I’m deeply disturbed by a television commercial I saw. The spot opens with a man sitting on a double bed. He’s handsome, even features, a bit rugged, fully clothed. Enter his wife/girlfriend. She’s blonde, blue-eyed, wearing a robe. She speaks in a voice simultaneously childlike and seductive, “Do you think I’m pretty?” From a feminist perspective, not a good start. But more disturbing, in fact chilling: she’s a puppet manipulated by strings.
She sheds her robe, and underneath is red lingerie trimmed in black lace. She has a weirdly thin body, with absolutely no fat content. She asks for her man’s approval as she shows him several positions she can get into, by manipulation of the strings. She’s a sexual marionette.
And no, I was not watching a porn channel. I was with my 17-year-old daughter, lounging in our family room, watching the Food Network. And no, the commercial was not for edible underwear or lick-it-off-your-body chocolate sauce; it was for Direct TV.
A while ago, Time Magazine’s cover story took on the issue of rape on college campuses. The article stated that 20% of female students are being sexually assaulted during their college years. Clearly, a problem of this magnitude does not begin on campus. The stage has been set, and a dangerous mindset is deeply engrained in our cultural values. If a commercial on a major network – viewed by children, adolescents and adults — casually portrays a woman as a sexual puppet, the groundwork for rape is in place.
Nobody of any gender should be viewed as another person’s marionette. Nobody should be treated as a sexual toy. As long as anyone can be viewed as a sexualized doll attached to strings, we are accepting a culturally endorsed value of sexual objectification. This is the foundation for sexual assault – one person in a position of power, forcing another person to be a sexual marionette.
It’s time to cut the strings.