Orgasm at 18,000 Feet Anyone?

Herbal Essences most recent commercial features former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger as a pony tail wearing woman who goes into the bathroom on an airplane, whips out her shampoo, and proceeds to wash her hair and orgasm? A shampoo that can make a woman orgasm? That sounds like every woman’s dream (and every man’s as well).

Women over the years have been the targets of this campaign, as seen in their advertisement from the mid-90s (video here). This commercial appeared at least 3 times during the one-hour season finale of Dance Moms, a show that I’m sure many mothers are forced to watch by their teenage daughters.

In this ad, Herbal Essences is using a woman simply for her sexuality in order to sell their product, which doesn’t really even relate to anything of a sexual nature. Judith Lorber states, “the devaluation of ‘women’ and the social domination of ‘men’ has social functions and social history” (Lorber 118). She argues that the “continuing purpose of gender as a modern social institution is to construct women as a group to be subordinates of the men” (Lorber 118). The majority of the other people in the video are men (in fact there is only one other woman shown). These men seem to immediately objectify the main woman and connect her with sex, as is a little apparent by the looks on their faces.

Does Herbal Essences really believe that a shampoo has the power to turn you into a sex goddess? No. But it can make you think that it makes you more desirable, because society wants us to please the more dominant gender: men.

In my case however, I think my shampoo works well enough, even if it doesn’t make me orgasm in an airplane.

Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Comp. Estelle Disch. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. N. pag. Print.


One thought on “Orgasm at 18,000 Feet Anyone?

  1. zakyah2013

    Your critique of the Herbal Essence ad is especially relevant in light of Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4. She spends a great deal of time detailing the advertising industry’s exploitation of sex to sell products of not even a remotely sexual nature. In many of Kilbourne’s clips, actresses used food as a source of sexual gratification. In many ways, food was used a substitute for sex. In the Herbal Essence commercial, washing one’s hair serves this purpose. This advertisement promotes the notion that “what’s most important about women is how we look” (Lorber). Consequently, women receive immense pleasure, even mirroring orgasm, from a produce that makes their hair beautiful. The most troubling part is that while this ad may seem incredibly ridiculous on its own, the average person sees this type of representation thousands of times a day without even noticing. In this sense, by the time viewers see this commercial and are outraged, other- more subtle and implicit, yet equally dangerous images- have already been implanted subconsciously.

    Source: Kilbourne, Jean, Sut Jhally, and David Rabinovitz. Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2010


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