What’s With All the Ball-Grabbing, Head-Stepping, and Domination?

Ben Cake wonders why advertising is filled with so many submissive men.

There’s a scene in the movie This is Spinal Tap that occurs after the band members receive criticism for the cover of their latest album, Smell the Glove. They’re unclear why their rival’s album cover is considered all right when theirs isn’t:

David: Have you seen the cover?

Ian: No, I don’t think I have.

David: It’s a rather lurid cover. I mean, it’s like naked women and…

Nigel: He’s tied down on this table…

Ian: Uh-huh.

Nigel: And they got these whips, and they’re all semi-nude.

David: Knocking on him. It’s, like, much worse.

Ian: What’s the point?

David: The point is, it’s much worse than Smell the Glove.

Ian: Because he’s the victim. Their objections were that she was the victim. You see?

Nigel: Oh.

David: Ah.

Ian: That’s all right if the singer’s the victim. It’s different. It’s not sexist.

Nigel: He did a twist on it.

Ian: We shoulda thought of that.

To enter a conversation about gender roles and advertising with a reference to a farce is fitting, because so much about the advertising industry is absurd. I’d say almost everything, in fact, except for the values that end up getting reflected in our culture.

The scene from this movie, which was released in 1984, conveys the sentiment that still exists today: The abuse of men is acceptable. And the depiction of how the industry arrived at that notion is legitimate as well. It’s as if advertisers got tired of having their hands slapped by decency groups and, lacking the inventiveness to create original content, said,

—Let’s make men the victims. Not only will it avoid the whole sexism thing, but we could act like it’s a call to female empowerment. We can be boosters, and sell more, because women will think we’re on their side.


As someone who worked in advertising for a brief period, I can tell you the most important element among my associates was product. Creatives and brand representatives would huddle over the images and say things like,

—Can we see the product?

—Is there a better shot of the product?

—We need to convey that it’s napa leather?

Moral issues, by comparison, were almost never brought up. A platform heel could be rammed in a rectum, à la Mapplethorpe, but as long as the reader could tell it was made of napa leather, reps would be like,

—Love it!

But an image is given its power by both the creator and the audience. And just because the people who send it into the streets might be oblivious, the person who sees the billboard of a woman, say, stepping on a man’s head can’t help but wonder, What are they trying to tell me here?

That’s easy. Scroll through these images. The claim is clear: Women are meant to dole out abuse, and men are meant to take it, again and again, without complaint.

Begin with the ad from the early nineties: The message can be seen in Michael Bergin’s arch as Kate Moss climbs him. His head is yanked back as if pulled by the hair. He appears a mere prop, a pedestal for her fame.

Move to the Vuitton ads with Jennifer Lopez. She walks all over Andres Segura—covers his mouth to keep him quiet, plants a knee in his back to both surmount and repress—as if broadcasting that men are merely tools to be used, just another accessory, like that prized monogram bag.

And it’s not crazy to think ads like these might run in a magazine a few pages from a story with the title “The End of Men” or “All the Single Ladies.”

Continue on to the series of head-stepping, which I’m not even sure how to approach other than by asking, How did this become an industry convention?

They’re almost too dumb, too awkward, to take offense at—except for the Jimmy Choo ad, which depicts a level of incapacitation and was later protested by a domestic-violence coalition.

Yet even with the backlash, Giuseppe Zanotti thought it wise to continue the meme, believing a woman might look at it and say,

—Look at her mash his face. Kinda looks like it could hurt. Let’s go buy some shoes.

Late last year, an ad by Marc Jacobs featuring Dakota Fanning was pulled from newsstands. In the image, Dakota sat on the ground with a bottle of perfume in her lap. That’s it. Just a girl with a bottle of perfume. Censors called it suggestive, said that it fostered the sexuality of a minor. Perhaps the reaction was because of Juergen Teller’s grainy, Lomo aesthetic. But still, she was by herself, and there’s nothing particularly lurid about it. Creepy maybe. But hard to call sexual.

One can almost start drafting the dialogue for a new farce. An ad executive slams a magazine down on his desk,

—What were you guys thinking with this fully clothed girl? Pull it. Now. And get me some more of those head-stepping photos.


The last image is for Tom Ford men’s wear. Now Ford is known for provocative ads, once going as far as to be shave the letter G into a woman’s pubic hair (for Gucci). An interpretation of which could be,

—Let me show you how to be sexual…Branding!

In the nutcracker image, however, Ford seems to be equating sexuality with ambivalence. The lust of rough love, maybe even hatred. It seems to advocate attracting a woman that wants to both screw and destroy you. (As if that’s a healthy thing.)

The photographer for the campaign was Terry Richardson, a man for whom much ink has been spilled over his perversity and tendency to take advantage of young women. From his work, a kind of dirty-uncle-in-the-basement style—overexposed, immediate, high flash on the forehead—one gets the impression he lives to mix harsh sexuality with showmanship. Even when he plagiarizes iconic images by artists like Cartier-Bresson, they become gratuitous.

And yet he’s all but replaced Leibovitz as the magazine and advertising world’s most used photographer.

Here, he turns the lens to men. And the best he can offer is well-dressed S&M.

So whose fault is this?


The world is not governed by talent and values. People are paid to the extent that they give the world what it wants. This is to say Terry Richardson is successful and popular because, on some level, the majority of Americans want to see things the way he does. That’s a shitty thing to admit, but there’s no other conclusion, no other way of reconciling his ubiquity.

So when pointing a finger, I point it at myself. And at you. And everyone else in the room. Until we make a tangible act of rejecting these images and ideologies, no progress will be made.

The choice is ours, because we have technology on our side. In this age when bloggers command so much clout, we as individuals have the power to effect change. If we don’t, then we know a combination of sexuality and abuse is secretly what we want.

Click here to see more men getting bossed around in ads.

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About Ben Cake

Ben Cake lives and writes in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. He is a good man about eighty percent of the time. Maybe eighty-five.


  1. BDMS is difficult to explain to a vanilla person (vanilla = anyone not into BDSM) because it is a multi leveled community. There are so many different aspects to it, so many communities within a community and so many subcategories within a category it would take me years to scratch the surface of explaining it to you. To do so in a small comment is impossible. How do I explain all of the U.S. in 200 words? I can’t.

    When you ask about “Control” are you referring to TPE? Or in regular English “Total Power Exchange” and we don’t use the word control so much. This is probably what you are referring to. We think of it in terms of “power” instead of in terms of “control” as in who has the power in the relationship? This would be the “Top” or the “bottom” in the relationship. Top = Dom/Domme/Mistress (note: Mistress with a Capital M is from BDSM if you write it with a lower case M that is offensive as that is a home wrecker and a Mistress may or may not be mistress. There is a difference. The BDSM community is very big on being proper.). bottom = submissive/sub/subbie/slave (if they are lucky they are a slave)

    TPE is a always consensual for me. For the most part BDSM is consensual. You can’t do anything without your play partner’s consent. When we have a S&M play session or a D/s session that is with consent. That is done to play with the chemicals in the brain. You are manipulating the chemicals in the brain to release the chemicals to dull the pain. Some of the chemicals released are dopamine, endorphins, etc. your neurotransmitters that make you feel good. Sorry, I’m tired and can’t think of them all right now. It produces a high similar to, but better than a runner’s high. The masochist (maso) will have shaky legs, trembling hands, their body will be shaking (not from fear or cold, but from the high), glazed over eyes, dilated eyes and look high as a kite when you are done with them because they are high on natural brain chemicals. They will not recall getting up and moving around to clean up as they are high. It will take a good 10-15 minutes to come back to their senses when I am done with them. No need for big pharma drugs or illegal drugs when you push the body to flood the brain with chemicals. This takes place within a TPE.

    For me I get a RUSH! My heart pounds. I get a high. I feel a total rush. It is like being on drugs. There is no hang over. I can pass a drug screening for any court, any job any roadblock check point. No problem. I didn’t take any drugs. I did it naturally. I lose all track of time and space. I couldn’t tell you how much time had passed. Two hours can fly by and it feels like 10 minutes. I am in my zone. My senses become heightened. I become keening aware of the person before me and what they doing or not doing as I take charge of them and begin to work my magic on them. Everything comes into focus. I feel hyper focus. So does he. It is extremely INTENSE!

    Sex is great and all, but once you try BDSM….it is hard to go back to vanilla. Everything is so much more intense. There is something for everyone. No matter what you taste is…there is something there for you. Top, bottom, baby, trannie, maso, sadist, subbie, dom, whatever, There is something for everyone. Some people just do more soft fantasy work. That is cool. Not my thing, but whatever. Do your thing.

    All sorts of things can place within a TPE. It depends on the players, their taste, preferences, kinks, relationship, level of skill and desires. I do not engage in blood sports due to safety concerns, but I am very skilled with a crop and at CBT. I am in demand for my skills. Within a TPE confines that is very hot! But outside a TPE it does nothing for me. It leaves me cold. The setting and the relationship has to be right for me to feel tingly.

    I take the power when I want it. I decline it when I don’t want it. Men push it on me when they want to play. As a Domme I must be firm and say, “Not now! Sit down and shut up! I will make you lick the toilet bowl clean if you keep it up. Cut it out.”

    “Brats” are people who act up on purpose to be punished as they feel they are not being punished enough and they want more. They seek negative attention. When I say “Brat” think “pain in the ass” and that is more accurate. Rather than saying, “I want to be cropped / caned / whipped or whatever” they act a fool and then you must deal with them and punish them severely. This is what they seek. They want time on the spanking bench, etc. I haven’t got time for their nonsense.

    What you are seeing in some these ads that disturbs you, but I find hot (we have a difference of opinion) is the D/s element. D/s = Domination/submission. Written as upper case D to indicate Domination and lower case “s” to indicate submission.

    The Dom/Domme/Mistress engages in TPE with sub for some D/s fun time. People go to Dungeons and pay good money for this! This is good stuff! If you are a pro this is your money maker. You can do all sorts of things when going D/s TPE. Here again, you get into the zone. I’ve lost whole days doing this. I have to set an alarm or I lose a day.

    If you do a 24/7 live-in TPE then you never stop. It is your life style.

    It requires a great deal of energy to be “on” as the Domme. It requires a great of energy to keep him in line as he is forever trying to pull something and I must smack him back into line. I have to be vigilant. It requires all of my concentration, focus, brain power, imagination and energy to do. If you have a poor imagination BDSM is no fun for you. You must have a rich imagination to think up new scenarios and keep it fresh.

    You have to be smart. You have to be quick on your feet as things change quickly. You have to know first aid. You have to monitor your partner for signs of distress and free them of their bonds at the first signs of trouble. You have to be very aware of their breathing, eyes, body language, sounds they make and know them well. Did that sound mean good or bad? Did they forget the safe word in their excitement? Did bondage boy get too worked up? Is he overly excited? As the Domme it is my job to keep watch over my sub and know what is going on with him. He is my precious cargo. I own his ass while he is under my watch and I must take care of him.

    Do I hurt the guys? Yeah. Only when they want me to and only when they consent to it. I would never hurt someone if they didn’t want me to or if they did not consent. I don’t do that. I hurt them oh so good only upon request. They love it. The are masos and ask for it. I am not a pro, but I have told I am better than a pro. Yay for me!

    To me TPE is about the mind. It is about a mind wipe. You go into a person’s mind and you wipe mind and you take charge. You move into their mind, take up residence and say, “I live here now, Bitch! You do what I say!” Then at that point in time you can tell them to hop on foot and swallow flaming swords if you want, but I never do. I don’t abuse my power. That is bad Karma.

    • Anja:

      Thanks for taking the time to explain things. When I mentioned control, I meant the psychological state that goes with feeling like you have a significant influence over the course of events.

      Once again, thanks.

      • We are using different vocabulary and that is the problem here. BDSM uses a different vocabulary to set itself apart from the nilla world.

        When you say “Control” that word is not really use that much in the BDSM community. We use the word “POWER!”. As I said we say TPE which is Total Power Exchange. You exchange your power with mine. It is a swap. You give up your power and I take it from you. This is how the exchange takes place. It is willingly given. It is freely given. It is happily given. It is beggingly given. “Please, Mistress! Please taken over me. Please tell me what to do! I want you to be in charge. I want you to own my body. I want to surrender to you. I want to give myself to you. I commit myself to you. blah, blah.” This is how the submissive/sub/subbie/slave thinks. They will beg to turn themselves over. They follow me around the house on hands and knees begging and groveling, pleading with me to take them into hand. The cruelest thing I can do is reject them and say, “No!” It makes them cry. I can make them weep like a baby by saying, “No! Now go away! You are a maggot!” My refusal to play tortures them. If I am angry I can get my point across by refusing them.

        I am sure you thought if I was angry I would beat them. It is the other way around. I refuse them. I will not look at them. I will not speak to them. I will not acknowledge they exist. They are dead to me. They FREAK OUT! You want to see someone come unglued? Watch a sub be refused by his Mistress. He will lose it. He will lose his freaking mind! The sub goes into a nuclear core melt down minds melt. It is a very effective punishment. He doesn’t do that again. He learns his lesson.

        Do I enjoy torturing him? Yeah, I do. I am a vengeful person. Also, it is like dog training. He is a dog that must trained. Same difference really. He has to be taught his manners. Subs start out with really tough edges. A Dom/Domme/Mistress sand blasts those rough edges off of them and trains them to be polite, well mannered little subbies quick to come when they are called. They must be obedient, respectful, well mannered and follow the rules. If they can’t…they are in trouble. Some are arrogant, attitudinal, stubborn, rebellious and must be taken into hand. They take more work and more time. Some people like the “challenging subs” as they see them as more exciting and others do not as they view them as time consuming and a pain in the ass. It depends on the person.

        You are born a sub or Dom. You can’t be made that way. You come out of the womb that way. It is your temperament. Some people are a switch, but that is rare. A switch can switch back and forth between Dom and sub, but a true switch is rare. Every switch I have met skewed to one side or the other and wasn’t a 100% true switch. An ex of mine told me he is a switch. He only Doms when is a with a sub female and can’t find a Mistress. He really is a sub male.

        The power exchange is all in your mind. There is nothing to see externally. It is the body language, the facial expressions and what you say to each other to put you in that place. If you stand with power that changes things. If you stand with shoulders hunches you can’t take any power. You must have a power stance to make it work. There is a physical transformation that takes place. I change instantly. He sees it and his eyes twinkle. Then he get s a big shit eating grin on his face because he knows I am about to give him the ride of his life. He is going to get pushed around and he loves that. He likes it when I order him around, yank him around by his dog collar and leash. He gets all excited. If I throw him against the wall and tell him what a big piece of shit he is he thinks that is fabulous. I think that goes back to his army days in Israel? I am just guessing? The things he likes tend to be more about military and boot camp.

        Jewish guys tend to be very open minded sexually and their boundaries are down. It is easier to play with Jewish guys. I favor Jews over Christians for this reason. Jews don’t have hangs up like Christians. It is easier to corrupt a Jew than a Christian because of the Christians saying sex is bad and dirty, but Jews don’t do that. So, for my taste…Jews are better. I can turn a Jew, but not a Christian. Jews are much more open minded. My Jewdar is finely honed to sniff them out. Hey! I want to play with *you*!

    • I just wanted to let you know that I thought you did such a good job of explaining that I made a digital copy in Word 2010. Since I plan to become a LCSW and serve the community it helps to have good pieces that are from other people. I agree 100% with what you’re saying because I’ve been to a number of local meetings and know some couples that have D/s relationships. One of whom Master Pam is a lesbian poly and no when you meet her you would never call her Mistress. I love human diversity and I want to help Lifestyle people with their personal problems. Since I am also a blacksmith I’ll probably be making toys for them also.

  2. I think there is something that is missing in the gender discourse on objectification. Do people like being treated this way? We always say, objectification reduces people to mere objects of desire, and that is a terrible thing. but we never ask ourselves, what if people like being objects of desire? and more importantly, do these pictures really say that that’s all we are? is it possible to agree that each picture is merely a snapshot into the person’s life? Such that the picture with Jennifer Lopez could be one moment when she took over but the whole experience (let’s assume they will have sex) was a back and forth of exchanging dominance.
    please note that I am not trying to dismiss the argument that objectification is a problem, but I am trying to offer a different vantage point, where we ask ourselves, is it a bad thing to be dominated or submissive (during sex)? and if so, does this mean that there is something wrong with those people who like it?

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    That Guy.
    Ref sitcoms. We need a better class of audience. People who think this stuff is funny are emotionally scarred, damaged and not fit for human companionship. Your basic sitcom audience, iow.

  4. Julie,

    Great to show both sides. To me submission has little to do with gender. It’s fun when either sex submits. I like to be dominant mainly with ultra masculine alpha male men. I love to be dominated by men who don’t seem like they would; the passive, shy and quiet types for example. I think its just about arousal as you mentioned. I think it takes a lot of courage and trust to submit to someone whether you are a man or woman.

  5. That Guy says:

    I think American society has become more sensitive to images that suggest violence against women, as well it should, but has not developed the same sensitivity to images that suggest violence against men. Visuals of men getting knocked around are still so acceptable that they’re still a key part of physical comedy, for example, in ways that violence against women has never been.

    Think about all the times on America’s Funniest Videos when the most hilarious moment is when a man or boy is hit in the groin accidentally, or racks himself accidentally when trying to do something else. Hilarious, right? People want to watch those over and over again, even when you know it’s coming. I challenge you to find a clip in which a woman is hit in the groin or falls straddling something. This is clearly not a gender-neutral trope. This goes straight to the heart of sexual double standards.

    If the explanation is that it’s much more painful and an easier target to hit a man there than a woman, then what does that say about our taste in comedy? It’s funnier to hit a man because it hurts more? That’s an okay explanation?

    TV husbands and boyfriends are struck in the groin by their wives and girlfriends on a regular basis. I happen to love _Everybody Loves Raymond_. I’m not a man who thinks it’s just misandrist propaganda. However, I note in this context that Debra strikes Ray in the crotch several times over the course of the show, maybe once a season – elbows him in groin, pours hot pasta sauce into his lap, and smashes a big bowl of ice cream onto his crotch. All because he’s said something she thought was insensitive, in one case because Ray told his brother about a scheme she was hatching. If there’s a message here about acceptable violence, it sounds quite extreme – if he says something you don’t like, drop him to the floor with one well-placed strike.

    I’m not sure what the solution is. I still think these scenes are pretty funny once in a while. I just have trouble imagining sitcoms letting husbands treat their wives like that. But, one could make the argument that this makes a glass ceiling for women interested in pursuing a career in physical comedy. Women have never really had much chance to become famous doing the things that Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Three Stooges got to do. The closest would be Lucille Ball, but she never got to get slapstick laughs from being struck by an angry spouse like Ray Romano has. Isn’t that limiting the acting roles for women? Isn’t it time the entertainment industry gives women the same opportunities as men? If doubling over in pain in a fetal position from a strike to the crotch is so universally hysterical, why don’t we see women getting laughs that way?

    I’m not saying slap around women more on TV and everything will be okay. I’m suggesting that there’s a much bigger issue than a few recent magazine ads.

    • Great point about the gratuitous groin shot, as well as how it is viewed as a comeuppance.

      • I think American society has become more sensitive to images that suggest violence against women, as well it should, but has not developed the same sensitivity to images that suggest violence against men. Visuals of men getting knocked around are still so acceptable that they’re still a key part of physical comedy, for example, in ways that violence against women has never

        Yes and I think its time to challenge the often quoted “reason” for this double standard. Its said that this is the case because male against female violence happens so much more than female against male violence. Is this supposed to mean that female against male violence will become not funny only after enough cases of it are reported (this may explain why so many people deny male victims of female abusers so adamantly, they don’t want to lose such an acceptable form of “comedy”)?

        This flies in the face of all the “no violence is funny” talk. If no violence is funny and we have a clear divide where male against female violence is treated as serious business while female against male violence is award winning comedy can we say that people are living up to the “no violence is funny” talk?

        And even outside the realm of comedy the divide is still there. Look at cop dramas. If we go by shows like CSI and Law and Order then crimes like DV and rape really are things that “men do to women (and women only do them because a man made them do it)”.

        If there’s a message here about acceptable violence, it sounds quite extreme – if he says something you don’t like, drop him to the floor with one well-placed strike.
        Yeah this one bothers me too. When it comes cross gender violence men are never supposed to hit women (and remember that that old relic of chilvalry even says that a man should never hit a woman even in self defense) but its okay for a woman to escalate from offensive commetary to physical violence.

        • Yes and I think its time to challenge the often quoted “reason” for this double standard. Its said that this is the case because male against female violence happens so much more than female against male violence.”

          This is actually a fallacy, but it is widely believed expressly because female on male violence is praised, glorified, or considered comedy. When has there ever, ever, ever been a featured anything anywhere in the mainstream media that ever acknowledged that the thousands of TV scenes of women punching, kicking, beating up, shooting (or whatever else) a man is even remotely problematic.


          Did I say ever?

    • Another great and timely example: the March Issue of GQ with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston on the cover. In their photo spread, there’s a full page image, shot—no shocker—by Terry Richardson, of Aniston kneeing Rudd in the crotch.

      When you start noticing it, it’s everywhere.

    • What you described is why anti-domestic violence advocates who claim to be gender neutral (equal concern regardless pf the victim’s gender) are simply lying. They should just be honest for once and admit that they are (rightly) anti-DV of a woman is the victim (as they should be) and pro-DV if a man is the victim. Their bias is evident anyway.

    • wellokaythen says:

      And if the groin shot is just inherently funny, then why is it you never see men on TV striking each other in the groin? It’s usually an accident or a woman doing it on purpose.

      • When a female hits a man in the crotch on purpose this is what is called CBT in BDSM (Cock and Ball Torture) and it is something men ask a Mistress for. “Mistress, please give me CBT!” said with a wailing moan and a begging grovel.

        Something people outside of L.A. do not realize until the Matrix director outted the local community is that the local scene is heavy with Hollywood film director, producer, screenwriters, actors, executives and I could name names that would shock you, but I won’t. I don’t out people. If you active on the scene you know who they are. We don’t talk about them outside in the nilla world.

        What you are seeing is the bleeding over of the TV writer/producer/director’s private life onto the screen. There is a lot of their private life that shows up. If you know them…you what it is. lol

        Does that clear it up for you? That should make it clear as crystal. People express their private views on screen. You are seeing private, personal tastes being expressed.

        • wellokaythen says:

          I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes sense that Hollywood/TV network writers might be incorporating their own personal kinks into their scripts. I have no doubt that happens sometimes.

          But, I suspect there is something more to it than that. I doubt giving a suggestion of CBT on the TV screen is the major goal of showing so many strikes to the groin. (And you won’t see it as consensual play on screen, more like a surprise attack.) Plenty of people find that sexually titillating, but I’m guessing the main reason is humor at a man being taken down a peg or two. (And yes, I know those are not mutually exclusive feelings.)

  6. Barbaric says:

    I’ve been saying this all along…Marketing anything from yogurt to cars is about empowering women at the expense of masculinity. Make a woman feel that she can stomp all over men by buying a brand of deodorant (it’s for women, you dumbass…dates back to the 80s I think) to yogurt (why is that idiot looking in the fridge for cake?…within the past year or two) and you have a sale.

  7. That Guy says:

    The growing popularity of BDSM is a very good point to make. In the shoe ads there is probably an inside reference to men with shoe fetishes. (High heel fetishes are of course not the same thing as BDSM, but they seem to be related – not too many dominatrix outfits with tennis shoes or pumps….)

    I saw a humorous greeting car the other day, presumably a card that a woman would buy another woman who’s going through a rough time. On it, there are two cartoon alligators talking. One of the two is holding a suitcase and saying to the other, “You like it? I made it out of my ex-husband.” Change that to “ex-wife” and it would be considered a vicious, barbaric, misogynistic cartoon, but with “ex-husband,” the murder and skinning of an ex are quite humorous.

    Besides showing men happily being stepped on, these ads are also pretty condescending to women. There’s an implied message that women can’t really hurt men, or isn’t it cute when women try to be mean? Or that women are naturally bitchy when it comes to their footwear. Don’t get between them and a sale on strappy heels!

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    I don’t know what Axe smells like. The big-box knockoff of Aqua Velva is my choice. I was referring to the ads. Here’s this…smell, whatever it is, reversing female hypergamy. How likely is that?
    Is Old Spice the one with the shirtless guy? Wonder if it was men buying it or women buying it for their SO.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    Dom. There isn’t much in this world whose competition is beyond hope. If I didn’t like an ad, or anything else, I’d be gone. Wouldn’t likely suffer, either.
    Axe is so stupid I wouldn’t buy it no matter what. Working a youth group a couple of years ago, a thirteen year old girl was telling me about a school camp trip. She’d doused a couple of guys’ bunks with Axe and was surprised at their annoyance. She wondered what Axe was all about. It’s for guys who don’t think they have a chance with women, I told her.
    I used to have a little mantra with her and a couple of her pre-pubescent buddies.
    “What is the purpose of Seventeen Magazine?”
    “To make us feel inadequate so we buy the stuff in the ads.”
    Hope I was making progress.
    Michael. You think those guilt ads were trying to appeal to the minority? Probably not making much progress with the white folks. Guilt is considerably less common than a number of activists want us to believe.

    • So I didn’t think I would ever agree with you on anything, but I found it. We both think Axe is stupid! Yay! (really, I am quite excited to find something to agree on)

      It also smells absolutely horrible. Boys in my high school would spray Axe in the hallways and it always made the hallways reek – they knew everyone hated it, I don’t think anyone actually wore the stuff, they just sprayed it to tick everyone off.

    • Axe is so stupid I wouldn’t buy it no matter what. Working a youth group a couple of years ago, a thirteen year old girl was telling me about a school camp trip. She’d doused a couple of guys’ bunks with Axe and was surprised at their annoyance. She wondered what Axe was all about. It’s for guys who don’t think they have a chance with women, I told her.

      Axe ignites a firey hatred in my soul that surpasses even the Power Cosmic.

      Telling guys, “Hey if you want to have a chance with women you need to use our product!” is not a good message. Not only because Axe products are terrible (their body wash stinks, their deodrant sprays are mostly alcohold which evaportes quickly, their deodorant sticks leave marks on your shirts,etc….) but more importantly its being marketed on the idea that sex is the most important thing for guys.

  10. Its what I call “Guilt Marketing”. I’ve seen not only men put in submissive roles, but whites. In a recent series of commercials on afternoon television. I saw no less than 10 advertisements where the white person or man was the “goof” or the “uninformed” individual in the commercial. There is a Gerber Life ad that seems to run quite often were the black couple is more informed than several white couples. I could list several of these.

    However, in the greater context, I see this “Guilt Marketing” as fear of using women or minorities as lackeys in advertisements. I think marketers are trying to men and whites look stupid as much as they fear community backlash for making a woman or minority look stupid.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Presumably, the ad folks know their audience and manage to appeal to the audience at a rate better than random.
    Presuming that, we can deduce that the audience likes that stuff, or responds positively if positively is defined as increased likelihood to purchase.
    So let’s ask the women in the audience if they have a problem with that crap. If they did, there would be a negative result on sales, which would likely come to the attention of the seller who might connect it to the ad. Not happening? (Looks around. Ummm. Nope.)
    So the ad folks are in the position of selling what the customer wants. Not their fault. We need a better class of customer.

    • I’ll give you an amen on that, Richard. And nice fiction, by the way.

    • Or maybe they just like the product… If toilet paper was advertised through rapey, violent ads with which I disagree, would I stop buying toiler paper? Uh, no. By your logic, you could argue that men like the sexist, rapey, violent ads depicting women for alcohol, cars, clothing, razors, etc. does this mean that all men who buy these things want to see women in this way? Sometimes, yes. Sex sells. But you cants say this about all men.

      • Dom:

        That’s the first comment in this thread that I’m gonna have to call out for being poorly thought through. Advertising matters. Take for instance the Old Spice “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign that started in January 2010. At the time, Old Spice was getting elbowed out of the market by Axe and other body products. The ads gained more than 160 million YouTube hits, and year-over-year product sales doubled.

        Are you really saying that if the brand of toilet paper you used were to produce horrible ads, you wouldn’t even think about switching?

    • “Presumably, the ad folks know their audience and manage to appeal to the audience at a rate better than random.”

      I don’t know, there have been studies that show that advertisements that use sexual imagery actually prompt less brand-remembrance among viewers than those advertisements that don’t use sexual imagery. Apparently it gets people’s attention, but then they forget about it. Maybe it’s because sexual imagery is pretty ubiquitous, it’s not unique anymore.

      “Take for instance the Old Spice “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign that started in January 2010.”
      Sorry if this is confusing, just thought I would respond to this in the same post. I would agree that advertising matters. I wanted to respond to this because I absolutely loved that campaign. You would know, Ben, given your experience in advertising, why it worked so well. My theory though, is not just because the lead man was sexy (though he was), but it was also witty and completely unique! An advertisement for a man’s deodorant using a sexy man to speak to women in a witty and creative way? Totally new and totally different. Definitely memorable.

      Someone using a naked woman or a shirtless man, and that’s it? Not that creative, not unique, not memorable.

  12. Justin Cascio says:

    Have you seen those antacid ads where phallic food slaps men in the face? No women in these, just men being dominated by their diet, and the solution: a tablet.

  13. Men being abused and victims of violence a the hands of women continues to be considered deserved, justified, glorified, and/or comedic entertainment. As evidence, when’s the last time it was condemned when death (or possibly dismemberment) did not occur?

    • Hey Eric , even when death and possible dinmemberment do occur, it’s not universally condemed!

    • Have you read ANY of the comments Eric, or looked at my links? This particular glorified and comedic entertainment in the media (advertising here) goes both ways. It’s much more of an issue of human bodies being used as props for selling goods based on raising the emotional arousal level of the viewer.

      • Eric M. says:

        Yes, I have but it primarily goes one way. In general, it goes one way almost exclusively. Please tell me that you recognize the gross double standard as regards tolerance of violence against men vs. against women.

        • Eric, you should also check out genderads.com. It’s a project looking at the representation of men and women in advertising, particularly objectification and violence towards and by men and women. It is very interesting.

          • It is noteworthy is that there have been countless hundreds or more likely thousands of scenes of women and girls kicking, punching, shoving, beating up, knocking out me and boys, many with laughtracks. Thousands. When has the does the domestic violence community ever objected to that? NEVER. Not a single time. Where does genderads object to it? It doesn’t. At all.

            We all know what movement is behind these organizations. They rightly disapprove of all violence against women. However, this evidence shows that they clealry approve of violence against men at the hands of a woman.

            • Actually, genderads does have a section on violence done to men and if you compare it to the section on violence against women, it shows exactly what you’re saying. And what I said earlier up.

              Violence against women (except for one ad) is either implied or inferred; Violence against men is, what’s hilarious is that genderads doesn’t even seem to notice the immediacy of the violence against men, it states:

              It is interesting to note that there is little explicit violence committed against men.

              Say what? Almost all the violence in those ads committed against men is _shown!_ (Or they’re ads more about subjugation then active violence.) Further the dead men are skewered, dismembered, and stabbed(with multiple knives sticking out of their chests). Significantly different from how dead female corpses are depicted, usually as pristine with maybe a hint of blood somewhere.

              Are these people blind?

  14. Artemis says:

    I find it sad that sexualized images of violence and domination of women have been taking place in advertising for years, but it’s not until men become those objects that men finally notice.

    I know that sounds judgmental, but I don’t mean it to. I just mean that I’m sad.

    • I guarantee the number of men who care about and are concerned by exploitative depictions of women in media far eclipse those who care about exploitative depictions of men in media.

      And exploitative depictions of men in media have existed as long as exploitative depictions of women in media.

      For god’s sake can we stop _shaming_ men?

      • I mean, why not apply the same level of moral agency to women in this situation?

        Why aren’t women speaking out about exploitative depictions of men in the media in significant numbers? Why did it take a man pointing out the exploitation of men in the media before women took notice and stopped assuming it doesn’t exist?

        Do women have equal responsibility to protect men as men, apparently, have to protect women?

        • Appreciate that view, Typhon. I also checked into that Meisel editorial we were discussing. You were right. It was a commentary on the war on terror and was published around the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Meisel is a brilliant photographer, and the fact that publications like Vogue give him the chance to express his political beliefs is a testament to that. It is tricky, however, when people separate those images and take them out of context.

          Once again, thanks. for contributing.

      • “For god’s sake can we stop _shaming_ men?”

        …. I wasn’t? I don’t find it strange that men didn’t really notice, until it happens to you, you’re not going to notice it. I didn’t really notice racism in our society until I started to become involved in gender studies and people pointed it out to me. Otherwise I would never notice.

        And the women who are upset about the violent and objectifying representations of women in advertising and media are just as upset about the objectifying representations of men and of racial minorities.

        I think you would be interested in genderads.com. Specifically the “violent” section. While there are many male victims, the vast majority are female.

        Women are VASTLY overrepresented as objectified and exploited and frequently depicted as on the receiving end of (mostly sexual) violence. No one is ignoring men in those discussions, men are also talked about, though to a lesser degree as they are represented as such to a lesser degree.

        And honestly, while I have heard women talk about these depictions of both men and women and the negative effects if has on both men and women, this is the first time I have heard non-feminist men also discuss it. And the focus is solely on the exploitation of men, with a general acknowledgment of how women have traditionally been the ones exploited in this way.

        Also, as Erin pointed out, some of these women seem to be equally objectified in these ads.

        • “And the women who are upset about the violent and objectifying representations of women in advertising and media are just as upset about the objectifying representations of men and of racial minorities.”

          You aren’t as upset if you’re essentially saying ‘they’re less important.’

          “this is the first time I have heard non-feminist men also discuss it. And the focus is solely on the exploitation of men, with a general acknowledgment of how women have traditionally been the ones exploited in this way.”

          So the author acknowledges that women have been ‘traditionally exploited in this way’ but what’s upsetting you is that he’s focusing on men. So how much does he have to focus on women before it’s acceptable to you that he focus on men?

          Incidentally, I looked at some of those ads. The site completely omits the fact that men are objectified differently.

          Studies have shown that people feel more compassion and care towards people who are unclothed, further we have more concern for those who we perceive to be vulnerable and less concern for those we perceive to have agency. (In fact one could argue the pervasiveness of the unclothed woman is precisely because it allows women greater influence through inspiring compassion. Notice that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were drawn to the trope as well, preferring to show men naked and women clothed.)

          Because men are objectified as _agents_ they are, correspondingly, less likely to receive compassion and sympathy from society as women.

          That’s why you’ll notice one of the major differences between depictions of violence against men and violence against women.

          When depicting ‘violence’ against women, media depicts the threat or the aftermath because the actual violence is taboo. We are deeply unsettled by violence against women and media exploits this by ‘painting around the taboo’; they show the effects or imply it, which keeps the ad constantly salient in the viewer’s mind because he or she completes the scenario in her head.

          This only works when there’s narrative tension, when we want or don’t want something to happen.

          This doesn’t work for violence against men because we don’t really care that much if a male character is hurt. If we see a dead male body or a set up in which a male is going to get hurt as a victim, we don’t really care about the outcome so no narrative tension. Advertisers have to show the immediacy of the violence against male characters in order for it to be impactful. (And usually the impact is humorous.)

          Thus there are images of dead female bodies, and the suggestion of potential violence towards females, but males in media are subject to immediate violence.

          When violence against women is depicted the focus is on the horror and the suffering of the victim. When violence against men is depicted the focus is on… treating a human body like a piece of meat to be dismembered. You’ll also notice this when media depict male versus female corpses. Female corpses are relatively pristine; male corpses are more often sliced up like cattle.

          • A recent show I watched illustrated this scenario perfectly.

            It was from the series ‘Cowboys and Outlaws’ and it was about the lynching of two homesteaders by a cattle baron. One of the homesteaders was a woman.

            Throughout the show it was emphasized that violence against her was far more unusual then violence against her male partner.

            Where this trope becomes extremely evident is that despite the fact that the focus was definitely on her throughout the ‘creating compassion and drama’ scenes (and not her equally victimized male partner) and we had a scene where she showed fear and horror at the fact she was about to be lynched for cattle rustling (interestingly her male partner wasn’t even implicated in the rustling), when it came to the actual death the focus switched to showing _his_ feet twitching and thrashing and only switched back to her when they were both dead.

            If you watch media with a careful eye you will start to pick up how we treat violence against women as a taboo and very rarely depict it directly, whereas violence against men is just scenery.

            • Typhon I have never looked at a naked ad of a woman and had my compassion inspired. Usually my response is, “Great! Another ad that tells women how they should look to be worthy to be seen.” And then I think about how many times I did or didn’t go to the gym that week.

              And I doubt most men that looked at a naked ad of a pretty woman where feeling much compassion either. This excludes ads that are exceedingly violent. The violence is what invokes the compassion maybe, not the nakedness.

              Maybe people do feel more compassion to people who are unclothed when you see images of people in third world countries. But I doubt that’s the case when it comes to designer labels when the models show perfect bodies. The goal of most advertising isn’t to appeal to compassion but to sex. Women are naked in ads more often then men not because of a desire to feel compassion for women and give them “greater influence” in terms of compassion, but to use women’s advertising influence as purely sexual first and most. Although the gap on men being exploited sexually has certainly risen in the past years.

              And I think that’s one reason why you get women, myself included, that wonder why it takes men to experience their own objectification before they see how it’s been done to someone else. The reality is that women have been more sexually exploited then men in society. Negative advertising against men is relatively newer then negative advertising against women. Did you know that there are infact a few movies that recently came out with male nudity. These movies were rated with a clear “warning” about the fact that the nudity wasn’t just nudity but that it was “male” nudity. With all the other movies that came out regarding mostly female nudity, a rating of just “nudity” was good enough. We are so use to women being naked that I think a lot of how women are treated sexually through the media just gets shrugged off and normalized. But see now we have more images of men coming out that are degrading to them and all the sudden it’s, “wait a minute!” It’s just interesting. And as much as I don’t want to to take away from Ben’s focus on male negative media, for the fact that it does seem to take negative advertising against men for some men to see things differently, it does seem like a good time to point it out.
              I am also not sure if I totally agree with your comments about violent images against women as being taboo and where images of men that are violent are just scenery. Are we still talking about ads in this case? If that is the case, usually violence against women is sexualized, such as her being naked or arranged in a “provocative” way, even in the violence that will be or has been done to her. She will be in a tiny little bra and panty set with make up on and blood splattered on her sexualizing the violence. There is either a man in the ad or no man at all. Just the lifeless body of a woman lying around looking beautiful in Dior. Or heck, have you see those crazy Peta ads? Many of them are quite disgusting and usually use women’s bodies as means to make their point.

              All things are not equal. I just tried to google some ads that depict men and women in violent victim-like states. I had a hard time of finding violent ads directed or depicting men as much as I see with women who appear to be more often brutalized. One could argue though that images showing women victims of violence and men being shown as violent is of course not healthy or good for anyone either. I suggest just googling some violent ads against women and men yourself and see what you end up seeing.

              • As to the compassion thing? I have this untested theory that its because our schooling and upbringing of kids isn’t heavy on empathy training. So groups feel pretty dandy about objectification until it’s them. Then they feel the badness and get upset. But because it didn’t affect them first off (when it was women or any other group) and they weren’t asked or expected to exercise empathy, they didn’t.

                It may be a human trait to begin with.

    • I find it sad that sexualized images of violence and domination of women have been taking place in advertising for years, but it’s not until men become those objects that men finally notice.

      I know that sounds judgmental, but I don’t mean it to. I just mean that I’m sad.
      That that I’m tempted to say:

      About as sad as people who talk about the depictions of women did so while actively denying the depictions of men in advertising or acknowleging (not just not talking about, but actively denying that it happens) or acknowledging depictions of men but almost always following it with a disclaimer to remind the reader that women have it worse or expecting men to only talk about depictions of women under some weird notion that focusing only on depictions of women will somehow also address depeictions of men in some roundabout way.

      But that’s just bitternes talking. At least they are both being talked about now right?

  15. I think the most disturbing image to me is the Jimmy Choo one where the woman is stepping on the guys head and he is under the table and he has this awful dead-like look in his eyes. I also do not like the other images of women’s shoes to men’s heads at all. They really turn me off.

    The image in number 2 doesn’t look particular to domination. Yes, the girl is on the man’s back but the man doesn’t look particularly emasculated or submissive. I’m not saying it’s a great ad but I’m not sure the man is being emasculated either. What’s so interesting about images 3 and 4 is that the women in both those images have significantly less clothes on then either of the men. I question who is really being objectified in these two images, if not both are. Is the image of a fully dressed man on his knees before a nearly unclothed women a sign of his objectification or hers? Is the image of a completely naked woman with an “I’m about to have an orgasm face” with a fully clothed man that’s casually holding a beer and cigar in one hand and appears to be yelling ( I think?) at her a sign of his objectification or hers? And again in picture 7, I question who is being objectified, if not both are. You can see right up the woman’s skirt as she puts her foot on the man’s lap. He is fully clothed from foot to neck in black. She is clearly in a position of power over him, yet, she is still display in a way that objectifies her body considering all the flesh you can see from her leg while he is fully clothed..again, another man fully clothed, another woman not.

    Here are some of the most egregious ads I’ve seen in how advertisers have used women:





    I guess I could say that at least in the BMW ad, the woman is still alive. The other ones, not so much apparently.

    • Erin:

      Thank you for posting these and continuing the conversation. The slide show did not sync exactly with the text. I’ve laid the pictures out with commentary on my blog to better represent the connections:


      • Ben – in the context of the other pictures, I can see how yes, the man is being used as a prop to sell the product.

        I am in disagreement witn you over the Dakota Fanning shot. She’s got this big bottle of perfume between her legs with the top of it being a flower. Media has a long standing history of sexualizing young women (underage women often) and putting a stamp of approval on the “de-flowering” of virgins. The ad is suggestive.

        But I do agree with you that it’s all our fault and responsbility. What we pay attention to is what we pay homage too. And sometimes I wonder how much good these conversations really do us or if they only make our hearts a little more hardened to the world, and to the other gender.

        I will also say that Artemis makes a good point about how it takes men to become objectified before men care about how women objectified. You are worried about images of men having their head’s stepped on by fancy shoes. And you should be. I like your article. I just wish more men saw those things in how women are depicted.

        • Really well said, Erin. And point taken about the Fanning shot. If you, as a consumer, see it as suggestive, then it’s suggestive. That’s what’s so complex about this issue.

          And in relation to Artimis’s point, there are many men who saw the objectification of women as wrong before there was a large number of ads in which men were objectified. But I liked the idea of writing from this perspective as a way to move things forward for both genders. Progress relies on awareness.

          Thanks for your insight on this.

    • Took a look at all of those ads, Erin. And yeah, they just seem careless, as if the models and photographer got together and just improved stuff and someone said, Yeah, how ’bout we put her in the trunk and kinda make it look like he’s digging a grave? It seems strange that ads like that make it through so many corporate sign-offs without someone being like, Wait a minute. What are we doing?

      Thanks again for your input.

    • That Guy says:

      Good points here. A nude woman grabbing the crotch of a fully clothed man? Hard to say one has all the advantage over the other.

  16. BDSM has been gaining cultural acceptance in recent years. Simply sexual images is so commonplace now that it takes something more to be notice. Advertisers are quick to move to the new new thing.

    Most of the “men being dominated” pictures you show, as well as others I’ve seen, are playful, sexual. Classic BDSM imagery. The ones featuring women being dominated are, I think, often more borderline – bordering on actual violence or rape. BDSM or “sexual play with dominance” is not abuse, or violence. In general, I don’t see these adverts condoning violence against men. Rather. they try to provoke with images of sexual power play in which men are the dominated partner. Some people find that kind of game hot, you know.

    • Lars:

      That’s interesting—and not something I would’ve ever thought about. To be honest, I had to Google what “BDSM” was. Personally, I don’t really have any interest in being bound or knocked around. Just not my thing. And perhaps I’m sheltered in not being aware of that. Once again, thanks for shedding some light this.

      • “Being bound and knocked around” is NOT what BDSM is about. As a sexuality researcher, I, am my research participants, get very upset with this ignorance. It implies that the “dominated one” is being abused or, well, dominated for the pleasure of the one in “power”. In reality, the one being “dominated” is the one in control. They call the shots.

        • Dom:

          I appreciate the clarification. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I had to look up what BDSM meant, and I hold no claim to knowing what it’s all about. To continue the conversation, I’d say that it would be a very tricky assumption for advertisers assume their target demographic was aware of, and interested in, BDSM.

          • I agree with the last statement about the unaware audience. Even in the classes and events I’ve attended, participants still cast judgments on those who have fetishes, partake in BDSM, and basically any non tradition form of heterosexual sex. But even when people get informed about this forms of sexuality, their language also reflects their opinions, which are often negative, about the issue. Limiting BDSM to being bound and knocked around just conveys a judgment.

            As for this in relation to the ads, I agree with you Julie. And while both sexes are sexualized, I don’t think anyone should try to compare oppression. For example, a masculinist shouldn’t say, “Why am I starting to see objectified men? Make it go away!” while they ignore the violence in women’s ads. Likewise, a feminist shouldn’t say, “Women get all the abuse, objectification, etc in ads. Why don’t men get depicted that way?!” What we need, which will probably never happen, is for these images of abuse, violence, and sexualized people to vanish from ads.

            • Also, google “violence against women ads” and compare it to the few images of “violence against men ads”.

            • Dom:

              You’re right on both counts. I was lazy with my language when responding to Lars—in part because of my lack of knowledge and in part because the conversation the piece spawned was so different than the conversation I expected. What I expected was more in line with the second paragraph of your last comment, that objectification and abuse is becoming more universal and that a possible result is that all people gain an greater awareness and sense of compassion for what gets expressed.

              • I figured your point was to show that abuse in ads is not acceptable for any sex. And I think everyone does need to pay ore attention to ads like these. I think a problem with women being the dominate ones in ads tells women and girls that they can (literally in that one ad) step on the men so they can get their money, the latest fashions, etc. This is negative for both sexes, but for the women, it reinofrces this negative stereotype that women are to be lusted after for material and sexualized reasons, and that women don’t need to work; they can rely on a man for stuff. As for the men being the dominate ones, it reinforces negative stereotypes which force men to be the breadwinners; worse, it holds men ridiculous masculine stereotypes which hurt and limit men. Actually, I believe that the reason for society being against men being “feminine”, while it is, more or less, okay for a woman to be masculine, is our society values masculinity over femininity. This is why male homosexuality, males wanting to be sexuality “dominated”, males being judged for being stay at home dads, men being generally feminine is looked down upon; womanly values and attributes simply are not a good thing in our society. That’s why it is such an insult for a man to be called a sissy, pussy, gay, fag, etc. It’s amazing what you can draw from ads and responses to them.

                • Thanks so much, Dom. You open up the conversation to a lot of very important issues that I hope get discussed more on the Good Men Project.

                  • One possibility missed in all this is that BDSM is becoming incseasingly popular with women, at least from a vouioristic standpiont. An article in the ‘New York Post on 2/28 talks about a triology oe books called ’50 Shades of Gray’ that in it’s short time out has sold over 100,000 copies (90% on Kindel) Print editions are sold out on Amazon and go for uup to 299.00 on auction sites. The writing is “A little lame” according to one fan, but it’s described as 1200 pages of “Graphicly described BDSM sexual exploits”. Women (all ages) can’t seem to get enough of it! One woman descibes “Getting all tingely down below” when she reads it. It’s earned the name “Mommy Porn” amongst it’s fans.

          • I agree, You have the Topping from the Bottom that goes on all the time. Also, the top is usually very concerned with the bottoms well-fare. In fact, the perenial advice to newbies is know who you are playing with. This is an effort by the community to weed out dangerous players. Put simply, you don’t play by the rules YOU DON”T PLAY PERIOD. Being shunned and excluded is considered a fate worse than death.

            • Being a top is much more work than being bottom. What the hell does a bottom have to other than show up? The top does all the work. Bottoms have it easy. They are pampered pooches.

              • Of course we are 😉

                • Yeah, the thing in Nilla people think bottoms/submissive/subs have it bad and they would never want to be one. They do not understand the care and caution that goes into *taking care of* the sub. The sub is in fact catered to. At first glance it looks the Top/Dom/Domme/Mistress is catered to, but if you look at it closely that is not really true. The sub/submissive/bottom MUST be taken care or it all falls apart.

                  If my sub screams too loudly and the Beverly Hills Police Department shows up I go to jail. The cops do not look kindly on S&M. They do care if we both are there of our own free will. I go to jail. Then because he is Jewish I go to jail on a Hate Crime. He can sit there and cry and say, “Let her go”, but I am still being booked in. The cops will not let me go. I am going on trial. My position with the cops and court is not safe. I assume all the risk. He gets to be safe and have fun. I assume the risk. Even if he pays my bail I am still angry as I get a police record for something that should not be illegal. Now I am harmed during a job search for something I did to someone who asked for it and begged for it! That sucks! Tops face a greater risk than a bottom ever thinks facing.

                  Tops can and do go to jail. Bottoms don’t. How is this fair? I fill a need. I meet a desire. I am doing a service and I face jail time? Seriously? That is not right. I’m a tiny, petite thing who just happens to have a strong personality and skills. Like the male couldn’t break me in half if he chose to do so? Come on! Why throw me in jail? The whole idea of jail time for BDSM is stupid, but I do have to worry about the neighbors. That little blond girl is beating that nice Jewish boy again! Thank goodness that old biddy died! She really was an interfering old bat. For some reason the gay couple neighbors insist on being peeping Tom’s. I don’t know what their deal is. People want to come and watch. They are curious. The next day they can not look me in the eye. If they do look me in the eye they give me very strange, leery or lurid looks. Neighbors are weird. The gay guys have new found respect for me. They have a lot of questions. I am not up for being the gay Goddess Sherpa. I don’t have time.

                  People either want to know how to do it or they want to call the cops on me. There is no in between. Bottoms are not troubled by people asking them, “How do you do this? How you do that?” Nobody pesters you with questions. Nobody seeks your advice on how to spice things up or how to dominate a person, etc. A top is seen a fountain of information. The questions are non-stop. Teach me this. Teach me that. People wanting to meddle in your business and send the cops after you or call you a “sinner” that is pretty consistent. Bottoms don’t have to worry about hiding their ID as much as a top does. Tops are targeted by Christians and the media. Bottoms are seen as helpless victims of us Tops.

                  Because of the fallout from the vocal Christian community that hates my kind and wants to see my head on a pike. I don’t fish in the Christian pond. I fish in the Jewish pond. Less hassle. Less Hatred for my kind.

          • Julie, from what I’m reading, BDSM is really “gaining traction” with women of all ages . The “Kink” site you mentioned estimates over 40% of it’s traffic to be female. There’s an article in the’New York Post’ on 2/28 abouy this triology of books’50 Shades of Gray’ that’s sold over 100’000 copies in just a short time(it’s on the NYT bestseller list). Even though it’s fans describe the writing as “A little lame”, it’s also described as “Mommy Porn” or “1200 pages of graphicly described BDSM sexual adventures”. Since these ad execs always try to cash in on “Pop Culture” trends. it could be at least part of the reason for this direction in advertising.

            • In these posts words like “dominance” and “submissiveness” have been used a great deal, but no one has used the word “control,” which involves a different mind-set. Would anyone want to weigh in on the psychology that goes along with all this?

              • Maybe you can elaborate more Ben. I’m not sure I follow.

                Although I usually think words like “dominance” and “submissiveness” allude to the way someone chooses to act and “control” sounds more like someone’s choices are being taken away. Although clearly “dominance” is about some forms of “control”.

                • Dominance (can be male or female) means the role you play. You are the “Top” as in you top the person. You are the top dog, the alpha dog, the leader of the pack, you call the shots in the relationship. The name is really clear. You dominate the sub or the bottom.

                  submissive AKA: sub or subbie (can be male or female) = you submit to the Dom (male) Domme (female) Mistress (female) Top (male or female). AKA: bottom. This person is dominated by the Top.

                  We don’t use the word control. We use the word power. We use the term TPE for Total Power Exchange. The sub gives up their power to their Dom/Domme/Mistress for the duration of the scene (the play period time) or if they are in a live-in situation and have a 24/7 TPE then the TPE is 24/7.

                  When you play that is a “scene.” We call it “sceneing” Of course you have your safe word that you use to make play come to a full stop. If the sub is gagged they are given a ball to hold and they drop the ball when play is too much. Once the ball falls play stops. There are safety features in place.

                  Not everyone engages in S&M. This is a something people do not understand. S&M is only a part of BDSM. Some people do D/s and never get into S&M. D/s is D=Dominance (capital D for dominance) s=submission (lower case s to indicate submission). This is very hot stuff! Ooo la la! It is very erotic.

                  This is where you act out scenes of the all sorts of stuff. If the nilla world people do the damsel in distress and the pirate capturing her. It is fantasy, play acting and role playing. In BDSM it has the added component of one person dominating another for added spiciness and sexiness. There is nothing weird or strange about it. It is just taking something nilla people already do and adding a kink twist to it. No big deal. The steak is sizzling on the grill. We just put some flavor on it. We kinkify it to pump up the volume. Nothing wrong with kinkifying things.

      • Well, “being knocked about” is not how it feels to me. It’s certainly not the point. Playing with power (in many different ways) turns out to be highly erotic to some. One aspect of these adds is to appeal to this type of eroticism. The fact that BDSM has an air of darkness, the forbidden, helps create the allure that marketing likes.

        It’s worth noting the these adds rarely deal with the S/M aspects (the “knocking about” if you will). It’s much more the dominance, power play, and possibly bondage that appeals to marketers. Marketers use these elements to create sexy women, women men lust after – and they probably find that this works better with the dominance and bondage elements that with actual S/M.

        It’s still all about objectifying women, and as such still send a message to women that the way to get ahead is be sexually attractive to men. What is new is that the idea that the woman has to be attractive *and* passive is gone; in fact, it’s telling women that they should be aggressively sexual to compete. It’s also telling them that it’s OK to use men as stepping stones and exploit your sexuality to get ahead.

        For men, the role has not changed much – they’re still predominately viewers, though men are now more and more being objectified as well, though far from to the same degree as women.

        There’s currently an overlap of pop culture, hyper-sexualized women, and women as sexual agressors / sexually dominant. While I may personally find such images erotic, I worry that it’s once again upping the ante for what is expected of young women; how can they ever live up to these images?

        As an example of the overlap, I give you this pop video:

        BDSM is hardly new, btw. Marquis de Sade, The Story of O, etc. are classics, the appeal of “dark” sexuality being probably as old as sex itself. But BDSM in pop culture has only really been appearing in maybe the past 20 years or so.

        • Lars:

          I’ll check out that video thank you for posting it. It was not my intention to marginalize you or the BDSM community.

    • I completely agree. In addition, when women are seen “in power” in these ads, they are still sexualized. As in the shoe on head ad, the woman has “power” because she is being ultra feminine. We never see “masculine women” or “real” lesbians in ads, especially those depicting power, because women need to be feminine to have any sort of power. Also in that shoe ad, the man is laughing. When women are being dominated in ads, they do not look happy at all. They are silent and usually have a scared, submissive look, or a very sexual look with “blow job” mouth. Of course, men are sexualized in ads. Even kids are sexualized now. But to say men are dominated and have no power… I disagree.


      • I agree, women in advertising whether dominant or submissive are always presented as sexually alluring. Nor do I think it is particularly healthy for the switch to men as submissives either – ad-execs laughing all the way to the bank, men are not at all submissive in real world power.

        Of course, if we were not so hung up on sexuality as being somehow ‘naughty’ and if men and women held equal power, if, if, if…

        • I believe that in order to be a sucessfull “Ad Exec” you must rid yourself of of your very soul and become amoral. These people would sell you heroin cut with rat poision if they could ; a) legally get away with it, b)make a shitload of money doing it. (maybe that order should be reversed)

      • I agree. These ads use BDSM imagery as a tool, in much the same way they treat women as tools, to their own ends. Furthermore, produced by traditional marketing companies, they still very much make use of hyper-sexual women to sell. In most of these images, it’s still the woman who’s the sexual object; having her act as a domina or be seen to dominate men is simply another way to portray the woman as sexually attractive; it’s an element of her hotness.

        And, of course, as anyone who have been in BDSM (or specifically, D/s) play can attest, “being dominated” and “having no power” is in no way the same thing.

        • In most dramatic situations, there is an agent that acts and an agent that is acted upon. Without any more context than what a still image provides, one must believe that the agent that acts is in control and making a first decision that sets off a chain of events.

          • Sure – the situation portrayed in these images have the woman as the active one, the one with the initiative and the control. In a real situation that would be the case.

            However, these are fictional sexual dominance situation. The images are constructed for you viewing pleasure, or to keep you a captive audience for the message. In most of the images, the focus point, the main sexual object in the image, is the woman. Not the man.

    • Artemis says:

      Yes, Lars, I completely agree. I have no real experience with BDSM, besides some light power playing, but reading enough Dan Savage has educated me on the difference between consensual BDSM and violence.

      “Most of the “men being dominated” pictures you show, as well as others I’ve seen, are playful, sexual. Classic BDSM imagery. The ones featuring women being dominated are, I think, often more borderline – bordering on actual violence or rape”
      This is completely true. Especially the one with Jennifer Lopez, that just looks like sexual imagery. yes she is being dominant, but that is not really so strange. I don’t see any harm in having dominant/submissive imagery for both genders. I think the issues begin when that either becomes completely gendered (as it has been, with women normally only being seen as submissive or relinquishing their femininity to be dominant, and men vice versa) or when that domination goes into the realm of sexual violence.

      Ads using women as submissive very frequently have implicit or explicit violent tones. These ads seem fairly tame in comparison.

    • Lars,

      Very Great points! When I dominate men, it has to be playful. I love it when we burst out in laughter for example. That is why the BDSM community calls it play. I don’t mind being dominated either so long it is in a playful manner. Very few men dominate me the way I like so I am usually the top. Some men really miss the mark as you said and it becomes more about violence than play. That is when safety words come in. The dominating dynamics between the sexes is truly interesting. But just because I dominate men in the bedroom on occasion doesn’t mean I want a submissive partner outside of the bedroom. I wonder if that is the type of submission vanilla men are truly scared of or if it is the actual BDSM.

  17. Wasn’t ‘state of emergency’ supposed to be critical of Britain’s post-911 security measures? I think you can safely exclude photo series like that being inspired by the same cultural situation as the photo series the OP is looking at. These are images of subjugated and battered women used to highlight social ills because, as a species, we take notice when women are threatened.

    These images, on the other hand, are not about generating concern for the subjugated and dominated men.

    Instead I think they come from the same place, culturally, as the following image:


    Which is representative of the Greek and Roman art movement called ‘naked men threaten and step on clothed submissive women.’

    • Typhon:

      Thanks for contributing. It’s a very valid view, and going into history to consider the various archetypes we as a culture have assimilated is important. I am not sure of Meisel’s original intention. I do know it came out in 2006 and appears on fashion blogs without any context at all. When you say “these images…are not about generating concern,” does that imply that right now the safety of men isn’t worthy of concern? That it’s just not that big of a deal? Or just that it was not something that occurred to the artists during their creation of the work?

  18. The cage image is very interesting, Julie. Thanks for finding that. In part, I think these photographers feel the need to compete with film and other forms of media. Some, like Meisel, attempt to tell a story. But single still images are limited and can be taken out of context, especially as JPEGs get passed around the Web. Once again, thanks for the thought and input.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      No problem. I love articles like this deconstructing advertising and, truth be told, I love the images as stories (even if I disagree with them). Food for thought.

  19. Agreed, Julie. In my research I came across many photos in which women are dominated. One set in particular was an editorial called “State of Emergency,” by Steven Meisel, for Vogue Italia. Very rough. Perhaps creatives just feel a need to create drama, but I like to believe that sex and power and violence don’t have to go together.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Drama creates emotional arousal, yes? That’s why it’s used. Love, peace and gentleness don’t create enough emotional arousal? I suppose that’s how politics works too. War, not peace.

      • The shoe ad is fascinating, especially in relation to the Chinese custom of foot-binding. In regard to the drama-arousal connection, it almost seems like a cheap trick. There are so many other ways to affect an audience.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          It’s also a take on Shibari which is a Japanese BDSM rope bondage form. I’ll comment more on the BDSM connection above.

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