and advertising: A little too sexy?"


T. Baranski & J. Batt





















































"Women and advertising: A little too sexy?"

By T. Baranski & J. Batt

____Imagine looking at an ad with a sexy, half naked girl sitting on a sink straddling a handsome man who has his shirt off. The average person would think this ad was selling something sex-related, but surprisingly it is an ad for Candies perfume. Currently, more and more ads are made to look sexual because the new motto is “sex sells.” Typically, cologne, perfume, and alcohol ads seem to have the most sexual content in them. They use sexual content to tell their products. This seems odd because these products really have nothing to do with sex. For example, an ad for SKYY Vodka shows a man from the waist down with his legs apart, a bottle of vodka in his hand, and a woman wearing a skimpy bikini top lying underneath him. The vodka is barely even noticeable in this ad. The first thing that you see when you look at it is the women’s breasts. As many people have probably noticed, the majority of sexual ads out there are showing women as being the sexual objects. An article called “Beauty and Body Image in the Media” states that “Women-and their body parts-sell everything from food to cars” (n.p.). Images of half naked women or their body parts are shown in advertising because their sexuality is trying to help sell the product. Many ads dismember a woman and only show part of her or her body parts. For example, an ad for Caress Soap from the 80s shows a woman wearing nothing but underwear that say, “Caress” on the back of them. One has to wonder whether this ad is selling the soap or the woman. Steve Craig, an author and professor from the University of North Texas says that women tend to be shown as rewards for men who chose the right product (“Masculinity and Advertising,” n.p.). Women are used frequently in ads selling products that appeal to men due to target marketing. This is “the process of breaking up the advertising audience into more specialized segments of the population to reach those individuals who are most likely to purchase a particular product” (Rodman, 311). Advertisers know that sexy woman appeal to men, so they use their images to get males to buy certain products.

____Not only are women exposed sexually in ads, but they are also presented in very limited roles. They never seem to be shown in business roles, work settings, or any position involving authority. They are shown as more feminine and sexual. In an ad for Morrell Bacon from the 1960s, a clay model of both a male and a female are shown. The female is wearing an apron and is serving the male, who is sitting down at the table reading a newspaper. What is ironic about this ad is that only one place at the table is set, this being the man’s place. Back in this time, it was more common to see an ad showing a woman cooking, cleaning, or serving her husband in some way. However, it really hasn’t seemed to change much because women are still shown in the typical female role.

____Of course, ads do not only show women. Men too are shown in many different ways. Most often they are shown in more dominant roles. They carry characteristics such as being cool, confident, independent, powerful, or even being rebellious. Unlike women who are shown as being excessively thin, men are shown as being muscular and athletic, which in turn shows that they have more power. However, these ads can diminish men just as much as they do women. A 2002 study by the University of Wisconsin says that the new focus on muscular male bodies is also causing men a lot of insecurity (“Masculinity and Advertising,” n.p.). It is definitely not as common for the spotlight to be put on men in terms of sexual ads. Here and there you may see a perfect bodied man modeling underwear, but this is a rare event compared to all the ads of women who have seemed to lose their clothes.

____Somewhere in the business of advertising, sex got mixed in with the selling of a product. In the process, the idea that women are sexual objects that are around just to please men became reinforced. While advertisers try to sell their products, gender roles are being pounded into our minds. To sum this paper up, “We don’t need Afghan-style burquas to disappear as women. We disappear in reverse-by revamping and revealing our bodies to meet externally imposed visions of female beauty.” This quote was said by Robin Gerber, and couldn’t be any truer.



Media Awareness Network (1996). Beauty and Body Image in the Media. Available
online: (accessed March 31, 2001)

Media Awareness Network (1996). Masculinity and Advertising. Available online: (accessed March 31, 2002)

Rodman, George (2001). Making Sense of the Media: An Introduction to Mass Communication. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.