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.”
“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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