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Sexuality, Ideologies, and Gender Roles in Advertising

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Essay title: Sexuality, Ideologies, and Gender Roles in Advertising

For as long as advertising and mass media have been around, so has their incorporation of sexuality and ideologies. Day after day we are plastered by articles, images, and audible forms of advertising. I would estimate that the average person encounters between fifteen hundred and three thousand forms of advertising each and every day. Of those fifteen hundred to three thousand, it would be safe to say that more than two thirds of them portray sexuality and socially constructed ideals. Men, women, and children are on a daily basis targets of advertisements. As Susan Bordo hypothesizes in her essay “Hungry as Ideology,” gender roles are the foundation for what the advertising agencies use to promote and push sales (139). They use the societal stereotypes of gender and sexuality and manipulate them so that we, the consumers, want to purchase their product. Sexuality, ideologies, and gender roles are not something new to the advertising world. They have been incorporated in advertising for well over the past fifty years, characterizing the ideal woman as an entity of sexual desire and submission, as well as the ideal man as a person of power and financial stability.

Furthermore, decade-to-decade, the ideologies of the complete woman have changed. With this change have come new products and forms of advertising to sell them. Most women of advertising are tall, skinny, and very seductive. They are depicted as sexual beings and objects, rather than human beings or people (McManus). No matter the product, one can usually find something suggestive or subliminally sexual in every female advertisement, proving how the woman has truly become identified by her sexuality.

There are two ways in which gender roles in advertisements are thrown at the consumer. The first one is how the person in the ad expresses their gender identity. The second is how we as a society deem the activities and actions appropriate of the person and the genitalia they possess (Ideology). I have chosen three advertisements, from three different decades, all depicting how the sexuality and stereotyped gender roles acknowledged by society are exhibited in the media. The first ad depicts the historicized ideology of women being the center of male’s sexual fantasies. Furthermore, the second advertisement, for Caress Body Soap and panties, demonstrates the commodification of a woman’s body as a sexual product. The third advertisement, for Candies cologne, makes it apparent that while women are sexual products, they are also sexually submissive and weak.

Women’s sexuality has always been something that men have been unable to resist. Starting with the Bible, one of the oldest known forms of literature, it becomes evident that women have always possessed a natural sexuality. It was this sexuality that led Adam to partake in the Tree of Knowledge, giving in and ignoring God's only instructions. He was unable to resist Eve's pure physical beauty that had previously bypassed him; instead, he craved to be intimate with her, and this hunger overcame all common sense (Anonymous).

This awareness of power created by woman’s irresistible sexuality is something that has continued to develop overtime. With the concept of the Femme Fatale, as well as that of the Amazon Woman, came a solidification of the growth and change in ideals. Men at one time seemed to be solely attracted to women who were pure and quaint. This changed around the 1950’s when women began to further acknowledge the power and acceptance of sex appeal in popular society. Women of this kind were now considered attractive and desirable because of their implied sexual ability. They were a desire of all men.

Through the use of sexuality and ideologies, such as those mentioned previously, one can understand how sex, whether subliminal or implicit, has aided in the social construction of women in society and the roles they play. In her essay, Bordo explores how present-day advertisements, drawing on the historical and cultural constructions of gender, shape and define the ideologies of woman’s sexuality and position in society.

Bordo is a philosopher who focuses on the image of the human body in relation to today’s popular culture and society. Her writings are derived from the translations of advertisements that consume the market place and media (Bordo 139). She talks on how our perceptions of women and women’s bodies are greatly influenced by the ideals and expectations of the “perfect woman” illustrated in the media. Bordo makes it a point to call out the gender roles and stereotypes embedded in the advertising world and how they shape the way members of society are thought of and accepted both physically and socially. This is clearly stated on page 143 of her essay when she says, “all we experience as meaningful is appearance.”

Advertising and media, as mentioned above,

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