Sex and Violence in Advertising – A Mainstream Phenomena

From Dolce & Gabbana to Louis Vuitton, Luciano Carvari and Jimmy Choo, the mainstream media is flooded with images that portray sexual violence against men and women in a way that prompts critical discussion. Fashion companies in particular use a lot of erotic imagery to push their products on the market, but when the erotic is supported by insinuated violence, the ads have a deeper effect then intended. Certainly, none of the companies mentioned above endorse violence publicly in company literature, or press communique, but their ads speak a different language and reveal an unexpected portrait of the market they target. Are these companies targeting their product to rapists and sadists? Is the public that receives these advertisements and purchases these products a violent mass?

Violence against men and women in Dolce & Gabbana ads.

With Dolce & Gabbana’s ads, violence against men and women becomes a luxury element, a glamor feature that unfortunately condones violent attitudes and behavior. Regardless of the artistic value of the images above, both portray rape, gang-banging or perhaps a voluntary act that translates Dolce & Gabbana’s core value as a company that sells fashion for people with unusual sexual preferences. “Sexy” is not enough to sell, apparently, Dolce & Gabbana has to add power to the equation, and a possible innuendo to the victims: you will be raped, but at least you’ll be wearing good looking apparel when that happens.

Jimmy Choo toned down the violence displayed in ads throughout 2007 (left), but the sexual innuendos associated with power and violence are still there: black latex, “domina” outfits, sharp stilettos.

Jimmy Choo ads, condoning violence.

Louis Vuitton exposes a trashy style, somehow vulnerable, a woman “target.” Sensual as they may be, these ads portray sexually objectified women.

Louis Vuitton ads, portraying sexually objectified women.

The most shocking images however come from Luciano Carvari’s Ukraine launch.

Luciano Carvari footwear, racy, violent ads.

Apparently all these companies consider violence and humiliation “sexy.” They transform these into “art” that shocks the public opinion, pushing the brands in front of the media for values that should probably not be promoted:

“When violence is used to sell a product, it does not just sell the product; it condones violent attitudes and behavior and contributes to exaggerated fears of violence among those encouraged to see themselves as its potential victims.” – Dr. C. Kay Weaver

Many of the images featured here are old, their message has already been dissected by the media, but the visual pollution doesn’t seem to stop. How effective are such commercials, and more importantly, do you feel inspired to buy?

Feature photo: Ad by the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, Mexico.