We’ve all heard about the sexualization of female bodies used in advertising and most of us can see that it’s a problem. One look at these advertisements shows how women’s bodies are so often used as commodities to sell products and services
But the question is, how can we separate nudity and nudity that is sexual? We live in such a sexualized culture that equates nudity with sex and doesn’t define nudity in any other context. In the advertisement for Tom Ford , we can see this principle being illustrated. The woman’s breasts are covered by her hands because female nipples are equated with genitalia (in our society) and at the same time are meant to evoke feelings of lust and desire in this advertisement. The idea, at least to the marketing team behind it, is that the viewer will associate the pleasure that is brought by breasts to the product and therefore be inclined to link that pleasure to using that product, making that person more likely to buy it.
Because sex sells and we clearly know this, advertisers take advantage of this and use sexualized body parts as objects in order to sell things. These ads come with the understanding that “sexy” body parts are off limits but at the same time desirable and hot. It evokes the idea of “you can look but don’t touch”. Sexualized bodies are a major part of how we define sexuality in our culture and also frames our perception of sex and bodies.
I think the danger here is when genitalia and sexual organs become objectified and presented in such a way that contributes to our cultural notion that sex is bad. When body parts are constructed to be objects they lose the pleasure that they had in and of themselves and become methods of profit. From this, the stigma around nudity and sexualized body parts is reinforced through advertising.
So the question is, can we ever see nudity in a way that is not sexualized? Could advertisements exist that depict nudity, but that is not objectifying or exploitative in any way? And more importantly, is this something we should strive for? I personally think the answer is yes, as the more normalized and acceptable nudity becomes the less violation that happens. When nudity is normal, it’s hard to make it seem as if something naughty or dangerous is going on, which is often the angle that advertisers take to make their products seem edgy and exciting. Normalization equals less objectification and less objectification equals less sexism.