Sex should not be used in advertising, ever

Michaela Jarrett
Michaela Jarrett

Media affects us in many different ways.

The images we see become a part of our everyday lives. They not only reflect what is already a part of our culture, but also normalize new behaviors that also become a part of our evolving culture. This is why it is so crucial that we reject the sexual images used in advertising.


First and foremost, the sexual images we see in advertising are so obviously gendered that some people don’t even think about it. Women are seen objectified in mainstream advertising daily. Because these images are a part of most people’s everyday life, they become normalized.

This is extremely harmful to women especially. When people are used to seeing overly sexualized images of women everyday, they are less likely to notice the degradation women face in real life.

The images used in advertising are just plain unnecessary. Why does Dolce and Gabbana need to show a woman being held down to sell clothes? Why does Burger King need to make references to oral sex in their advertisements to sell food? They even go as far as to show a woman’s mouth with bandages on each side to cleverly show how big their sandwiches are.

And it’s not even as if these ads are only for adults, children are seeing them to. Is this really what we want to be teaching children about the place women have in our society?

If you honestly don’t think sex in advertising is a problem then the next time you see a woman’s sexuality being used to sell something, imagine a man in her place. Or a child. Would it still be okay? There is a disconnect somewhere here.

I am not advocating for showing anyone in sexualized advertisements. The point is that our society treats women a lot differently than anyone else. It is unfair, it is disgusting and it has to stop.

Sex in advertising is a part of rape supportive culture. We see women being controlled by men, we see importance placed on women for mostly sexual reasons, we even see women with dead or terrified looks on their faces. All to sell clothes, jewelry, food and whatever else. Our culture is rape supportive in many other ways including victim blaming and slut shaming.

This is an issue that needs attention. Most victims of sexual assault are women. Yet there are many advertisements that depict sexual assault, stalking, and harassment. For example, advertisements using a “peeping tom” make light of a crime at the expense of women’s privacy and dignity. A service that books cabs ahead of time even used “Stop, no. Stop please. Please stop taking unbooked minicabs,” on their advertisement that also shows a woman in shadows with a terrified look on her face. This was because sexual assaults were happening to people getting into what they believed to be cabs. How clever and strategic of their advertising team to turn a horrific crime into a business boost.

The ads I described are just a few of the many things we all see everyday. They are extremely harmful and yet people are becoming more and more desensitized to them. We are shown half naked women in some weird attempt to sell the idea of buying more clothes, then told that women shouldn’t dress “slutty” if they don’t want to be raped.

What I am most concerned about regarding this issue is that it is even a question. Why is this something we have to debate about? This isn’t something that has gone unnoticed in our society. People’s lives are affected by the culture that sexual advertising contributes to. Their lives are sometimes torn apart, destroyed, and ended. This is a real issue. It is more than an interesting read in the paper. When we as a society allow women to be depicted this way in advertising, we are consenting to women being second-class, sexual objects that mean nothing if not pleasing to men.


The fact that this topic is even up for debate shows that we still live in misogyny everyday.

Michaela is a second year student who likes to support companies that don’t degrade anyone in their advertisements or business practices. Letters and feedback can be sent to