Calvin Klein’s Spring 2012 ad campaign features Lara Stone in the brand’s latest wares. The model, despite being front and center, is in a rather powerless position; she is on her back, eyes closed, perhaps clutching her jacket closed. With her breasts partly exposed and her legs almost open, she is not only submissive but sexually available. Her position is compounded by the addition of a silhouetted male figure looming over her in the upper right corner. The image goes from simply portraying a model in a sexual pose, to suggesting violence, all with the intention of selling a high-end product.
This isn’t the first time a fashion advertisement has portrayed the potential of sexual violence in a glamorous way, not even close. In a previous post I recommended watching Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly film series, and again I can’t recommend it enough. In the second half of her most recent installment, she describes what she calls the “Romantic Stranger” trend. The video is embedded below, skip to 17:52 to hear her analysis of the eroticization of violence in advertising. This ad and its meanings are by no means unique. Women are frequently subjected to many types of violence in their lives, including physical and often at the hands of men, yet fashion seems to have no qualms about portraying this in order to sell a product. In numerous examples the female models often have an ambiguous facial expression, somewhere between pleasure and pain, and the image suggests that violence against women is not only potentially pleasurable, but glamorous.
Funny that an industry whose products are marketed almost entirely to women is so insistent on selling them on the “glamour” of their oppressed state.