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By Matt Lardner
“It’s a close game,” encourages the advertisement for Astroglide lubricant. “Go into overtime.” The smoky-eyed, scantily clad vixen certainly appears prepared to extend the game. Her sexualized pose, shirt draped to cover but accentuate her breasts, and lacy panties are certainly fit for the bedroom. But one thing seems out of place: the eye black. In comparing sexual conquest to an adversarial sport, Astroglide attempts to hook the young male demographic. But the extended metaphor comparing football to sex comes up well short of the goal line. The ad’s interpretation of sex as a competitive battle is forwarding backwards and outdated perceptions about intercourse.
The line, “It’s a close game,” could be interpreted in multiple ways. Of course, a close game refers to the imagined football clash that will take more time to climax and conclude. Sexually, it could be a nod to proximity; intimacy happens in close quarters, and many men see hooking up with women as nothing more than a game. A group of men, called Pick-up Artists or PUAs, believe there is a science to attracting women, and devote their lives to learning and developing methodology and techniques to get women to sleep with them. In the Internet-based communities, individual women are called HB# (Hot Bitch/Body preceding a rating of their appearance.) There are obvious quandaries associated with seeing pick-up as a game; many PUAs report desensitization and an inability to achieve emotional intimacy with women. While viewing seduction as a game makes approaching women more fun, it promotes sexism and misogynistic mores among its practitioners.
In football, the teams are competing against one another to win the game. In the box of text, Astroglide promises to “give you plenty of ways to finish off the game with a big win.” It’s dangerous to adopt this attitude when considering sex. Are there winners and losers in consensual intercourse? By redefining sexual initiation, we empower both sexes to enjoy carnal pleasure together. It’s not about the man “winning” against the women, and getting her to reluctantly consent by wearing down her resistance instead of stimulating her. Women should be seen as sexual teammates, not adversaries. If sex is a game, it’s a cooperative one, with two partners working together to maximize mutual pleasure.
The woman in the ad looks to be dressing rather than undressing, an assumption corroborated by the insinuation that the regular “game” is over at this point. If she’s finished with the act, why is it being encouraged for the man to continue it? This hints at pushing against the will of the female, and may be saying that it does not matter if the woman feels done or not as long as the man is still craving more. The foot-in-the-door theory is a philosophical idea that once a person has already agreed with a request, they are more likely to accept future requests, even if they are more extreme than the initial one. Even if the woman pictured isn’t interested in more sex, she will feel obligated to consent because she already has once. If both partners do not want overtime, then it’s fundamentally wrong for the man to coerce a partner into sex when they do not want it.
Too often, male-targeted media objectifies women, fetishizing them as voluptuous sex dolls, or even as warm cavities. Empowered women aren’t marketable. Even the tag line presented in the bottom right corner furthers a promiscuous agenda. “Be open to fun. Be open to Explore. Be open.” There’s nothing wrong with a woman having any amount of desired, protected sex, but there is something wrong with trying to goad women into it. When interpreted literally, the ad is saying that women should open their legs. The insinuation is that men would never need to be talked into sex, but that a woman needs to be reminded to explore their sexuality. This view of females as a dainty and sexually hesitant gender does little to forward the independence of the modern, liberated woman.
If the use of eye black is supposed to make the model seem tough and empowered, it lacks effectiveness. No matter what you are wearing on your face, using your beauty to hawk a sexual product isn’t exactly liberating for feminists looking for respect. Eye black could also be seen as a reference to spousal abuse, a homage to a time when the man was more or less allowed to assert his dominance over his wife with his fists. Either condoning domestic violence or a misguided overture of female empowerment; now that’s a double bind that’s tough to negotiate.
Astroglide’s ad gets female sexuality wrong in a way that’s damaging to both men and women. Men are being wired to battle for sex, an effort to wear down the girl and win the vaginal prize. With this attitude, some men look to unlock sex through gaming women, winning them like sex is a quest with a bounty reward delivered under the sheets. It also hurts woman’s liberation. Pushing men to continue when a woman isn’t eager creates a gray area defining consensual intercourse against coerced intercourse. It invalidates a woman’s ability to refuse sex. The use of eye black is subverted by the fetishized model as well as conjuring a stigma of historic relationship abuse. The advertisement tarnishes perceptions of both genders, and is a socially malicious threat towards equality and feminism.
Matt is a sophomore at Ohio University majoring in journalism. Follow him on Twitter @MattLardner or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image via Ebay