In a scene from that inane 80’s movie, Splash, the mermaid learns English by watching tee vee. Often in England I feel like a fish out of water, and sometimes I watch the telly hoping for some similiar assimilation miracle. This has its own problems. Primarily, I can’t get my head around the particular version of “sex sells” in British advertising. The misogyny is in your face, and the sexual metaphors are shamelessly explicit.
Here I give you a brief tour of what passes for sexy, according to British ad writers:
Is this not highly cringeworthy? Who thought this was a good idea, anyway? Do ad people really think women will go for this self-satisfied, smarmy chocolate pedant? The chocolate-eater is American, but the other narrator patronizing us with “you got your hunk” is British. As if pandering to our supposed sexuality is some kind of favor, and a British gigolo is out of the question.
Where do I even start? Did Peter Jackson make this ad? What’s with this weird Mayan/Aztec/African land where white women in headdresses genuflect to a giant, dark, lolly god?
Women’s sexuality has always been “bought off” with chocolate. I’m sure there are ancient reasons for this, and maybe even biological ones. But why must it be so obvious? My guess is it’s easier to talk about the caloric transgression of eating chocolates than it is to talk about our real sexual desires, on our own terms. When I had that office job, women would eat stuff like this and then say how “naughty” they were being– with the same giggly relish as a school girl bragging to her mates about oral sex in the back of a car.
Women’s sexuality is reduced to “cheeky sweets”, which very different from the way men’s sexuality is addressed in other ads I’ve seen here:
This ad is closest to the kind of daily sexism I’ve encountered in the UK. It sums up the flabby machismo of many British men and their weird ideas of inept women. The other Nuts ad features a woman getting sprayed by faulty plumbing as she struggles with a wrench. lovely.
And it hurts to mention the Lynx “Spray More Get More” and “Bom Chicka Wah Wah” campaigns. The later is obviously attempting give the onomatopoeia of the 70’s porn wah-wah pedal catch-phrase status:
Whatever these women were paid, it was not enough. So, the black woman shakes her booty in the supermarket, and the white woman spreads her mouth open and then looks demurely up at the dentist wearing drugstore perfume. But where is Muslim woman tearing off her hijab? Come on Lynx, get behind this new British inclusivity! Why should only haram British women have all the fun?
But in seriousness, fundamentalist Muslims have used the “decadent Western female” as foil in a defense of the veil, and I can only think they are referring to ads like this which they believe represent actual non-Muslim women. Fundamentalist Muslims conflate these displays with feminist ideas of sexual equality. It does my head in.
This next one is more disturbing. An army of starved women with breast implants desperately swimming to shore, running over hills? Maybe they are looking for the giant, ethnic ice cream bar:
But this one is also comforting in that it reminds me that my fat saves me from never having to run bikini clad in someone else’s perverse fantasy of a nypho army. Yay fat.
This one is probably the worst of the lot:
It just makes me tired, looking at it. There’s a sinister genius to this ad which compiles a great deal of real heartache and discomfort into a 28 second slot. Tit stares. Solipsistic disregard. Cheating. Shitty sex. It’s all so hilarious! Is this how most men really want women to behave? As simpy, selfless, lying push-overs?
Don’t answer that.