Derek Powers


Am I Becoming a Prude?

For some reason, I cringed and changed the channel quickly. The distinct feeling I felt was  “Ew.” The last time I reacted like that was when I was seven and caught my sister making out with her online boyfriend.

What had gotten into me? Certainly I wasn’t turning into a prude...or was I? The more I started to pay attention to myself, the more I began to realize that I hated seeing half-naked women covering the pages of magazines. In fact, I hated seeing ads of women flocking towards a hot guy in commercials because of the cologne he’s drowning in. As I let the feelings of sickness settle in, I began to realize that it wasn’t about feeling grossed out. What I felt was an aversion to the objectification and overt sexual exploitation of women and men everywhere I turned.

I get it: sex sells. And why wouldn’t it? Of course a guy would want to buy a cologne if it meant hot women will fawn over him. The same goes for ladies: those new shoes will certainly garner a date from Mr. Hot Stuff. After a while, though, the message gets old.

I’m not a prude. What I am is bored. Sexuality is an awesome thing, but it’s no longer exciting because it’s thrown in our faces that being sexy should somehow define our lives. Advertisers also know that they have played the “sex sells” card too much, and have gone to more extremes to get their point across through sexing it up.

Britain’s Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) has recently gone on a frenzy, banning ads for images they deem to be overtly sexual. Ads by even Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs are not immune to getting the ax. Most notably banned were Lynx deodorant ads portraying a blonde woman standing on a beach wearing bikini bottoms while clutching an undone bikini top against her breasts, with the slogan, “The cleaner you are the dirtier you get.”

As one commentator wrote:

"Do we really perceive the publicized images of women as being sexual? What about if the same ad ran with a shirtless man with the above slogan- ‘the cleaner you are the dirtier you get.’ Would that have offended us? Probably not. Or does it have more to do with the fact that at this stage of the game certain images or suggestions are so loaded courtesy of an inundated culture that has continuously plastered half naked images of women in pretty much every repose on public billboards that the mere assertion of a sexual cliche (although intimated in many ads but never actually stated unlike the lynx ads) has pushed the bounds of proprietary and has served to embarrass us as to how we actually in Western society perceive women?"

Here’s the real deal: sex doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Sexuality certainly shouldn’t be suppressed and it certainly shouldn’t be offensive. When sexuality became exploitative is when it begins to lose its allure.

It’s no longer exciting to see a woman covering her breasts with long flowing hair. It’s no longer enticing to open up the pages of magazines to see a chiseled man covered in oil or sweat. My mind is filled with so many images of sexy people doing sexy things that now whenever I see a sexy ad my reaction is either, “Oh, give me a break. I’m so over this,” or “Wow. That’s so hot, but I’m still bored and I won’t buy your stupid product.” It’s kind of funny that sex can be such an exciting thing, but suddenly become boring.

I also have a certain belief that these sexual ads have also promoted the unhealthy objectifications of women. I’ve worked very closely with sexual abuse prevention, specifically with women and continue to have my beliefs reinforced that women using their bodies to sell a product encourages men to only view women as sexual objects, thus condoning sexual violence against them.

Don’t believe me?

Jean Kilbourne, a woman who has worked tirelessly to bring awareness to how ads have an affect on how we treat each other and treat sexuality said, “Everyone in America feels personally exempt from the influence of advertising. So wherever I go what I hear more than anything else is, 'I don't pay attention to ads, I just tune them out. They have no affect on me.' I hear this most often from people wearing Gap tee-shirts or Budweiser baseball caps."

To think advertising doesn’t have a direct impact on how we view and treat people is a gross understatement. Ads are extremely powerful certainly make us think differently. Look at war propaganda ads used during Adolf Hitler’s reign. You think those didn’t influence the way people viewed Jewish people? Think again. So what do we think makes us immune to the sexual objectification of men and women in ads?

I believe what I’ve turned into is a conscious prude. Sex isn’t gross, but I don’t need it shoved down my throat every two seconds. I hope advertisers start sparing me the gigantic boobs and muscled men because people are so much more interesting than that.