Supersexualize me! Advertising and “the midriffs”
Chapter prepared for Attwood, F., Brunt,R & Cere,R (Eds) (2007) Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualization of Culture. I.B. Taurus 1 This title owes a debt to Morgan Spurlock's powerful critique of the fast food industry, Supersize Me. Introduction It might be Venice Beach in California, or any other similar boardwalk, with white sand, blue sky and the ocean in the background. A tall, slim, blonde young woman is pictured turning away from the viewer (figure 1). She is bending over to tie the laces on her rollerblades, and the tops of her tiny red shorts rise up to reveal the cheeks of her buttocks. The pose is familiar to anyone who has ever glanced at heterosexual pornography, and is known to scholars of animal behaviour as 'presenting'. The only thing stopping us from seeing the young woman's genitalia is a contrasting blue g-string, worn over the shorts. Either side of the image, runs the following text: 'Q: Why do you run? A: One word. Thong'. And then comes the brand: Puma running.com 'Fancy a smack?' says another advert. It shows a tall, slim, PVC-clad, blonde dominatrix holding a man tethered on all fours, with a collar and leash around his neck, and his trousers pulled part way down. The woman holds a hard paddle/slipper in her right hand and her arm is raised: she is poised to beat his naked, exposed buttocks. A small box in the right-hand corner reveals that the image is advertising Gym Box, an exercise centre in central London. 'Home slave' reads a third advert -this time for an apartment block in Manchester. Here yet another tall, blonde young woman is shown, tightly tied up from head to toe, while an attractive, chisel-jawed businessman regards her coolly from behind his state-of-the-art laptop computer.