DUREX’S TWISTED CONSTRUCTION OF PLEASURE:
Corporations have been called the new power nations of the world. They dominate our lives, using marketing strategies such as emotional manipulation to further their product and political agendas. This is done through establishing a focus consumer group and targeting their advertising campaign to appeal to consumers interests, needs, and insecurities. In essence, corporations tell us what we are missing, what we need, what we want, and then manipulate us into believe their products are the answers to all of these questions.
Along with telling consumers all of these things, advertisements inherently reproduce standard societal beliefs and constructs. Durex’s flavored condoms advertising campaign works upon a very heteronormative, ableist, and stereotypical gender role based exercise of sex, which essentially marginalizes those that do not fit this naturalized image of what ‘sex truly is.’
This is not a judgment of condom usage or sexual activities, because I strongly believe that naturalizing and accepting the fact that humans are often sexual beings is the first step in safe sex practices. Advertising for condoms, birth control, and other forms of contraception provide important information while motivating teens and other sexually active people to ask professionals questions and talk openly about sex. But within the Western world we live in, gender is now being understood as a construct, not a rule. Sexuality does not exist within two binary categories, and we are finally recognizing a multitude of abilities. Advertising needs to start reflecting the changes that are occurring in society.
While I don’t believe that advertising safe sexual practices is wrong, the subtext within the message that this Durex ad is giving to all viewers is inherently wrong. Men are not all sex-crazed individuals that think with their penises, women are not submissive, docile or ‘dainty,’ and furthermore people exist outside these two gender binaries. Sex does not primarily occur between men and women, and there are needs for condoms in relationship that are not heterosexual. This is something that could easily and should be advertised within Western society. Finally, sex is not just for those that are typically physically able. Sex occurs in a variety of ways, by many people with disabilities, which is completely disregarded in this advertisement.
WHO DOES DUREX THINK IS HAVING SEX?
As stated previously, corporate culture exists through manipulation and playing with consumers’ insecurities. Corporations do hold a magnitude of power through political connections, wealth, and a broken capitalist system. We are all caught up in a dangerous system of corporate entanglement, whether we are aware or not. But being aware of the perpetuation of naturalized binaries, systemized racism, and disability ignorance or shaming within corporate advertising is demoralizing and makes trying to create progress in society seem like a hopeless act. It forces a conscious and critical brain to ask, what do we do in the face of all of this? The answer is counter-culture. While advertising is powerful, so is counter-culture. It forces consumers to stop and reassess the message that they are being fed, hopefully attacking hegemonic discourses and assumptions surrounding heteronormativity, concrete gender binaries and roles, ableism, and racial inequalities.
Therefore, this culture jam attempted to play with the meanings and assumptions that the original advertisement made about consumers and a white, heteronormative, ableist society by pointing out in plain text the true message that this advertisement was conveying. Primarily, working on Durex’s flavored condom ad’s was a chance to subvert the dominant corporate culture of heteronormativity and ableism, which were prominent themes within the commercial. The jammed ad replaces the original words with an honest, outright understanding of what the advertisement is telling consumers. In place of the Durex condom, the word ‘heteronormativity’ stands, as this was a primary message that the original advertisement
Another key issue within the advertisement was the concrete gender roles that it portrayed, which were frankly stereotypical and offensive. Just through colour choices, the male was portrayed with blue and the female with red, and both characters were diminished to conventional gender beliefs. While the male was portrayed to be a brainless being who only thought with his penis, the female was full of words such as ‘satisfied’ and ‘dainty.’ Filling the female body with crude words such as ‘thing’, ‘vagina’, and ‘value’, worked to explicitly address the original advertisements message of women as objects within society. These types of messages are just as damaging for men and women, and even more damaging for those that do not identify with either category.
Finally, I felt it was important to address the emphasis on performance that the original ad conveys. This applies to pressures society places upon women to be sexual playthings and men to be dominant and always interested in sex, but more importantly on the ableist culture of advertising. Not only do the presence of advertising campaigns such as Durex’s flavored condom alienate and marginalize those that exist outside standard gender norms and abled lives, but they further highlight the absence of products, campaigns, or societal acceptance and celebration of those that do not conform to these naturalized binaries.
Hopefully, through the jamming of this advertisement I’ve brought attention to the alienation and demeaning aspects of heteronormative, ableist consumer culture. While it is important to address the visibility of certain groups of people and certain types of sex which is deemed more authentic, it is important to also consider who is excluded or invisible.
The original advertisement is clearly made through the lens of a white, hegemonic view of masculinity and femininity and the sexuality that this same lens assumes should correspond. By deconstructing the original advertisement and building it back up through a recognition of an intersection of injustices and assumptions, I hoped to invoke a more critical eye of the imbalances that exist between corporate culture and real modern Western society. It is important to state that while advertising makes ignorant assumptions, it is the lack of a critical eye from consumers and intolerance of differences within society that allows these advertisements to be successful.