Product For Sale: Sex or Cologne?

by abcd1234 on September 26, 2016 - 5:22pm

This advertisement was published in 2007 to introduce Tom Ford’s newest men’s fragrance. The photographer, Terry Richardson, wanted to convey the nerve and sexiness of the product by executing a more explicit photoshoot. The image includes a bottle of men’s Tom Ford cologne resting between a woman’s breasts. The woman is grabbing her breasts and she is lathered in, what seems to be, oil. Her fingernails are painted with bright red nail polish and her entire body is excluded from the photo, other than her chest. Interestingly enough, the fragrance is being sold to men, however there are no men present in the image selling the product. All that is shown is a part of a woman’s body that men “want” — or are supposed to want. 


The objectification of women, in simple terms, is the dehumanization of women by portraying them as objects. In this case, the woman in the photograph is being shown as solely a sexual object for men to enjoy. Where is the rest of her body? Why are her breasts being sexualized and used in an advertisement for men’s perfume? These are questions most people viewing this image would ask. The answers are disturbingly obvious: her body is irrelevant to the photoshoot because her breasts are what will attract men — and women for that matter — to this ad. As Anthony Cortese states in his article, “[a]ds use visual images of men and women to grab our attention and persuade” (57). We’ve been taught by society to trivialize the sexualization of women’s bodies. This is the reason why people get offended when, for example, a woman breastfeeds her baby in public. Breastfeeding your child is a natural act, people should not be sexualizing a part of the body meant to feed a baby. The same logic goes for photoshoots of models sexualizing their bodies. 


In this specific advertisement, the woman’s chest is being used to convince men that whilst buying this cologne, the lifestyle being portrayed will be handed to them. The way of life being represented is that of a womanizer; given the naked woman subduing him. This ad is generalizing that every man is heterosexual and hyper-sexual. It is also conveying that women must make themselves edgy, provocative, and submissive for men to want them. These gendered messages are being thrown into the public’s face, adding to all the pressure of societal norms already in their minds. 


The most disconcerting aspect of today’s advertisements is that young girls and boys are also subject to the messages being presented. With their self-esteem and identity still developing, seeing women’s sexualized bodies for men’s pleasure in the media can be detrimental. An expert in Miss Representation stated, “[a]merican teenagers spend more than 10 hours a day consuming media, most of it filled with content that objectifies women and distorts their bodies.” If the younger generations get too used to seeing these types of advertisements they will end up playing down the fact that it is not right. Another concern related to sexual objectification of women in the mass media is that it creates a domino affect. More and more advertising companies will create publicity based around dehumanizing women. We have already reached that point in society, where almost all the ads we see involve a woman or man behaving the way society pushes them to. 


There are infinite alternative methods to selling the same Tom Ford fragrance while avoiding the use of a woman’s body in such a problematic and uncomfortable way. The cologne could have been photographed without any female presence, since after all, it is targeting males. A professional man simply spritzing the perfume on himself can, in my opinion, sell the product. The perfume’s high cost and luxurious feel is conveyed through the idea that the man using it is sharp and classy, implying his standards for products are high. Other men will want to purchase the product, in the hopes of mimicking the man in the advertisement. 


To summarize, objectifying women’s bodies to sell a product is extremely problematic. It can impact the minds of children and teenagers to believe that sexualizing women is okay. Advertisements of such content confirm the idea that women exist for nothing more than the seduction of men, and they can be used as objects of sexual pleasure. The dehumanization of any person in society is wrong, and what makes it more wrong is its presence in the media. 



Works Cited

Miss Representation. Girls’ Club Entertainment, 2011. DVD. 


Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 57-89.