Three commercials in circulation right now are a study in toeing the line of selling sex — H&M’s eyeful of a David Beckham commercial approaches it, Liquid-Plumr’s cheeky “Double Impact” spot crosses it, and PETA’s “Boyfriend Went Vegan” ad, as is customary for the advocacy group, goes way too far.
Sex in advertising is nothing new. Each of the ads, though, are notably bold when it comes to female sexuality. While the Beckham ad just invites ladies to ogle the soccer player’s bod, Liquid Plumr alludes to sex acts, while the PETA ad insinuates that a woman enjoys sexual violence. It makes those old Herbal Essences commercials, with their “Harry Meets Sally” nod, look like “Sesame Street.”
Beckham’s commercial, which ran during the Super Bowl, was widely praised as welcome reminder that women watch the game, too. Amid all of the Go Daddy nonsense, the tables were turned, and women got a chance to do the objectifying.
But the Liquid-Plumr ad, which has been making the viral rounds online, ups the ante quite a bit. The brand added a new product to its pipe-cleaning gels — a snake that goes deep into drains to clear blockages. Cue the innuendo-laden sexy plumbers: “I’m here to snake your drain.” “I’m here to flush your pipe.” The Barry White-like voiceover references “a looooong snake,” and encourages the plumbers to “finish off the rest.”
The “Double Impact” is an obvious reference to several sex acts, and though it’s received a warm welcome on social media (“I’m going to go clog a drain just so I can buy some of this,” writes one Tumblr user), others aren’t so pleased about it.
“All this reinforces the notion ... that all women at all times exist to be (and long to be) sexually available to all men,” wrote Sunsara Taylor, an anti-porn advocate. “When a woman calls a plumber, she doesn't really need help with her plumbing, she is really harboring a secret fantasy to be sexually ravaged.”
Taylor hasn’t written about PETA’s new ad, but one imagines she wouldn’t be very pleased about an ad that claims that vegan men have powerful sexual stamina — so powerful that their female partners are bruised and must wear neck braces, like victims of battery. It is strange that PETA would equate good sex with abusive sex — and even more disturbing when viewed along with the pro-battery tweets that followed Chris Brown’s Grammy performance, with girls saying that, unlike Rihanna, they wouldn’t mind of Brown beat them. Still, PETA’s stunts always aim to shock and anger the biggest group of people possible, as when they package women up as dead slabs of meat, or show them rubbing themselves with vegetables.
"The piece is tongue-in-cheek. People who watch the ad all the way through see the woman has a mischievous smile. She's happy to go back with him. It's playful," a spokesman from PETA told Yahoo News.