Late Night Thoughts, Marketing, Sexuality, Values

The Kama Sutra of Jeans Advertising is now out!

In the 1980s, a very young and slightly bare Brooke Shields teased TV audiences in commercials for Calvin Klein jeans: “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvin’s”, she asked, looking straight into the camera. “Nothing!”

That line set hearts to racing.

It also, James Sullivan writes in A Cultural History of an American Icon, “… pushed innuendo in advertising to the brink of soft porn.”

Fast forward more than 20 years. Today, Shields’ 1980s ads look quaint and almost innocent compared to the blatantly sexual advertising that’s become the norm for jeans.

For instance, in the spring-summer of 2006, Lee Jeans ran an ad campaign in Australia tellingly dubbed “Lolita”. The campaign outraged a number of watchdog groups there, but it passed muster with the Advertising Standards Board despite being on “the brink of soft porn”. The Board’s reasoning was pure rationalization:

According to the reports, the board held that the woman in [the] advertising is over 18, and is dressed up in a fashion that is prevalent or fashionable among young women for summer. Further, it ruled … that consumption of this style of lollipop is now frequent among young women.

Well, yes, but young women don’t so often loll around with their legs spread wide while giving fellatio to a lollipop and offering an appraising gaze to the viewer, unless they wish to suggest something more than merely how comfortable and stylish they feel in their jeans.

The ad taken from the campaign and shown here is actually the tamest of the bunch.

In the same year (2006) as Lee’s “Lolita” campaign, a Turkish jeans company launched an advertising campaign that could serve as a practical guide to sexual positions.

The images that follow are all from the Turkish campaign:





16 thoughts on “The Kama Sutra of Jeans Advertising is now out!”

  1. Well since no one else has said it… “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!”

    But seriously, those Turkish ads are pretty outlandish. There’s certainly a reason why both ad campaigns are outside the US.


  2. Paul:

    A propos webs05’s comment about things being outside the US, I just want to draw your attention to an interesting coinage by an American academic, Marty Kaplan, who is of the view that America is in a period of “Public Puritanism and Private Sinfulness”.

    Sounds about right to me. There was much debate on this issue on my blog some months ago too..


  3. Hi Webs! I’ve been thinking about the whole issue of whether children should be viewing such ads. And so far, I can’t make up my mind about it.

    On the one hand, I’m generally a bit worried about the sexualization of children, and the Lolita ad might or might not contribute to that. On the other hand, the ads do not seem to be targeted at adults, and in this case, I don’t really know what kind of influence such advertising has on kids.

    Hi Shefaly! “Public Puritanism and Private Sinfulness” seems to describe a very large block of the American people. Oddly enough, the two things go together — Puritanism and private sinfulness are born twins, aren’t they?


  4. I don’t have a problem with the Turkish ads. Looks consensual and grown up and its just sex for god’s sake. And it seems pretty stylized; I’ve seen much hotter ads for toothpaste. The Lolita campaign I do have a problem with but have a difficulty articulating why.


  5. Yeah. I agree with aos. The Turlish ads don’t feature sex that is degrading to women (the norm, these days, I find). In the end it’s all about the profits. I think it was Bernays, the PR guru, who right after world war 1 came up with the brilliant idea of associating consumer products with unconscious sexual impulses. It worked and it’s been downhill from there.


  6. I agree the Turkish ads are not degrading. That Lolita ad, on the other hand, does seem a wee bit degrading — to me at least.

    Ah, Bernays! He should be much better known. Few people have had such an influence as he has had.


  7. Paul:

    I think instinctively you and your reader are reacting to the Turkish ads featuring ‘adults’, and the Lolita ad featuring clearly ‘a young girl not quite past her teens’. It is a testament to our instincts that we feel badly about the latter. She is but a child and needs to be treated better than this objectification.


  8. On reflection, I suspect you’re quite right, Shefaly. I have nothing against teens expressing their sexuality, but that Lolita ad goes beyond that — it reduces her to an object. And for what? To sell jeans! Do you realize the photographer got paid US $200,000 for that creepy ad campaign?


  9. @ UR: I tend to have much the same reaction to advertising as you do. It’s one reason I gave my TV to charity some years ago and have never much missed it.

    @ KSP: Hi, and welcome to the blog! Turkish ads, no less!


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