I have recently decided to change my cultural text for the essay I will be writing for my visual culture module. As stated in previous posts, I originally intended to examine the iPhone as my text, and planned to discuss whether or not smartphones have led to a rise in children accessing pornography and whether this has, in turn, led to a rise in violent sexual crimes, particularly amongst young people. As interesting as this subject is to me, I couldn’t help having a change of mind when I was watching TV earlier today.
Match.com is a popular dating website with many users. Its most recent ad campaign is based around the idea that if one doesn’t like their ‘imperfections’ – such as bad dance moves or a strange laugh – it doesn’t matter because someone out there will love them for it (all very sweet and nauseating). However, I have one major issue with the adverts – the representation of diversity within relationships is very narrow and clearly geared towards appealing to a male audience. For example, the majority of the adverts feature white, heterosexual couples in a pleasant setting like a bar or cooking class.
None of the adverts I have seen so far feature two gay men, and only one advert features a lesbian couple. This is an issue in itself, but it frustrates me even more that the lesbian couple are shown taking off their clothes and kissing. I have no problem with seeing two women kiss and be intimate, but to me Match.com appear to be deliberately sexualising lesbian relationships in a way that they don’t sexualise heterosexual relationships in the campaign.
On the one hand, I do think it’s very good that they have represented homosexual relationships in their advertising, and that they’ve been bold enough to show two women being sexually intimate, as I certainly think the media needs to be more open in showing gay couples and normalising it rather than perpetuating homophobic attitudes. But it seems to me that the advert is pointing at the couple, like a spotty teenage boy, and saying “look girl on girl action!”. This to me is the wrong attitude. Lesbian couples are heavily sexualised in the media and by many straight men around the world – it is common to hear boys talking about how “hot” they find depictions of lesbian sex, and I have witnessed male friends of mine staring, mesmerised and excited, at lesbian couples in public before. I also know for a fact that friends of mine in lesbian relationships get sick and tired of feeling objectified and watched by men when they try and show affection to their female partners. The fact is that not only should the adverts be celebrating unions between gay men and transgender people as well as heterosexuals and lesbians, but the way they depict said relationships also needs to change dramatically. Why they couldn’t show homosexual couples doing things such as drinking in a bar or cooking in the same way the adverts have done with straight couples is beyond me. I feel that the LGBT community is being horrendously misrepresented in the media and advertising, and it shows that we still have a lot of progress to be made.
John Berger’s theory of the male gaze is very applicable here. I see this advert as a classic case of women becoming objects for male pleasure – it’s as though the women involved aren’t real people with lives and emotions, but just a spectacle for men to look at and become aroused by. It makes me uncomfortable to think that people are getting some kind of sexual kick from watching two girls kiss rather than celebrating the love that the couple share. Match.com’s campaign really epitomises contemporary patriarchal culture; acting as though we are being progressive and representing diversity but ultimately manipulating it to cater to male ego and desire.