Hypersexualization of Women in Food Ads

Nicole Mattox and Kayla Traversone

Women are constantly being oversexualized in many different types of advertisements ranging from clothing to cigarettes to even toothpaste. When we looked at this problem more intensely we realized one type of ad hypersexualizes women more often than most: food related ads. We thought we could elaborate on why this might be, seeing as food and sex are fairly unrelated and yet, there is an overwhelming amount of advertisements that put women in these hypersexualized positions while they’re eating. This can lead to deep issues in our culture. Women are represented as objects in food ads that are shown everywhere you look. This is perpetuating the problem of the hypersexualization of women by creating an association between food and women as sex symbols. Lisa Henderson said “we depend on learned symbolic systems.” In this case the learned symbol would be a woman as a symbol for sex. Looking at this symbol all the time forces the ideas they’re pushing into people’s subconscious. Gail Dines and Jean Humez express the importance “to understand better how they are encoding ideologies of gender, sexuality, race and class” into people’s minds in their article. These ads most likely targeted mostly towards men and an overwhelming majority of the advertisements we found were fast food burger ads, specifically Carl’s Jr. and Burger King. We will be addressing how these specific companies using women to target a bigger audience can be problematic for a wide variety of races, ages, and genders.

pear body shape

                                     This ad was a little different from the rest that we chose to discuss and analyze as this is an ad for bras as opposed to food. This makes the fact that they chose to use a food item to describe a woman’s body, much like the coke and Oh Sparkling Water ad, even more mind boggling and pointless. Women are always being compared to food when it comes to body shapes which could also be an explanation to why so many women are being sexualized using food. As we are constantly seeing these racey images of women seductively eating food, as well as comparing their bodies to food, we will start to see these things as synonymous. The phrase “this is no shape for a girl” is extremely problematic and exclusive. This implies that girls should be shaped a specific way and they are not attractive if they fall under the category “pear shaped.” Women have also been described as apple shaped which is also seen as unattractive. The most common “attractive” body shape that exists is an hourglass figure which does not implement food whatsoever, furthering this negative correlation between female sexualtity and food.  

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Blow one and Swallow

In this Burger King ad the main catch line is “Blow one and Swallow.” This is particularly interesting to us because it has nothing to do with what they’re advertising. They are advertising a seven inch sandwich meal but we have no idea where the “blow one” comes into play in this message. Behind the words there is a woman with her mouth parted slightly looking longingly at the sandwich in her hands. This is a very sexualized image of her paired with an overtly sexual saying. It promotes the idea that women crave a ‘“seven inch” man. This is a great example of how something as common as burger king can trigger the idea of women always wanting sex from men. Now whenever they think about this meal from burger king, they are inadvertently thinking of women in a hypersexualized position. The idea that women always want sex, even when they’re just eating a sandwich, is contributing to rape culture. This is an unhealthy idea to promote to young men, it makes women look like a passive object that is there for whenever and whatever men want them.

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Four inches

This is yet another advertisement that relies on sexual language to bring in their audience. Behind the text is another woman put in a sexual position holding a sandwich. This ad is interesting though because it gives unhealthy expectations for men and women. Women look at this ad and think about their own physical appearance compared to the girl on the picture. Meanwhile men are now being compared to a certain size that they have to be in order to be “Satisfying” for women. There is no reason for using this tactic to sell their “new value menu” other than to get people talking about it. People will look at this ad and the first reaction will probably be laughter, then they will most likely share it with their friends and it will continue on in that cycle. While everyone is seeing the sandwich, and the value menu it is promoting, they are also putting this image of women and what is socially acceptable into their heads. It is a subconscious promotion of an idealized version of both men and women.

Burger King gold collection

This was yet another ad featuring a burger and a seductive woman in order to gain consumers. This ad stood out to us for many reasons, the main one being that this is clearly not an American advertisement. It is another stereotype that American men are more obsessed with sex and the objectification of women than other ethnicities and races (probably why most of these ads are burgers seeing as burgers are an American food) because American culture is seen as not as respectable as we don’t have the same morals as other countries and cultures. However, this ad shows that women are being objectified in other cultures, as well, boasting that this viewpoint of women furthers to a global scale. The woman is also painted golden and is wearing gold underwear as a way to advertise for Burger King’s “Gold Collection” but also is a symbol of a tokenism as she can be seen as a trophy. This indicates to the audience that she is a prize to be won and does not deserve to be seen or respected as a human in any way. Lastly, Burger King is a fast food place, notorious for their kid’s meals and kid advertisements. This instills a negative ideology for any young boys that could potentially see this ad as they frequent places like Burger King.

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   Carls Jr. “Slutburger” ads

This specific ad is very concerning. It has absolutely no words on it anywhere, just a picture of two women dressed in almost nothing, holding burgers and staring each other down. This is an ad for Carls Jr. as part of their “Slutburger” advertisements. When you look at this picture the first thing you see is not even the burgers they are trying to promote. You notice two thin girls with basically no clothes on. They are giving each other aggressive looks which can also promote unhealthy competition between women. In today’s society women are constantly competing with other women based on looks, intelligence or even just for men’s attention and we are shown that women are supposed to compete with each other in this world. In reality women should be taught to lift up other women and this advertisement is doing exactly the opposite. Men who view this ad are also now thinking about women as objects again. In this advertisement they look like the thing that serves people food. That is not the way we want anyone to think about women, especially the young people that might come across this ad.

carls jr big breasts                                                           In this Advertisement, like many others we found, burgers have been proven to be a recurring theme when it comes to women being shown as sex objects as a way to sell their food. This could be due to the fact that gender stereotypes follow us everywhere, including to something as unrelated and random as our meals. Burgers are stereotypically seen a “man’s food” which is just as absurd as it sounds. This could explain the mass amounts of burger advertisements that feature women’s bodies or phrases like “everybody loves big breasts” as a way to appeal to a male, sex-focused audience as opposed to people who enjoy Carl’s Jr. burgers. The phrase alone is already problematic enough because of the way it normalizes the unanimous desire for bigger breasts. This demeans women that do not possess this feature and reduces the women who do. In my opinion, this just devalues the quality of their food and how confident they are in their product as they must rely on untasteful tricks to lure people in instead of relying on the taste and popularity.

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  Coke

This ad for Coke really stood out to us. There is no text on this picture other than the brand name over the silhouette of a woman taking off her clothes. There is no textual message here. The entire point is to associate a coca cola bottle with the shape of a woman’s body. This ad does not include all women though, it is using the “idealized” feminine shape to catch men’s attention. Now men are subconsciously thinking about women who look like this when they go to buy a coke. Advertisements like this are not helpful to anyone in our society. For men it validates the idea that it is okay to look at women as objects. Women who have a different body shape than the girl on the advertisement think less of themselves for not being this form of beautiful. Women who do look like the girl on the picture are now nothing more than a body to the people around them. Overall there is no need for this kind of sexualization for this ad to get it’s point across all it does is cause issues in society.  

OH ad not as guilty

This ad portrays a food item as a part of a woman’s body for the sake of increasing the number of consumers they achieve. When we really think about this and look closely at the deeper meaning, it’s clear that the ad is trying to be seductive by the way it says ‘not as guilty as it looks,’ but the specification for which gender’s body parts are being shown is all socially constructed. Nowhere in this image does it explicitly state that the peach is meant to be a females buttox or that the lemons are supposed to be female breasts. However, even though almost all humans have a buttox and nipples, we automatically view these body parts as female. This is the result of the overwhelming amount of ads of women sexualization being associated with food. Seeing women as inherently sexual has now become subconscious thought as men’s body parts are rarely shown to advertise anything, let alone used to advertise food or drinks using these body parts as a reference for sex.

“As human beings we cannot not make meaning, thought the meanings we make vary by era, group, and culture.”- Lisa Henderson

“Depend on learned symbolic systems, from sounds to alphabets, brushstrokes, or equations, for making sense of reality.”- Lisa Henderson

Henderson, L. (2011). Exploring the representation of women in advertising and assessing its influence on the female consumer.

“To understand better how they are encoding ideologies of gender, sexuality, race and class”- Gail Dines/ Jean Humez

Dines, G., Humez, J. M., Yousman, B., & Bindig, L. (2018). Gender, race, and class in media: A critical reader. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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