The portrayal of sexual culture in advertising

The Portrayal of Sexual Culture in Advertising

Everywhere we look, we are exposed to sexualised advertising. Be it on billboards, online, imagery on products or television, sexualised content is used to target consumers and make a product or service more appealing. Although it is common to be exposed to this kind of content, the way it is portrayed often disregards the more nuanced and important aspects of physical, mental and emotional satisfaction that characterize sexual culture.

The Impact On Women

The reality is that the advertising industry is largely still dominated by men which in turn influences the way women are frequently portrayed. This can range from sexually objectifying images of women, allured by their looks rather than their personalities and intrinsic qualities, to illustrations of traditional gender roles, portraying women as weak, domestic individuals who are in need of assistance, such as in cleaning campaigns or domestic roles. This can have a huge psychological impact on young females, skewing their perception of their value and self worth.

The Impact On Men

Equally, men also suffer from what advertising projects onto them. Inadvertently, they are presented with images which they must adhere to, such as possessing extreme masculinity, looking and dressing a certain way, or engaging in certain behaviours to be accepted by society.

Changing The Conversation

In order to alter the way sexual culture is portrayed in advertising, we must amend the way sex is talked about in the media. The conversations must shift from one-dimensional, over-sensualised ads to an authentic representation of sexual culture. The industry must strive to promote healthier messages on sex and relationships, rather than having it saturated with sexualised images which not only reflect, but seek to shape, what is seen as socially acceptable.

Moving Towards A Better Future

To move forward, the industry must work to normalise a more wholesome approach to sexual culture in advertising, that can be applied to all genders and orientations. This could include introducing:

  • Healthy representation of sexual practices – We can begin to showcase activities and approaches to sexual interaction which are consensual, respectful and safe.
  • Inclusive depictions of individuals – We should aim to portray a variety of body types, characters and orientations in our ads, to be as inclusive as possible.
  • Educational messages for adults and young people – We should use ads to start conversations about consent, boundaries and how to create a safe, authentic environment in relationships.

In doing the above, we can start to portray a more beneficial view of sexual culture in advertising, which can educate and empower generations for years to come.

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