Jeans and Rape Culture — But Where Are the Jeans?

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This ad by Calvin Klein Jeans exemplifies how media perpetuates the objectification of women that leads to violence and even rape. Instead of highlighting the product, the center of the ad focuses on a woman with little to no clothes, with three men around her grabbing her and pulling her hair in an act that suggests gang rape. The red marks on the corners of the ad appear to symbolize blood, which again help to portray the violence associated with the objectification of this woman.

Ads and commercials of this sort condone the very dangerous “rape culture” in which we live. In “Outlaw Culture,” bell hooks argues that “Within a phallocentric patriarchal state, the rape of women by men is a ritual that daily perpetuates and maintains sexist oppression and expoitation”(181). Allowing society to portray women in this fashion then sends the message that this type of violent behavior is acceptable, when it most definitely is not.

This also proves how sexual desire is represented in media, with a passive woman just allowing herself to be used as an object by the men around her. It is also fair to at least mention that men are sexualized too in this ad. Their muscled-bodies and the way in which they are acting around the woman create masculine expectations that again endorse rapist behavior.

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2 thoughts on “Jeans and Rape Culture — But Where Are the Jeans?

  1. cding10

    Looking at this ad campaign, I am certainly not noticing the main product — the jeans — first. Rather, I am paying attention to the narrative that seems to be playing out. As you have stated, the woman is in a prone, helpless position, with little-to-no clothes on, being grabbed by the men around her. Furthermore, the ratio of three males to one female and the setting with the fence and the black-and-white color scheme with red as the accent serve to increase the sense of potential violence and gang rape. This ad is obviously meant to be provocative, and unfortunately, I can see — though I do not understand — how it may induce someone to buy a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. The entire image is highly sexualized, as you mentioned, both the male and female bodies fall into this “slender body” ideal figure. The models are beautiful, young, and white, and there is a sense of “coolness” that exudes from the photo, in the context of the prevalence of sexualization and violence found in our popular culture and media, and those who view this may get the idea that they too can be “cool” like these models is they buy a pair of Calvins. Unfortunately, this provocative style of advertising seems to have proved successful for Calvin Klein, as they have continued to use scantily-clad models in provocative and suggestive poses and situations for many years now, even thinking back to a young Brooke Shields topless in her Calvin Klein jeans, showing that we do not seem to have progressed and if anything, the level of sexualization and violence we condone in our ads has only increased.

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