By: Shari Walczak
The double standard applied to talking about female sexual pleasure and empowerment vs. male sexual pleasure and health is still alive and well in advertising and media. It even extends to the marketing of products related to menstruation if they feature anything other than women skipping through fields or enjoying a casual horseback ride.
There are countless examples of female-targeted advertising and campaigns that have been rejected or outright banned from media placement because they are a little too honest and might scar the “fragile sensibilities” of the general public. And heaven forbid you mention the word period or allude to female pleasure.
In 2015, THINX, a company that had launched an innovative and first-of-its-kind period underwear line, had their campaign deemed too risqué for the NYC subway even though the visuals featured a modestly clad female in one execution and a peeled half grapefruit in another - what an assault on our senses in a public space, no less!
Earlier last year, a campaign for Unbound, a sexual wellness company that sells sex toys and accessories for women and femme-identified people, also saw their campaign featuring custom illustrations outright rejected by the MTA in New York for being too sexual.
And even at this year’s CES, gender bias was on full display. Lora DiCarlo is a female-founded startup that creates products and educational resources that promote female and LGBTQI sexual empowerment. Their Osé personal massager was selected as a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Robotics and Drone product category, only to have the award later rescinded and be told they would no longer be allowed to showcase Osé, or even exhibit at CES 2019.
CES cited a vague rule referring to their right to disqualify any entries deemed to be “immoral, obscene, indecent, or profane” at their own discretion. That’s pretty rich given that a literal sex robot for men launched on the floor at CES in 2018 and a VR porn company exhibits there every year, allowing men to watch pornography in public as consumers walk by.
So, back to the billboard that is 3 weeks into its run, standing in full view of one of Toronto’s busiest expressways and still inviting female customers to “scream your own name”. I’m proud to live in a city that not only accepted this ad (thank you IMA Outdoor), and has also received zero complaints to date.
Yet I’m also frustrated that ads with similar messages of female sexual empowerment will continue to be limited by prudishness or gender bias (call it what you will) and sheltered from a broader audience in markets well beyond Toronto’s city limits.