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Potential in the Perfect Balance of Fantasy and Reality
In her 1998 Seattle Weekly article, ?You Get Me Closer to God,? Lauren Goodlad discusses the media?s exploitation of sadomasochism and society?s inability to accept it as the norm. She believes that in such a sexually divided and competitive culture, sadomasochism is inevitable, and would not be so perverse if men and women learned to communicate. Goodlad claims that with the increase gaps between genders, everyone is expected to abide by their masculine or feminine roles and this forces them to suppress their true sexual desires. By being daring enough to break these gender rules, the media creates for us fantasies that we are too insecure to create for ourselves. In applying Goodlad?s ideas of human sexuality and gender lines to an ad for Candie?s fragrances, I found that advertisements using a hint of sadomasochism while maintaining society?s view of ?manliness? may be the next biggest thing, because they combine both the fantasy of erotic appeal and the reality of gender roles.
At first glance, the ad depicts an attractive woman lying across the lap of a macho man. On her perfectly made up face one notices the direct eye contact. On her lean figure one notices a fitted outfit. By masculine standards, what makes this woman desirable to most any man is what Goodlad describes as the pin-up look, ??. liposuction and surgical implants?. face-lifts, diet pills?.? (37). Although the falsities may not be the case with this specific Candie?s girl, she nonetheless has all the makings of the Victoria?s Secret model that women want to be and men simply want. In analyzing the pose of the woman?s shapely body, it is debatable whether she is in a position of submission or one of power. The evidence that supports the latter is the man in the picture. Dennis Rodman, known as a macho bad-boy, is dressed in satin, Capri pajama bottoms holding the book Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus. He is evidently deep in thought and by no means aggressive in this scene.
Where a woman is usually the one to read and contemplate the meanings of a relationship and the man is the nonchalant dominator, the role reversal in this ad is obvious. This woman is repressing the man with little more than her legs and buttocks, yet her arms are casually behind her head instead of taking part in holding him down. This position literally places the woman ?on top,? and shows her maintaining it with little effort. The ad has broken society?s gender roles by allowing a sexy, desirable woman to be in a non-submissive position of strength. Even her countenance reflects this fact. The Candie?s girl is staring directly into the viewer?s eyes with a look of satisfaction and boldness, while her counterpart is looking away with an expression that is indecisive and Mona Lisa-like, meaning it?s hard to define and varies with one?s perception. These traits, as Goodlad points out, are all characteristics of a typical female ?trapped in self-fulfilling prophecies of [their] own making? (37).
Clad in black, the color most often related to dominance and evil, and giving no attention to the man she is suppressing, this woman obviously has power. On the other hand, Rodman is wearing orange satin, but does this mean he is weak and suppressed? The tattoos, the piercings, and the muscles all tell me no because these are characteristics related to withholding pain and having strength, which represents masculinity. Therefore, the reality of a man?s role to be macho still exists in this ad. What makes it appealing is the fact that the masculine gender role coexists with the fantastical idea of a woman who is dominant and desirable, this latter fact being proven by the Candie?s girl?s own looks and expressions. This combination cannot be achieved in real life due to human insecurities, and the fact that it does exist in this ad is the main part of its appeal. Men are supposedly ??. consumers of macho lifestyle products: beer, cars, fast food, video games, action movies, sports, and most notably, a new wave of soft-porn men?s magazines like Maxim and Details? (36) while women ?establish their credentials as pin-ups? (36). These points made by Goodlad subsist in this ad, but at the same time the woman is shown to have dominance over the powerful man, which she insists cannot happen in reality, ?[women?s] sexual submissiveness is incompatible with strength? (38). What Goodlad insists is that the expected roles of men and women today, does not allow women to have any control. But the Candie?s ad disproves this, by showing a woman dominating a powerful man, and the ad goes a step further to show that not only can this happen but people actually respond positively towards it.
Rebutting Goodlad?s statement, I think the Candie?s ad shows how the media has once again found a new form of advertisement to lure buyers through the creation of something even more fantastical than just sadomasochism. What they have done is combine something that fulfills people?s desires, sadomasochism, with the natural roles that these people play in their everyday lives, the masculine male versus feminine female image. With this unity, the outcome is a modernized form of soft-porn which satisfies both the inner, sexual cravings of viewers and also culture?s expectations of feminine and masculine roles. This new formation then is still fantastical, but has an added touch of reality that complements our society?s ever-changing outlook, making this style effective and popular in ads.
In her article, Goodlad claims that human sexuality is naturally programmed for sadomasochism. ?The erotic appeal of dominance and submission is itself nothing new.? (Goodlad, 35) She blames the taboo of the subject on lack of communication. ?What straight men and women both seem to lack is the ability to talk to each other about sex.? (38) She believes that if people could express their sexual needs and desires honestly, the majority of men who fantasizes about sadistic women would have no fear of being labeled perverse and the majority of women who are insecure about their bodies would become sexual participants rather than objects. But as we head towards the end of the millennium, the gap between the sexes is expanding, where a man is expected to be the ?masturbator? while a woman strives to be the ?masturbator?s fantasy.?
What the Candie?s ad exemplifies is something beyond the realm of simple sadomasochism. It goes a step further by creating a scene where a woman achieves desirability and dominance, while the man takes on the feminine role while still maintaining his ?macho ness.? According to Goodlad, who states that ?women?s power is incompatible with women?s sexual desirability,? (38) and also concludes that ?we believe the gender divisions that frustrate us are inevitable,? (37) this ad is not only a contradiction to both of those things but a great example of how uniting the two can appeal to both genders.
The setting of the ad is made to look very modern and abstract. Odd colors are combined with out of shape furniture and zebra stripes are placed next to leopard skin patterns. Everything in the ad is created to match the headline on top: ?Anywhere You Dare.? The phrase challenges the viewer to be different and shows them how. Literally, it tells the reader to use their scents anywhere, anytime, only if they dare to accept the sexy consequences. The ad phrase then implies that using their perfume will give the woman sex appeal and the power to control a man, and using their cologne will give the man opportunity to portray their masochistic fantasies while maintaining their manliness. This phrase wraps the entire scene in the ad and throws it up for the reader?s taking, all the reader has to do is go out and purchase this product and be daring enough to use it. But according to Goodlad, all of these claims are false. ?Marketing strategists assume that a sexual fetishist of some stripe lurks in each of us and then seek to make it pay.? (38) She believes the media uses our weakness, sexuality, to lure us in to whatever they want, but we as humans are yet to be strong enough to do anything beyond looking at these fantastical scenes.
What the ad does is tease the public with its sexual fantasy and lure them into products by implying they will give them these dreams they so yearn for. The advertisers do this because even though the desires lurk within each of us, few are actually secure enough to participate. Therefore, we are teased and we simply watch and crave, allowing the media to create fantasies to attract us to their products and services, rather than creating fantasies on our own for the media to imitate. That?s what makes the Candie?s ad unique: all the ingredients within its sexual appeal are real, meaning it can ultimately be satisfied in reality, but only if we are brave enough to venture. Given the public?s response to these types of ads, it is obvious that the sexual innuendoes involved have the potential to expand. Sadomasochism in advertisement has taken a step forward from simply satisfying taboo sexual urges to encouraging its actual development in shaping people?s lifestyles. This acceptance has caused ads like this one to be effective, giving people what they want and making it the next biggest thing in advertisement.
If our society did not have a communication problem, men would be able to express their masochistic desires without fearing condemnation and women would be able to break free of their traditional gender roles without fearing rejection. Goodlad argues in the end that all we really want is to get closer to another human being, and that ads do not help because they discourage us by setting high, unrealistic standards. ?Images persuade us that we want to be the most beautiful, to have the biggest one, to get the most. But what we really want, perhaps, is to get closer to another human being.? (38) This Candie?s ad is another creation for both sexes: men want this woman while women want to be this woman. This particular ad does not go far in terms of creating a sexual fantasy, but it does depict a form of sexual appeal that is different from the usual man is hunter and woman is prey theme. It gives dominance to the woman, while allowing the man to maintain his masculinity.
This colorful and shapely ad displays many of the points discussed by Goodlad.
However, rather than supporting or arguing against them, the Candie?s ad unites what she points out to create a fantasy realm that has a chance of becoming reality. Its appeal provides the viewer with a fantasy that is easily attainable, as long as a woman realizes desirability goes beyond silicone and make-up and the man realizes that he may be masculine while displaying feminine traits. This can be considered as yet another form of sexual fantasy created for us rather than by us, or it may also be encouragement for men and women to realize their own potentials in fulfilling their sexual desires.
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