Models for Sale: Sexism in Ads

Womens Issues

Sexy; For Sale

A little cleavage –or crotch– never hurt anyone, right?


Last night as I was flipping through a magazine, I noticed every other advertisement featured a scantily clad, impossibly flawless model armed with a sultry look, coaxing readers to dare to be just as sexy and cool as she.

Sexy; For Sale

Giorgio Armani’s ad for its Acqua di Gioa fragrance, for instance, showcases a naked woman with perfect skin, her body only partly concealed by a fan of leaves and her long, seductively wet hair.

Similarly, a Louis Vuitton ad highlights a beautiful woman hugging a designer bag, covered with nothing but a coat draped over her bare shoulders, and a Narciso Rodriguez perfume ad pairs the product’s image with that of a topless model bearing a submissive expression, her long, vulnerable neck reminiscent of a helpless vampire victim’s.

Sexy; For Sale

What do all these advertisements have in common? They all perpetuate the platitude that sex sells. And the sad thing is, it’s true: sex is arguably the most powerful marketing tool these days.

People like looking at sexy people doing sexy things; it’s human nature.

More importantly, they like to pretend that they’re just as sexy as the models themselves. That said, though it goes against all common sense to believe that purchasing certain products has the ability to transform an average Jane into a drop-dead goddess (spritz some of this, and your neck will become just as long and lovely!), the method of luring potential consumers in with uber-seductive displays works like a charm.

Sexy; For Sale

Now that’s all fine and dandy — after all, everyone enjoys gawking at pretty items perched on equally attractive props. The trouble is, that’s exactly what women are being reduced to: props. Nowadays, advertising often involves the gross exploitation of the female body — a major downside to the whole “sex sells” thing, if you ask me.

The hypersexualization and objectification of women in today’s media has become so commonplace that hardly anyone ever stops to consider the consequences of utilizing such marketing techniques.

Women are subjugated and dehumanized in order to promote the sale of inanimate objects—items that quite often have nothing to do with exposed bodies contorted into seductive poses (e.g., women don’t normally walk around stark naked just because they’re wearing pricey perfume!).

Sexy; For Sale

Consumerism has become so powerful in modern day society, that few people bat an eyelash when a woman’s body and sexuality are used for the sake of boosting sales. From TV commercials, to magazine ads, to giant billboards, the exploitation of the female form is everywhere.

The result? Not only has the phenomenon set a ridiculously high standard of beauty in our society, but it’s also somehow made it okay to perceive women as nothing more than juicy pieces of meat: delicious steaks served to the masses by companies hoping to make a profit off consumers’ everlasting hunger.

Sexy; For Sale

But then again, a little cleavage or side boob never hurt anyone. Forget the chick’s face; just direct your attention to her perfectly toned physique and insanely supple breasts. In fact, off with her head completely!

She’s a much better “product companion” than that silly mannequin, no? The fake tan totally makes her more lifelike! Go on, fetch me another—preferably one with a more robust bum.

Zoom into her torso. Or ass. Or down there, even. That’s it.

Now lay that product on her, next to her — whatever — like so, and . . . voila! Sold.

Born and raised in the Big Apple, Kristin is a proud alumna of both New York City’s Macaulay Honors College and Bronx High School of Science. Among her biggest pet peeves are run-on sentences, unwittingly published typos, and public transportation delays.

A fervent shutterbug, arts-and-crafts enthusiast, and bona fide gourmand with an insatiable wanderlust, she’s been fortunate enough to have already journeyed to over a dozen foreign countries (including Hungary, Spain, Bermuda, and most recently, Costa Rica!) in her short 24 years.

Reader Discussion: 8 Comments

  1. Hannah Mayers

    It cannot be denied that women empowerment is what we need! Somehow, it is US (Women) who are to be blamed for all these 🙁 It’s not just about the advertisers or the media. We need to take action!

  2. Jen Garcia

    “The hypersexualization and objectification of women in today’s media has become so commonplace that hardly anyone ever stops to consider the consequences of utilizing such marketing techniques.”

    This is a sad fact 🙁 It seems normal that women are portrayed in ads without “respect.” I believe that the consumers have great influence on how advertisements are done. Does this mean that we don’t treat women with honor anymore? *sigh*

    With all these, what bothers me most are the women who allow others to treat them with disrespect. I understand it might be the call of their profession (or passion), I don’t know. But I truly believe to stop all these, women should learn to respect themselves first.

  3. These ads are really disturbing. What kind of perception does society have of women that these kinds of images have become an accepted part of our lives?

  4. Jen Spillane

    I was really surprised by some of these advertisements. They were much more suggestive than I would have imagined. I agree that these advertisements are not the best thing in the terms of making average women feel good, or helping improve society's perception of a woman's value in general. However, I think it's also important to point out that it's definitely not just women who are objectified in this way. Advertisements for men's fragrances are much the same. The advertising industry uses sexuality in general–male or female–to promote its interests.

  5. Some of these ads are just ridiculous! The body of a woman is truly beautiful but should not sexified and objectified in this such manner. These bodies belong to women with a face, a heart, a mind and a soul. If men could actually take the time and think, "what if this was my mother or sister being used in these ads?" Then they might have a different perspective on things.

  6. Courtney Watson

    Using a woman's sexuality to sell products sends out the message that these body parts being emphasized, like her breasts, are her only important quality. Removing identity from her body objectifies her even more. These women don't have a voice or an opinion, only their bodies to be used for sales.

  7. This type of advertising really is unrealistic, and it deprives the true beauties out there who aren't all over glossy adds and half-naked. Women should be portrayed as respectable and intelligent people, not sexy goddesses of perfume advertisements. Props to companies that show beautiful, intricate women without nakedness.

  8. This sort of advertising is damaging to women on every level. It's part of the reason we make 75 cents to every dollar a man makes. Why men (and women) see women as objects and think it's okay to use them, or let themselves be used. It's part of the reason why so many women get raped. The more we read and write about the issue, the more we can recognize and try not to self-objectify, but it's really the men who need to be aware of this. I'm going to share with several of the men in my life.

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