Rape culture is a term being used a lot lately. It’s not a new term, but there is a new awareness of how acceptable it has become to sexually assault women in our society. Rape culture endorses blaming victims for their assaults, making women responsible for preventing their assaults and shaming women for the sexual exploits that men are applauded for. Why women are treated this way is a big question and there isn’t one single answer but rather many facets of our society that come together to form the larger picture. And as we all know, a picture can speak a thousand words, which is why advertisers have much to answer for in perpetuating this disturbing culture.

Women are near constantly sexually objectified in advertisements, used to adorn products often completely unrelated to female sexuality. How is it that women’s bodies  are required to sell men’s fragrances, alcohol, socks and protein bars? Why does it take naked women to sell animal rights and veganism? Why does sex sell?

imageTom Ford Fragrance for Men- striking imagery but degrading all the same. Where is the rest of this woman? Where is her face? Who cares, buy the cologne.

An American beer ad- because this drink will see you, too, draped in attractive women wearing swimsuits.


American Apparel- Sweatshop free, soft core porn.


Breasts sell bars.



PETA have been defending animal rights and exploiting women for years.

Magazines aimed at men such as Zoo Weekly are among the worst offenders for their portrayal of women as nothing more than sexual playthings for men and they actively encourage their readers to join in, like in this subsequently banned Facebook post:

imageA bifurcated woman is pictured, while the caption asks which “side” men prefer, and why. The post was banned by the Advertising Standards Bureau.
Advertising has crossed the line on what we should find acceptable many times over with regard to the use of women to sell products, but none more so to my mind than those that have utilised sexual assault to sell product. Well known vodka producer Belvedere and high end fashion house Dolce & Gabbana found themselves in hot water over using rape imagery and “humour” to promote their products.
imageSeriously, what on earth were they thinking? Not only did this ad lead to widespread outrage, it also prompted a lawsuit from the woman in the picture. Turns out they used the image without permission


Beautiful, glossy gang rape, banned back in 2007.

Are men objectified in advertising? I think sometimes they are, but not to the level or the extent that women are- for example, I’ve yet to see women’s perfume advertised by jamming a bottle of it against a man’s oiled, waxed genitals. So while sex sells, it’s only a certain kind of sex advertisers are selling.

This type of advertising perpetuates the myth that a man’s attention can only be caught be appealing to his sexual interests- otherwise, they won’t be interested or won’t understand. The length and breadth of language, art and humour is apparently lost on men unless it is crude, demeaning or jammed between a pair of glossy breasts.

Unilever brand Lynx (a.k.a ‘Axe’ in other parts of the world) are well know for their crude, demeaning ad campaigns.

Another naked woman selling Tom Ford’s cologne. Or is it the same one? Who knows, still can’t see her face.

Although this is extremely demeaning to adult males, who are just as capable of being sensitive, thoughtful, inspired and humorous beings as women are, it also sets a dangerous standard for younger men and boys, who are bombarded with this kind of imagery as society tells them this is what should appeal to them, this is what is acceptable.

It seems obvious that these messages we are sending our young men are a part of the reason rape culture still exists today. Our society tell them that on some level, women are objects, objects are just things, and as things, they don’t have thoughts or feelings. To quote American Democratic Strategist and rape survivor Zerlina Maxwell:

“I don’t think that we should be telling women anything, I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.”

I think Zerlina makes an excellent point. Start the conversation. Start it with your sons and stop accepting the exploitative advertising we are bombarded with each day. Let advertisers know it’s not on. Tell them with your emails, your posts on their Facebook pages, your tweets, your phone calls, your name on a petition and your buying power going elsewhere. The advent of social media has given people a power to bring about positive change that hasn’t been seen before, with web-based campaigns bringing about positive results, like an online petition stopping 13CABS from running an advertisement playing on fear of rape to encourage people to use their taxi service, or anti-sexism group Destroy the Joint successfully petitioning Telstra to remove silent number fees for domestic violence victims.

You have a strong and powerful voice. Use it.



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