Sell with smarts, not sex

Everybody knows sex sells. Sexual images and ideas have permeated the advertising industry for decades, and the concern that it objectifies women and devalues sex itself is nothing new. The general lack of progression, however, in minimizing the promiscuity promoted in ads is troubling.

A Bell Canada ad displayed in the men’s and women’s washrooms of the JDUC showed their trademark beaver holding internet installation gear, with the line reading,“There is no shame in an easy hook-up.” On top of offering a decent package deal, Bell is implicitly promoting the idea of a permissive attitude towards casual sex.

The ad is surprising for a number of reasons—Bell, not usually a company associated with sex, has completely consumerized it in an attempt to appeal to a certain demographic.

It also implies a certain assumption about those it’s aimed at because it insinuates they won’t think twice while reading the ad—that is, they aren’t mature enough to realize the implications of an “easy hook-up.”

In doing this, Bell is encouraging a lifestyle that could potentially have unhealthy consequences. It is no coincidence Bell has chosen a university campus to show these ads—it would be overtly inappropriate in any place more public—but it’s disturbing that such a seemingly backwards message could be found nearby signs with conflicting messages such as “Don’t wake up with more than a hangover.”

University campuses are not isolated arenas for such explicit advertising. T-shirts for sale on Toronto streets, plastered with the slogan “Play with girls, not guns!” suggest that instead of engaging in gunplay, one should instead use girls as an object for perhaps equally aggressive acts. It disturbingly propagates issues of sexual violence, objectification of women, and the assignation of male and female roles. The aggression of men is balanced out by the passivity of women, who are essentially likened to toys in this slogan.

Gun violence is a serious problem in the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere. The idea that these T-shirts will deal with all the issues contributing to shootings and gang violence is simplistic and just plain stupid.

Both the T-shirt and the Bell ad, regardless of their intentions, normalize lifestyles and attitudes with potentially backwards and harmful consequences that should make advertisers think twice before using sex as a gimmick.

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