There has been a lot of conversation about sexism in advertising and the fashion industry, but not about how this influences the prevalence of rape culture within our society.

I’ve decided to try and create a narrative that explains the long standing relationship between advertising and sexist imagery that reinforces the presence of rape culture by dehumanising the subjects.

With this in mind, I decided to research older adverts.

This piece by Business insider compares old advertisements to modern day ones, commenting on how the level of sexism portrayed within them has not decreased over time, if anything it’s got worse.

With the perceived improvements of our treatment towards women in society, the continuation of sexist imagery in advertising has a sinister undertone that suggests ingrained acceptance and normalisation.

1964 Mr Leggs Slacks Advert

The woman here is being treated as an object, under the submission and will of the man, the fact she is a tiger rug also suggests she is some kind of trophy to be obtained.
Saying that women belong beneath you, under your feet. This and Mr Leggs slacks advert both have painfully apparent sexist imagery that is a sign of the treatment of women and equality from that time period.

1967 Broomsticks Slacks Advert

There is a sinister message within this image. The woman is half naked, being grabbed at by five men. There is an uncomfortable similarity between this photo and a gang rape. The words below say ‘Ring around a Rose, or Carol, or Eleanor etc.’, this suggests a complete disregard for the woman, not even bothering to care what her name is, so long as the male consumer is achieving their personal desires.

These photos show a complete lack of respect for women, treating them as objects for use of male desires. However, they are older images, so while it’s important to look back at past photography, I need to compare these to modern day photographs, and consider the implications of any similarities.

Bela Bordosi
Details Magazine 2009
‘Girls Not Included’ Editorial

There are similarities here between the Mr Leggs Slacks Advert and the Shoe advert that I showed above. Once again the woman is being used as an object/ piece of furniture. She is in a submissive pose and doesn’t even have her face showing, further dehumanising her.

This perpetrates rape culture because it makes the viewer feel less empathy for the subject because they are being portrayed as less that human. A lack of empathy creates a dangerous situation where people become uncaring towards the safety of others, and only considerate of their own needs.
Dolce and Gabbana
March 2007
Photographer: Steven Klein

The models hips within this photograph by Dolce and Gabbana are elevated off the ground in a suggesting of movement. With her legs tightly shut and her face turned away from the man pinning her, it gives the cues of a non consensual assault.

Despite the connotations of rape within this photograph, this image is intended to sell a product, and be perceived as a positive scenario. It is reinforcing a old age belief that rape is entirely sexual, and sexy. I feel this is an obvious attempt at glamorisation of rape, which has a negative affect on societies views of rape and victims of rape.

Vogue Italia September 2006

Photographer: Steven Meisel

state-of-emergency-by-steven-meiselstate-of-emergency-by-steven-meisel-10-600x402’State of Emergency’ Editorial

Vogue Italia September 2006

Photographer: Steven Meisel

This advertisement campaign by Steven Meisel takes incredibly attractive women and places them in situations of violence, occasionally adding a sexual element by putting them in a state of undress. The question around this shoot is why is it considered a good marketing ploy to place women in aggressive/ violent situations? The sexual element of the officer pulling up the models dress, or the model undressing for a strip search is somehow deemed entirely appropriate in mainstream advertisement as a way of selling a product to consumers. This suggests that this kind of imagery is appealing in society, further showing how rape culture has ingrained in us a belief that sex and violence go hand in hand, and is not an entirely negative combination.

French Vogue 2009
This shoot caused massive controversy as the model here is in blackface (as in she is actually white but they have made her appear black using makeup)
While not related to rape culture, I feel it is important to show the problematic ways in which the fashion industry disrespects gender, race and culture, and how they continue to do so regardless of complaints. This is particularly troublesome as the fashion industry has incredibly low diversity representation.
Tom Ford For Men 2007
Photographer: Terry Richardson
The idea that sex sells has been prominent in advertisement for many years. However, in sexualising the advert for a product, you dehumanise the subject. This advert employs a common use of cropping in advertisements that accentuates only the part of the woman that are considered attractive. This chopping up of the body for the use in adverts objectifies the body and detaches the viewer from acknowledging that it is a person attached to the body parts being sexualised.


Different from the other adverts I have shown above, this advert came from Belvedere vodka, and is incredibly problematic in it’s imagery and use of text.

The forceful grabbing, shocked/ scared look on the woman’s face and predatory grin on the mans are an uncomfortable parallel to rape. The fact that it is blurry and not highly polished actually makes this advert a much more realistic depiction of rape than the above advertisements. While through research I have found that the picture is in fact a still from a comedy sketch, and not related to rape, the intent of taking this shot out of its original context is obvious with the addition of the text.

‘Unlike Some People Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly.’

Belvedere are not even attempting to hide that they are making a joke about raping someone in this advert. The words are a sickening mockery of forcefully raping someone, making light of the trauma of rape and the victim fighting back against their attacker.

Ironically, they did not ask permission to use the woman’s likeness in this advert, and were subsequently hit with a lawsuit.

Conclusion of Advertisement Research

It is obvious there is a problematic discourse regarding how mainstream advertisements portray sex and aggression. Rape imagery is used to sell products, and it is being normalised and sexualised in doing so. This trivialises the subject of rape by over saturating society with glamourised images of sex and violence, showing it as a positive and desirable thing.