When Durex Stopped Making Sex Sexy



Durex UK posted this on their Facebook page on Wednesday, with the caption “Poor woman...(or maybe lucky one)?”

Maybe I’ve had a complete sense of humour failure, rendering me with a complete inability to see a picture of an injured women with plasters on her face as anything but a woman who’s high on her luck that week. I was under the misapprehension that half of the fun of sex lies in the woman also having a good time. This advert doesn’t show a woman having a good time, it shows her injured, a victim of PR sexual depravity. The whole advert is just another step towards normalising sexual violence against women. Durex should have stopped their caption at ‘Poor woman.’

The World Health Organisation defines sexual violence as including “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object.” This advert glorifies sexual violence and helps create an unhealthy stereotype of women as sexual objects. A simple google search for ‘sexual violence against women’ leads you to endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk which cites a poll by Amnesty in 2005 which revealed that a third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped and a quarter of those asked said that they thought a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing. This fusion of sex and violence isn’t just taking place in Darfur, its also present in huge multinational companies like Durex who posted this on a Facebook page with 167,301 likes. 

The marketing of dangerous activities can have a reinforcing effect when presented in such a ‘light-humoured’ way; it’s part of an emerging culture where manhood is synonymous with power and control over women - that isn’t necessarily a new concept but the format its taking is. It’s hilarious banter lolz when True Lad post jokes about rape and New Look sell misogynist T-shirts demeaning women to permanently sexually available things that are always up for it, and hey! Even if they’re not, they might be secretly, just try it! Really it’s a farcical parody of masculinity, but apparently this isn’t clear to a company that acknowledges on its Facebook page that “sex plays a fundamental role in our physical and emotional wellbeing.” 

Durex is promoting an ideology of women that is only seen in the most gory porn - one where the man achieves his sexual gratification by leaving the women with injuries at the end of it. The injuries sustained here are covered by plasters, perhaps Durex realised that it wouldn’t be acceptable to show a woman with open wounds at the side of her mouth, perhaps it’s not ‘sexy.’ However, it felt it was acceptable to show the wounds covered up and hidden, akin to a woman wearing sunglasses to hide the black eye she’s received.
The cut-off of the rest of the face removes any emotion, she has stopped being a person and become a sexual receptacle, for which she’s supposed to be grateful. His penis was SO HUGE that it caused injury, what a lucky lady! Banter lolz flooded the Facebook page, with many comments praising Durex for posting the image.

It’s unclear where the line becomes crossed in releasing adverts, or indeed if there is a line at all, when looking at adverts such as this. Does the faceless woman have to be shown with bruising or teeth knocked out before the advertisers would consider it to be glorifying violence against women and unsuitable? “Poor woman...(or maybe lucky one)?” reiterates this point, this woman has been sexually assaulted and her mouth has torn open, but she should really be grateful for his large penis. 

The advert plagues me with greater concerns than the consideration of whether to have a shag in the near future. My biggest concern is that I live in a society where women aren’t being treated as human beings, rather they’re sexual playthings, becoming victims by their presence of XX chromosomes and tits. I’m unaware of the memo that went out endorsing sexual violence as an advertising tool but Durex hit the spot with this advert.

-RF (Post originally appeared on her personal blog, here

You can read more about violence against women being used in advertisements and fashion editorial in the Vagenda's most recent New Statesman column.