Agent Provocateur sexualising female athletes is not progress

British lingerie brand Agent Provocateur, known for its sexualising ad campaigns, has released a commercial featuring elite female athletes in lingerie. The ad includes gymnast Georgia-Mae Fenton, climber Sasha Digiulian, pole vaulter Alysha Newman and hurdler and sprinter Queen Harrison Claye.

The ad shows slow panning shots of the women’s g-string clad backsides, close ups of women’s bouncing breasts and bodies, as well as footage of the women competing, still wearing lingerie. 




Maddison Leach wrote on 9Honey

What Agent Provocateur delivered was a sexualised, jiggling, bare-buttocked fantasy of women in sport. I was disappointed, I was frustrated, but I really can't say I was surprised.

Set to what can be likened to a cringe-worthy 80s porn tune, "Oh Yeah" by Yello plays over close up shots of Fenton, Newman, Digiulian and Harrison Claye's bodies, the camera lingering on their bouncing breasts and flexing thighs. This ad didn't just pick up it's aesthetic from the 80s; it looks like it brought a few attitudes towards women back too.

The reality is Agent Provocateur's ad is just more of the same. It's pseudo-change, it's sexism and objectification under a thin layer of progress, and it's really disappointing.

Is this really the only way femininity and female sexuality can exist? As disembodied body parts bouncing in lingerie? The ad doesn't read as a celebration of the complex relationship between female athleticism and sexuality, it reads as soft porn with a sport B-plot.

 Sexploitation of women in sport

While the harms of sexualising and objectifying women are well-documented, sexualising female athletes may have specific negative impacts for women in sport. A paper published on Aussport examines this sexploitation of female athletes, a term to describe marketing and promotion that focus on the sexual attributes of female athletes.

From the report

The female body is used to sell many products in our society, from cars to washing powder. In certain forms of promotion through sport, the female athlete is also being treated as a commodity - in this case, an overtly sexualised one.

This type of promotion is held to be a form of exploitation. And, as is common with exploitation, it can have various negative effects, both on the individual athlete and the sport as a whole. It is therefore crucial that athletes and sports understand the possible ramifications of using sex to promote women’s sport. They need to ask the key questions, ‘what are we actually promoting and what are we really trying to achieve?’

Sexploitation of female athletes negatively impacts women’s sports in a range of ways. It determines the value of female athletes primarily in terms of their body type and attractiveness, and detracts from their sporting abilities. Intentionally sexualising female athletes harms their credibility, reinforces gender stereotyping, excludes women who do not fit the ‘appropriate’ body type, and undermines the credibility of female athletes and women’s sport as a whole.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this same treatment would be extended to male athletes. The idea of an ad depicting sportsmen in their undies, with lingering camera shots on their g-string clad backsides, is laughable. So why is this sexualising and demeaning treatment of women still tolerated?

See also:

Sexploitation of women in sport- Aussport

Roxy's new campaign promotes women's strength, not sex appeal- Collective Shout

'We got it wrong' - Women's Health Mag apologises for semi-naked painted models at sports awards- Collective Shout

The Lingerie Football League - lets not pretend it's about sport- Collective Shout 




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