Sexuality in Advertising the Use Term Paper

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In an attempt to more fully understand gender and its relationship with advertising, gender positioning research has utilized several approaches (Wolin pp). Past studies have considered gendered advertising and its relationship with different media including print television, radio, and the Internet, while other studies considered the effects of gendered products and brands on the purchase patterns of males and females, and gender as it relates to advertising's effect on consumer behavior (Wolin pp).

Sexuality in advertising is a major area of ethical concern, however, surprisingly little is known about its effects or the norms of its use (Gould pp). The presence of sexual appeals in ads is very pervasive in the United States, and throughout much of the world (Gould pp). Contemporary consumption is often promoted in terms of fulfilling erotic fantasies and appetites, however, the use of such appeals is constantly contested in terms of ethics and morality, much as sexual norms and mores in general have been contested throughout the world (Gould pp). The issue of sexuality in advertising has been called a "soft issue," based in complex subjective and socially-culturally constructed roots and values (Gould pp). Sexual appeals used in ads are of many types and consist of a variety of elements, and are often grounded in visual elements, such as attractive models, and may portray varying degrees of nudity and suggestiveness (Gould pp). However, such appeals may also include suggestive verbal elements, suggestive music and even smells, such as in the "scent strip" advertising (Gould pp). Ads that simply use attractive, sexy models may be problematic for some people, however, consensus seems to be that such ads are acceptable (Gould pp). Research suggests that watching or reading forms of sexually explicit materials that are mixed and fused with violence may lead to negative outcomes, such as sexual violence and hostility toward women, whereas such outcomes are less likely to occur in response to watching nonviolent erotica, however, there also may be positive outcomes from using erotica, such as healthier attitudes toward sex and the release of pent-up sexual energy through nonharmful outlets (Gould pp).

Robert Jensen asserts that cultural aspects of sexuality are a key site for the dominance of males and the subordination of females (Jensen pp). The most important components are compulsory heterosexuality, the eroticization of domination and submission, the normalization of aggression, and the sexualization-objectification of women (Jensen pp). It is not that every representation of women in advertising is sexist, but that there are ways in which women are depicted that men are not (Jensen pp). There is a pattern to the way in which gender and sexuality are represented, and although all imaged do not fit the pattern, the pattern exists (Jensen pp). For example, women are placed within the frame of the photograph, often constructed as objects to be viewed, either by men in the photograph or by the reader (Jensen pp). Women's bodies are used in ads as little more than props for selling products, such as the common photographs of a half-naked woman posing to sell jeans, cars, alcohol, and a myriad of other products (Jensen pp).

The few available studies suggest that the media do have an impact because the media keep sexual behavior on public and personal agendas, media portrayals reinforce a relatively consistent set of sexual and relationship norms, and the media rarely depict sexually responsible models (Brown pp).

Works Cited

Brown, Jane D. "Mass media influences on sexuality."

The Journal of Sex Research. 2/1/2002. Retrieved July 23, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.

Gould, Stephen J. "Sexuality and ethics in advertising: a research agenda and policy guideline perspective." Journal of Advertising. 9/1/1994. Retrieved July 23, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.

Jensen, Robert. "Advertising, Sexuality, and Sexism: A Slide Show Spotlights

Gender Issues." Contemporary Women's Issues Database. 6/1/1996. Retrieved July 23, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.

Taflinger, Richard F. "Taking ADvantage: You and Me, Babe: Sex and Advertising." May 28, 1996. Retrieved July 23, 2005 at

Wolin, Lori D. "Gender issues in advertising - an oversight synthesis of research:

1970-2002." Journal of Advertising Research. 3/1/2003.…[continue]

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