The New Pornographers

Posted: September 19, 2010 in Porn, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Move over Elle McPherson, there is a new ‘The Body’ in town, and it has got abs to die for.

I was never a massive Ronaldo aficianado. I knew he had a great physique, but there was something about his slightly puggish, prissy  face and lack of anything particularly  unique about his countenance that meant he never really turned me on. Until now. This new ad for Armani Jeans shows the footballer as the adonis he truly is. And he knows it.

The advert is interesting on a number of levels. As Mark  Simpson has pointed out, not only does it  play on the narcissism of the modern, gym-toned, fragrant, man, and our growing acceptance of the objectified male body in contemporary representations, but  it also features, on screen in the form of the watchful chambermaid,  the ‘female gaze’ . I think if Laura Mulvey saw this ad she might have a heart attack.

If the woman was not on-screen, the promo would be a noteworthy and sexy as hell example of the metrosexual revolution in action in contemporary capitalism: Men’s bodies being used to woo customers, male and female and everything else, and ultimately sell product. Top-ranking buffed footballers are products, just as much if not more so than the classic supermodels of the 1980s and 1990s. 

But here in the form of this svelte and foxy maid comes a more subversive addition to the melting-pot of our visual pleasure. At points in the film (can you tell I have watched it a few times? ahem!) she is viewed by us, the audience, mainly in the background,  so as not to distract us from The Body. But then the point of view shifts and we see Ronaldo wandering round the hotel room, as if through her eyes. It is easy to remember countles ads featuring women stopping traffic, and men on building sites whistling at sexy chicks, but it is only recently that women have been shown on-screen to objectify and look at men with desire. The ones that spring to mind for me are the  ones set in offices where women workers enjoy the arrival of a hunky delivery boy. But I can’t think of another advert off-hand where it is a single woman who owns and occupies the ‘gaze’, especially not so surreptitiously.

The maid doesn’t hold the gaze for long though. She is also seen, sometimes via the camera’s gaze, and briefly through Ronaldo’s, as an object herself. The archetypal sexy but disposable maid figure, seen from behind, stretching to reach with a duster, or bending down, searching for that elusive t-shirt the footballer has lost. (Doesn’t he have anything else he can throw over his offending torso??).  It is a competition between the two for the role of the object of desire. A dance, a fight. Ronaldo’s tactic is sheer, physical force. Don’t you dare take your eyes off me, cries his perfect form. The woman is a little more subtle (as women, sometimes can be). She hides his t-shirt when she finds it, prolonging our torment by The Body. But this also gives her more time to become the object of his, of our desire. The fact that Ronaldo acts as if he has not even seen her, and at one point looks right through her, adds a kinky dimension to this scenario. The hardcore perverts amongst us can be forgiven for letting our imaginations wander to the point where he is actually deliberately treating her like an object, like the invisible, low-down, chambermaid that she is. And for finding that very hot.

The advert ends with Ronaldo still t-shirtless, but a blurred figure in the background, with the woman’s face framed in the foreground, as she leans, prone, over the sofa, waiting, looking like the cat that is about to get creamed.

I know I have interpreted this short jeans advert in my own, twisted vision, and have projected my own desires onto it. But in doing so I think I can make a valid point about ‘metrosexuality’ and objectification in our culture. No matter how much men become narcissistic, marketable objects of desire, women will never become ‘un-objectified’. So when an attractive woman and man appear on screen, there will be some kind of tussle for our attention. And in this tussle, something interesting happens, as we all grapple with our own position in relation to them. I was surprised here, to find myself drawn to the woman, even in the face of such a towering inferno as Ronaldo. Does this point to my latent ‘bisexuality’? Or does it relate to my ‘kinky’ side, seeing through her the potential for a ‘scene’?

I have been discussing this advert as if it were a piece of pornography, which, of course it is. This I find funny from a purely personal perspective, because when it comes to moving images, I really generally dislike pornos. The sight of people fucking, over and over and over again, and working out all the different combinations of where to put a dick in a hole, bores the tits off me. But the suggestion, the promise, the hope of a desire being fulfilled, shot in black and white to high production standards with beautiful models…now that turns me on.  Feminists lament this ‘pornification’ of our culture, where sex sells everything, and everything sells sex. But I find it interesting and even exciting to see the tropes and styles of pornography disseminating so successfully  into our mainstream culture. Maybe it is linked to the blurring of identities that the metrosexual inadvertently achieves, a breaking down of that false boundary between ‘porn’ and ‘art’, ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’. ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ sexualities. I know there lies at the heart of  all this fluidity, a bottom line, capitalist intent.  But the side-effects are what interests me. The margins have always been the centre of my world.

Apart from the obvious, commercialised, commidified narcissism being sold to us on a daily basis, there is another downside to this hyper-objectification of advertising and visual culture. Once again it is visible via the wonderfully obvious objections by feminists to our brave new world. Organisations such as OBJECT (Get it??) are ignoring the blatant flaunting of male sexuality by The Body (as stubbornly as Ronaldo refuses to acknowledge the maid) and insist that it is women who remain objectified by male-dominated commercial society.

Feminists talk of a ‘backlash’ against feminism, shown in part via the continued sexualised imagery we see of women in the media. It is possible to look at this situation the complete opposite way, and see contemporary puritanical feminism, as a backlash against the metrosexualising, and ‘democratising’ of sexualities in our fields of vision. The feminists want to keep women as objects, because that is what justifies their project and their cries of male oppression of women. Lobbying for restrictions on lap-dancing clubs, campaigning against the opening of ‘Hooters’ restaurants, attempting to ‘End Demand’ for prostitution, are all campaigns by feminists in the UK, which can be seen in the light of this ‘backlash redux’. I wouldn’t be surprised if feminists claimed the Armani advert was misogynist, and made it into some kind of rape fantasy of the maid by Ronaldo (oh, no, that is just me. Sorry!)

But it is in America that I think neo-conservative ideals and feminists join hands so scarily. Melissa McEwan , an influential  US based feminist activist with tendrils that scale the Atlantic, has written:

‘Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant’ .

This suggests that objectification of women’s bodies is a societal accomplishment that makes any negotiations between individual women and men over sex ‘irrelevant’. Women are already raped by the ‘male gaze’ so they can’t consent to sex. It is a 21st century version of the ‘heterosexual sex is rape’ argument of 1970s radical feminism. Laura Mulvey probably would have a heart attack if she heard that, too.

In America, and increasingly in the UK, there are growing numbers of campaigns against Street Harassment and sexual violence against women. The focus of these campaigns is to admonish men for catcalling women, for touching them in any social situation, and to prioritise and exaggerate the threat of rape by men of women. A friend of mine has linked these campaigns to the ‘social control’ of public space, via things like smoking bans in pubs, restaurants, and some streets in America. It brings to mind a very dystopian picture, whereby, if these anti-objectification feminists get their way, it could become illegal for men to even look at women in public. A policing of our desires taken to Orwellian, or probably Foucauldian extremes.

The irony, already noted a long time ago by Patrick Califia is that this kind of anti-objectification feminism just objectifies women to the point of idiocy. One anti sexual-violence campaign states that in a rape case, ‘the woman’s body is the crime scene’. Possibly one of the most de-humanising phrases I have come across in relation to women. We are presented as perpetual victims, caught in the omnipresent, violating male gaze, with no agency to either resist or enjoy that gaze, let alone to  have one of our own.

The problem Miss Marple is attempting to solve, is just what is the relationship between our opportunity to ogle Ronaldo’s gorgeous body in Armani ads, and this Nazification of attitudes towards the objectifying of women- from feminists, conservatives and the tabloid-driven media. The competition for status as object between Ronaldo and maidie in this piece of representation  is erotic, subtle. But it hints, as advertising tends to do, at a more sinister struggle, over how our desires and our ‘gaze’ can either be liberated or controlled in capitalist post-modernity.

Comments
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr. Matt Lodder and Dr. Matt Lodder, Nicolas Redfern. Nicolas Redfern said: RT @quietriot_girl: https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/the-new-pornographers/ New Post : The New Pornographers – Ronaldo, Armani, Objectification […]

  2. Mark says:

    Laura Mulvey might survive seeing the ad – but definitely not reading your rather splendid, brilliantly kinky analysis of it.

  3. Mark says:

    Oh, and you’re right about the ending. Ronaldo is reduced to a blurry part of her doggie-style fantasy – clearly all over her face. It’s her subjectivity that is directing the scene.

    Though ‘looking like the cat that is about to creamed’ is much better.

    • ‘The problem Miss Marple is attempting to solve, is just what is the relationship between our opportunity to ogle Ronaldo’s gorgeous body in Armani ads, and this Nazification of attitudes towards the objectifying of women- from feminists, conservatives and the tabloid-driven media. ‘ I am looking forward to hearing Miss Simpson’s take on this.

      • Mark says:

        Regarding the feminists who still get worked up over porn, to the point where they list the kind of practises that you can find in ‘straight’ porn in the Guardian like a charge sheet against the male sex – or like REALLY kinky porn – sometimes I suspect it’s about not wanting to let go of their sense of themselves and the female sex as better than men – who should always, always be ashamed of themselves for being such dirty dogs.

        It’s just another version of the ‘What Are Little Boys Made Of’? nursery rhyme.

  4. Kimboosan says:

    Great observations on this – more that I ever would have deconstructed!

    I thought your point about the maid being both the observer and an object herself was fascinating; and tbh, I think keys into one reason I enjoy gay porn so much. Call me shallow, but I like the fact that the heavy weight of m/f sexuality and gender roles simply isn’t there to deal with. There is of course the primal attraction of watching two guys go at it – hey, it’s hot! But I don’t get stressed by the role of the woman in such stories/pornos because *she’s not there*. Even when gender issues are brought up through tropes such as cross-dressing or boy/daddy or via the whole top/bottom debate, the fact remains that in m/m scenarios, the cultural “given” is that they start out as equals – that any surrender of power is negotiated at some level, and consensual. Even in this ad, for instance, the power dynamics are doubled: m/f, master/servant, and there was no prelims about it. In mainstream culture, it’s a “gimme”, if that makes sense?

    Ooo! I ramble! Anyway, on the point of male objectification, I think 2wave feminists would simply say it’s impossible: those who are socially dominant cannot be “reduced” to objectification, no matter how eroticized their bodies are. The fact that female objectification of the male body could possibly be *used* as an equalizer between the sexes is not a suggestion I think they would take to, no? ;>

  5. hmm says:

    Second wave feminists have never seen anything but the economics around a work of art/entertainment. They’re nearly totally blinkered to the product itself.

    Ad men have been way ahead of them all the while, because it’s their job and the desperation of paying the next big bill can be motivation to calculate a coherent strategy. But the ad men aren’t in the academies, so the 2nd wave persists in the academies despite being benign or invisible among the proletariat. (Not that I’m a marxist or anything).

    As a side note before I make my point: a possible strategy to defeat the more virulent and persistent feminazism of the isle of britannia would be to make the page3 babes and their ilk far more intelligent and outspoken and intellectual. If all they do is, once in a blue moon, trap keeley hazell in the camera headlights to blab brainlessly about being nice and recycling, though, it’s not going to be effective, as it hasn’t thus far.

    But, to the point:

    Haven’t you seen those 90s coca cola ads, 11 oclock at the office, the first one has the voyeur game being utterly reversed (the women aren’t merely not objectified, they be truly ugly nerds suffering corporate anomia) and subsequent ads reworking the twist on voyeurism unwittingly back to male on female, the scopophiliac ladies turned so ridiculously hot that, no matter how they lust for the boy, there’s no way ANYONE, het, gay, aesthete, could be anything but draw jopped by the hers and not the his?

    the original:

    lower quality version, but it tells you about the dude, if you’re into that sort of (male) babe stalking:

    the hot chicks remake (mostly undoing the ingenious of the original):

    like all good things, the experiment descended into self -parody and -indulgence, with all the fun fizzled into genteel silliness (so it brings a smile to your face, just not a big one):

    A 2007 homage that shows that you needn’t have any special eye for the ambiguity of straight/gay gaze among male subject/object/subjects. BECAUSE IT ISN”T EVEN AMBIGUOUS ! It’s ALL there is. I think just nobody wants to admit it:

    Don’t bother to check my crappy blog. But I started it and I feel obligated to link to it all the time now. Seriously, it’s crappy and it’s just a compulsion to link to it right now. The ‘nets.

    • brilliant links, hmm, thanks. I think they were the ads I was thinking of. I know what you mean- once you have a male subject/object the gaze is made ‘queer’ to a degree. But the gaze, in my view, is always open to being queer, because the people looking are a queer bunch. as slashfic has shown…

  6. thats funny kim because I find m/f porn much less stressful than M/f in real life!

    You are right about 2ndwavers (and some of what I think are a kind of zombie wave) being resistant to the potential equalising effect of men’s objectification. It is them clinging desperately onto their ‘oppression’, and in doing so, objectifying everyone in the process.

    • Kimboosan says:

      “It is them clinging desperately onto their ‘oppression’, and in doing so, objectifying everyone in the process.”

      OMG really REALLY well said. *hoards quote*

      • Thanks! There is a piece by Patrick , formerly Pat Califia on objectification I will look it out. Thanks for sticking with me and my writing through my crazy post-feminist time. Look forward to reading some kimboosanism too!

  7. I don’t know about gay men starting out as equals in sex, Kim. I am trying to find out about that too!

    • Kimboosan says:

      “I don’t know about gay men starting out as equals in sex…”

      Good point, it is not a given; but I think as a broad sweeping *waves hands around* cultural assumption, “men are sexual equals” is usually the default. Also, come to think of it, I think there would be a HUGE gulf between perceptions of equality vis a vis gay male vs. female, maybe? Such as, gay men might clue into power games between two men whereas a straight/bi woman would simply see “two men” as equals (without external promptings such as one of them being in drag or tied up, etc.). Hmmmmm…dunno.

      • I think Gay men have differences of power outside of sex and gender roles, e.g. class, ethnicity…

        and the whole ‘top/bottom’ roles are so ingrained in gay culture they bring with them existing assumptions about power… I am investigating this issue as I think it is under-researched. Though getting gay men to ‘fess up is a bit tricky!

  8. redpesto says:

    Kimboosan:

    “Ooo! I ramble! Anyway, on the point of male objectification, I think 2wave feminists would simply say it’s impossible: those who are socially dominant cannot be “reduced” to objectification, no matter how eroticized their bodies are”

    …which would mean they’d be stuck with the status quo forever (see also the ‘men cannot be sexually harassed’ canard, because all men are all-powerful all the time, and their phalluses can wreak havoc on entire planets, let alone a woman’s body) or – as QRG suggests – they have to eradicate ‘objectification’ itself as a matter of principle.

  9. redpesto says:

    PS – re. kimboosan: it also explains why it’s supposedly ‘easier’ to theorise female submissive/masochism than the male variety, because men ‘never’ occupy that role in ‘real life’ (even though BDSM does not simply mirror ‘real life’ in any case).

  10. i hated that rhyme at school. and there was one my mum would tell me: ‘there was a little girl, who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. and when she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid’. I thought she was trying to tell me something, which, she probably was.

  11. Amelia Jane says:

    Have you seen this? http://www.antipornmen.org/ T’was pretty recently set-up, but I think the guy who started it was a part of OBJECT. It’s a pretty weird read though, and seems to dehumanise people who appear in porn by assuming that they are being dehumanised by the whole process. ‘HOW COULD ANYONE POSSIBLY CONSENT TO HAVING SIX STRANGERS COME ON THEIR FACE?’ ‘I don’t know…why don’t you ask them?’ And then, like most anti-porn peoples, it removes sexual autonomy from the people taking part in the sex. ‘Oh, sorry I don’t respect you, I watch a lot of porn’ AND I’M A DOUCHE. Bah.
    Love your description of the film. I wish lust was a verb.

  12. Hi amelia, you can lust my description of the film!

    Yes I saw the anti-porn men, I have corresponded with the guy who runs it. I love the way they get very graphic about porn you’d think you can sense a certain excitement they feel around porn, even saying they hate it!

  13. you know what it is don’t you? It’s his goddamned shoulders. I can’t handle them. Especially from the back.

  14. Why is the ad ‘of course’ a piece of pornography? Please explain.

  15. well it is using sex to sell jeans, it aims to arouse and entice us in to the armani dream. porn uses sex to sell…sex. same process different product. Glad you like my blog! Thanks for showing me where my ascending colon is. I Love to learn…

  16. Tobias says:

    Your analysis of the clip is fascinating and enjoyable to read. Indeed your insights are more interesting and thought-provoking than the video itself.

    This Armani ad is not a seminal work. While I won’t deny that it’s still a pleasure to see the man as the subject of sexual objectification in an ad, it’s impossible to watch the Armani clip without thinking of the very similar Diet Coke ad that precedes it by some years. The sine qua non of this genre, though, has to be that iconic Levi’s commercial featuring Nick Kamen in a launderette – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u06rDf-kUt0 – which aside from featuring the reversed gaze and a gorgeous torso is also a simmering, sexy masterpiece in sharp editing. By comparison the Armani advert is overblown and repetitive – surprising in today’s 140-character world.

    I agree with that disclaimer of yours about projecting your own desires and interpreting the advert via your own twisted vision. In the final shot, the maid may look like “the cat that got the cream” (she has manufactured a situation that allows her to stare a little longer at Ronaldo’s rippling bod) but there’s nothing at all to indicate that she is “the cat that is about to get creamed”. In fact there’s disappointingly little illustration in the Armani ad of any power play between the characters and nothing to indicate that the maid is about to get metaphorically or literally “creamed” by Ronaldo.

    I would have liked to see even one shot making explicit the notion that Ronaldo might be treating the maid like an object – not least because the tabloids feature a constant stream of reports suggesting that many footballers do exactly that in hotel rooms across the world. Sadly the only expression the director has managed to tease out of Ronaldo (aside from the glistening one on his abdomen) is a constantly blank, Zoolander-esque “duh, where’s my t-shirt” face.

    If anyone involved had been courageous or interested enough to raise questions about the nature of power and status in the context of a hotel room, they might have cast a sexy Black or Hispanic model as the maid. But your examination of this is more profound than the advert itself. The last shot reveals all: this isn’t about power, it’s not about celebrity vs maid, it’s just a fantasy designed to remind guys (and their girlfriends) that if you buy Armani jeans, women will find you incredibly sexy. Even white maids who should really be modelling.

  17. Thanks Tobias. I prefer my version!

  18. Stoner With A Boner says:

    I’ve known for a long time that women like to look at men….

    They just don’t want to give up the “sugar, spice and everything nice” image.

    I do have real world experience of this. There is a clothing optional beach near me. Male voyeurs are often chased off, though female voyeurs aren’t.

    A lady approached me at a supermarket and mentioned she had seen me at said beach. I saw her around a few more times. One time, at a bar, she introduced me to her friend. She said something like “Remember him from the beach.”

    Her friend looked at her with a grin and stated, “How could I forget.” She then offered her hand for a handshake. I know that I had been observed…..

    • I am sure you had been observed, Stoner!

      You are right. Men voyeurs are chased off lots of places.

      Mark Simpson told me how a friend of his got kicked out of a swingers party, but not for looking at women, for looking at other men!

  19. […] am grateful to Armani for something: the way their adverts feature men and women has meant Mr Simpson’s sporno gaze […]

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