How advertising promotes rape culture

Esther Walman
May 27, 2016 · 6 min read

“You shouldn’t walk alone at night. It’s dangerous.”
“I’ll be fine what’s the worst that could happen?”
“Lots of things, like you could be mugged or murdered or sexually assaulted.” “Sexually assaulted, really? I’m not pretty enough for that to happen.”

The above text was a legitimate conversation between me and a friend when she decided to walk home alone. The sheer thought that not being pretty enough to be raped is proof that there is something very wrong with our society. Girls are told that they are lucky if they are assaulted, lucky that any guy would give them the slightest bit of attention at all, but when they are violated society treats them as if they were dirty or sluts and even blames them for the attack. This idea is portrayed quite often in the media and a lot in advertising which contributes to rape culture. Violent and submissive portrayals of women in advertising has created a toxic cultural environment because ads such as Dolce & Gabbana and Ford have given women a sense of passiveness and acceptance of rape culture, while giving men the idea that women are to blame for rape and that they have the right to rape. This is insulting to both genders, as it deems men as having no self control and slaves to their own sexuality while telling women that they are lesser and must submit to men.

Our culture suffers from many things but what this essay will focus on is rape culture. According to, ⅕ women have been sexually assaulted. This number is staggering and according to the same site, victims of sexual assault are four times more likely to commit suicide. This is Because according to they are are in a constant state of fear of anything that reminds them of the assault, but mostly because we treat them like animals to blame for their own slaughter.

According to 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. These facts show us that most people would rather believe that the rapist was not at fault and that the victim was just exaggerating or regretted having sex when in reality only 2% of all rape and related sex charges are determined to be false. Myths such as:

“Women accuse celebrities and athletes of rape all the time for money and attention.”

“The definition of rape is so loose these days, women can claim anything is rape and get away with it.” “If she was really raped she would have called the police. is just victim blaming and brushing a serious problem under the rug, making it much worse. On a related note accrding to , only about 40% of rapes are ever reported to the police, and this is partly because victims know that if their claim becomes public, their every behavior will be scrutinized, they will be shamed for their sexual history, and they will be labeled a lunatic, psychotic, paranoid, and manipulative. Just because someone does not report their crime does not mean it did not happen.

In the Dolce & Gabbana ad, the positioning of the models says a lot. The only female model is on the floor dressed very provocatively while a muscular man holds her down. Surrounding these two are three more men in various stages of undress. What this ad is suggesting is abundantly clear. By having the woman literally under the man is stating that she is lesser than him, but more importantly he is about to violate her and it is obvious that these other men have no intentions of stopping it. Also their expressions are extremely robotic, their faces lack all emotion. This is insinuating that not only do men have no emotions but what they are doing does not phaze them at all. It’s also safe to assume that these other men will likely join in on what is about to occur.

In contrast, the second advertisement, is drawn in a way that is almost comedic, in a very cartoonish way. The ad is of three women in the trunk of a car. Each woman is dressed very provocatively and have unusually large breasts. The women are also gagged and their arms and legs are tied together behind their bodies, preventing them from fleeing the vehicle. This scene is disturbing enough as it is, but then to add to this, in the front of the car is a middle aged man smiling, while showing the peace sign with two fingers. Also underneath the picture in fine print it says : Leave your worries behind. Indicating that it is just a nuisance, like a parking ticket, to be caught with kidnap and rape. It is very obvious what this man’s intentions are for these women and it is not to go out for a friendly meal.

These ads have one very important thing in common, the women are dressed very provocatively . What this tells us is that: If you are dressed in any way deemed sexy, than you will be raped. Which leads to the statement, “She was asking for it.” This thought is both disgusting and cruel, at no point will a women ask to be raped, even by definition this is impossible. By definition rape is: “A type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent.” By definition she cannot ask for it, it is impossible for the victim to be at fault for this, yet we continually blame women for what happens to them. For example when a women is raped the first thing an officer will ask is : Were you drunk, what were you wearing, did you give any indication of wanting this to happen? In a manner that indicates she did something wrong. This leads to girls not reporting the assault. The fact that we as a society would shame girls into not reporting sexual assault is ignominious and frankly disgusting.

When we make ads like these we are bound to start becoming immune to the idea of rape it becomes an extraneous part of life. Both ads will begin to desensitize us to the problem and the rate of rape will go up, because if we are constantly being bombarded with images, jokes and ideas that rape is no big deal or the victim’s fault then that is what society will believe. The ads above and others like them do not leave you feeling bad for the victim, in the second ad you might even find it humerous. Yet it is anything but. According to Every 107 seconds another, American is sexually assaulted and 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim.These statistics demonstrate that we need to seriously assess our society’s need to turn human being into sexual objects. All of these facts contribute to the toxicity of our society, by desensitizing us to the problem, to the point that we begin to see it as part of life.

So what can be done about this? First of all parents should not tell their daughters to not wear certain clothing items because they are afraid they will be sexually assaulted, it just helps our society’s opinion on rape, I understand that they just want to protect their children, but rapists cause rape not clothing. Schools should not enforce dress code for fear of distracting the male population, it just teaches the young men in our society that girls are objects to be possessed. Secondly the authorities should take a different approach when it comes to sexual assault. They should keep in mind that these people went through something traumatic and that they shouldn’t make what they are going through any worse. The legal system should not take a woman’s clothing or blood alcohol concentration in mind. Men should remember that they do not have the right to rape and that they are capable of controlling their sexual desires.

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