Just…wow. I know that by it’s very nature, there is something deadly about sexuality and something sexual about death. I know that this relationship, the tensions between these two, are a source of endless fascination, particularly in a culture as puritanical as ours. But good grief, Duncan Quinn (is he a real person or just a brand? In my mind, he’s the guy smugly holding the noose around the dead girl’s neck), this is taking that trope WAY over the line. As Feministe puts it, “Gotta love it when images of dead or drugged women are sexy enough to sell men’s clothes.”
I brought up the eroticization of violence to women in action movies and other cultural media in response to a comment on my James Bond post a while back, pointing to the stylized death of the consulate worker in Quantum of Solace who is pictured sprawled naked across a clean bedspread, coated in shiny black oil, limp and lifeless, a sex object for display and viewing pleasure even after, and in some ways because of, her brutal death. This kind of thing is everywhere, it’s just not often so blatant as it is here. Though they’re usually more subtle, the message that there’s something appealing and sexy about physically dominated, injured, or even, as in this case, dead women are undeniable. This ad reminds me of another flagrant example from a year or so ago–another high fashion print ad, this one for Dolce & Gabbana, which depicted four men looking on as a fifth holds down a scantily clad woman, her back arched but face blank, passive. The whole thing basically amounts to a stylized gang rape scene. In another ad from around the same time, this one for Cesare Paciotti, a woman with a barely-there dress sprawls half on, half off a couch, her head strained back, one hand gripping the sofa, her eyes glazed and passive in a scene that suggests some kind of date rape scenario.
I’m not sure which is more disturbing–the ad above which is targeting men, or the others I’ve described which target women. These and other ads ranging from offensive to downright disturbing can be found on the National Organization for Women‘s Love Your Body website, and there are many more that could easily be added. Not only are these ads disturbing to look at, but, cumulatively, I believe they contribute directly to shaping understandings of gender that are absorbed, largely subconsciously, by both men and women daily. When this kind of thing appears in a magazine opposite an article about pore refining face masques or how to talk your boss into giving you a raise, it becomes normalized. As a result, the sad fact is that many people glance at an image like this and, without so much as a blink of an eye, turn the page.