#1559 This CK billboard was pulled down for being suggestive of gang rape, but every concerned newspaper still printed the image

Photo: The Cut

Billboards featuring the latest Calvin Klein Jeans ad have been taken down in Australia after The Advertising Standards Bureau received numerous complaints that the image connotes gang rape. The billboards, which feature what looks to be a pants-less Lara Stone at the mercy of a trio of scantily clad young men, were deemed demeaning to both women and men. According to the Bureau,

“The Board considered that whilst the act depicted could be consensual, the overall impact and most likely takeout is that the scene is suggestive of violence and rape. The Board considered that the image was demeaning to women by suggesting that she is a plaything of these men. It also demeans men by implying sexualised violence against women.”

A psychologist who works with victims of sexual assault added this:

“If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualised and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse.”

As a company, Calvin Klein has been very clever at working the media to its advantage over the years. In 1980, when Brooke Shields was only 15, they put her in a TV commercial saying, “You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The media had a field day, Calvin Klein Jeans sold out. Ditto the 90s billboards featuring Marky Mark in his briefs with a little too much going on in the front. What’s the men’s underwear brand with the most ‘perceived coolness’ on the market? Calvin Klein – and it didn’t happen by accident.

Here’s the thing: whenever ads such as this get banned, the media attention simply puts further spotlight on the scandalous images and therefore on the company who made them. Every newspaper that wrote a story about the billboard printed the picture of the billboard. I’m no exception – I’ve put the billboard up myself. All these newspapers crying out about rape are simply distributing the image on a mass scale to millions more people.

It’s an incredibly successful formula: take a bunch of unbelievably hot young people, place them in a situation that suggests something very taboo (but in the sexiest way), print them out as large as humanly possible and position them in the most visible of places. Wait for the moral police to come and pull them down, sit back and enjoy the millions of dollars worth of PR and exposure given for free by the media, then laugh all the way to the bank.

Works every time.

Films have to go through a censorship committee to be deemed age-appropriate before they’re released, so why don’t advertisements get the same treatment?


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  1. nomis says

    RE: your article, about the Calvin Klein board, I’ve been studying sexism in the judiciary (albeit very briefly) this semester and we looked at a bunch of cases with your typical white male judge saying things to rapists like (actual quote) “Women who say no do not always mean no”, and in contrast we looked at a case where a lingerie billboard was vandalised in Australia by a group of feminists, and the female judge let them off because “the lingerie company committed the real crime”. Kind of funny how it goes both ways.

  2. Richydavidson says

    another thing that’s funny – ck jeans would be about 50th in line if i had a choice of a free pair of jeans…their cuts for guys are pretty crap.

  3. Rebeccah says

    Why not take a moral stand and stop perpetuating the hype over something that is both negative and dangerous? Take the picture down and leave the print.

  4. Journal says

    Films have to go through a censorship committee to be deemed age-appropriate before they’re released, so why don’t advertisements get the same treatment?

    Can you imagine how much this would cost regulators as well as advertisers!? Yea that’s why advertisements don’t get the same treatment.

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