CODEBREAKING: Is this mother-daughter lingerie ad too sexy? Too gay?

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

This lingerie ad depicting a real life mother and daughter is upsetting people, and the reasons are broadly: it looks gay; the mom is ugly/old/I don’t want to see that. So the ad worked.

If you follow the ordinary steps of deconstruction you arrive at an unsettling conclusion.

In Victoria’s Secret lingerie ads, the sex is obvious, but what’s missing? There are no men. So the ad viewer is the “man.” The models are “speaking” to the men. (Women would see it as “this is what a man likes.”)

In this ad, there aren’t two women, there is a mother and daughter, explicitly. So what’s missing? Dad. So you’re not the man, you’re the Dad (which is why this isn’t perceived as a sexy ad.)

What is Dad seeing? He’s seeing his worst fears playing out. His mortality and uselessness.

He married the mom when she looked like the daughter and acted like the daughter; and now she’s older (and so is he), on the way out, nothing to see here, but he also now has to navigate the tricky business of his daughter’s sexuality. Being naughty in the bedroom was okay for his wife when she was young, why isn’t it okay for his daughter? The evasive answer most men ultimately give is “well, I just don’t want it in my house.” This ad forces you to confront it.

Dad’s archetypal job is to protect his daughter’s sexuality, including from herself, yet here we have the mom bypassing all that and teaching the daughter skills to get penetrated.

That’s the implication that causes the anxiety, which people are misperceiving as “gay.” What’s disquieting about it (to the male eye): shouldn’t the mom be trying to protect the daughter, not encourage her? It’s the same “cringe” feeling regularly featured on The Kardashians when the mom encourages her daughters to be sexier, which there is misperceived as “she just wishes she was young, too.” True, but that wouldn’t make you cringe.

You may not like Freud but advertising still relies on him.: Mom is supposed to be ego, daughter Id, and dad Superego. But this ad shows there is no Dad, and mom (Ego) is joining forces with Id.

This is America’s sticking point. Sexual objectification of women is a commercialized, commodified, streamlined process, the extent of which no one really notices until they’re on the outside of it: unattractive, older, or when we get daughters.

The ad says states an uncomfortable truth: women of all ages aren’t in need of male “superego” control of their sexualities. The last archetypal place men had “purpose”– protection of their daughters’ sexuality– and mom is saying, you know what? She’s better off without all that. I had it and all it did for me was cause me to miss out on a decade of my sexuality.

Women in the market for the kind of lingerie pictured there will agree with this assertion. The question for everyone else is whether they do.

Related posts:

  1. Tide Knows Dad Better Than He Knows Himself
  2. Mom is super embarrassing, or worse
  3. Budweiser ad is both gay and not-gay, and not about either.
  4. Codebreaking: Asian Kids Raised By White Parents Party Too Much
  5. What are the tabloids for?

23 Responses to CODEBREAKING: Is this mother-daughter lingerie ad too sexy? Too gay?

  1. AndrewSshi says:

    Alone seems to have been slipping in quality recently (the counter-intuitive stuff was starting to get formulaic) , but a lot of times he absolutely hits it out of the park.

  2. mmwm says:

    Seriously? The mother looks great — what a body. The problem for me is that both of the women look dead, the daughter because she’s ashen, drained of blood, and the mother because of the object-like way she is posed, like a plank of wood.

  3. qubitman says:

    I see the mother as a victim. The world did this to her, and she is trying to protect her daughter from this. I hear a woman telling me “this is your fault, you wanted this and so here it is”. I feel ashamed of myself. I believe what the image is implying. Media will give you what you want, and I want to feel like I’m the problem.

  4. Madison says:

    Could it be that the ad seems to violate ‘natural’ laws of attraction as coded into a circle of life: Mother gets older, should move aside/into the background as the young daughter moves to the front to take her place? In this ad Mother is clearly the more attractive one/ very secure in her sexuality/body; her daughter is awkward…her body language/choice of lingerie suggests to male viewers ‘I am not ready yet’.

    I agree w/Alone that the ad is targeting women, esp. older ones. It seems to say “Buy this lingerie to show the young ones who it is done. Embrace your inner Mrs Robinson/Demi Moore”.

    • operator says:

      It seems to say “Buy this lingerie to show the young ones who it is done. Embrace your inner Mrs Robinson/Demi Moore”.

      … that, and “have another Quaalude”, from the look of it.

      • Madison says:

        BTW, correction: who it is done = how it is done…
        Imagine Pussycat Dolls twenty years from now…advertising La Perla for AARP crowd.
        I agree that. The lingerie should come w/ some ‘gift/w purchase’
        Quaalude for the mother, roofie for the the campaign would be really pushing the envelope ( and that is almost always great for the agency, not for the brand).

  5. Guy Fox says:

    So what’s missing? Dad.

    In two of the four photos I’ve seen from the campaign (did you just get an excuse to check out chicks in lingerie? anything in the name of Truth, right?), there is comically incongruous vegetable matter off to the side. In one it’s a comically phallic cactus, and in the other it’s a pile of logs, seriously. The photo Alone’s included here is the log photo, but it’s been cropped, so the logs aren’t there just for reasons of composition or symmetry or whatever. The photographer/advertiser wanted them there. It could be that the father is in the picture, but he spends so much time in his man cave/at the office/surfing for porn that he has all the presence of a pile of logs/a cactus. This doesn’t contradict the reading that the campaign is for the moms; if anything, it reinforces it. But the dad might be there – in all of his vegetative and prickly phallic grandeur.

  6. JohnJ says:

    I think you’re reading too much into this. As a Freud impersonator once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But when all you have is Freudian analysis, everything looks like repressed sexuality.

    More seriously, I’ve seen this photo shoot mentioned a couple of times, but always in the context of “is this outrageous?” or “why are people outraged by this?” I’ve seen no one actually outraged by it, which makes me think it’s just a manufactured controversy to get more attention.

  7. vandal says:

    Really? All I saw looking at the ad is “look at this; this is different, edgy, not degrading of women, to be understand after analyzing like an art piece. don’t you wanna have intricate sex like this you sexy, kinky liberal art student?”

    But then I’m not a liberal art student that would buy lingerie.

    Something about higher class fashion ads. They make the models and such pose and act in ways that are always exactly what would never happen in a regular fashion (or any mainstream) ad. That always seems to be the ad, “we’re confusing and controversial in a subtle yet odd way, you’d have to deeply understand Freud if you were to get the deepness of this ad, and therefore you should want this if you have taste”.

  8. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    Advertisement is intended to appeal to older women. The mother is sexy in a demi moore-esque cougar/milf sort of way. I am confused as to why TLP describes her as old/unattractive/unsexy, I suspect most men would disagree (but then again, many men are inherently pedophilic, purely interested in child-like beings such as the naive and awkward 15 yr old in the background, so maybe I’m the one who’s wrong).

    The viewer of the ad walks away with the message that experience, maturity, and sexual confidence is just as attractive, if not moreso, than youth. This feel good message is the sort that inspires 40 yr old women to plunk down a pocket of change for lingerie. The way the mother and daughter have their bodies crossed and juxtaposed, suggests they are polar opposites but equally enticing, if anything the mother’s presentation suggests she is the more appealing of the two. Youth and experience are presented side by side, in the way a blonde and a brunette are positioned on either side of a guy in a beer commercial. Different but equally sexy and alluring… and the factor of of novelty and variety amps up the sexiness exponentially. This is why advertising featuring sexualized women will always feature novelty and variety – it’s rarely one women, it’s usually multiple women with different hair colors or complexions or what not.

    What this advertisement has done is turn age into another form of sexual variety, like a blonde and a redhead positioned side by side, we have a naive virginal 15 yr old positioned next to a sexually confident milf, with the suggestion being that the milf is superior in desirability.

    Of course, no one IRL believes this, men certainly don’t and clearly value youth above anything else, therefore I can only assume the advertisement is intended to appeal to older women, to make them feel sexy and to buy the clothing.

  9. operator says:

    … many men are inherently pedophilic … such as the naive and awkward 15 yr old …

    Did you mean ephebophiles?

    … no one IRL believes this, men certainly don’t and clearly value youth above anything else …

    Meanwhile, in the reality which informed people occupy, the number of men who commit statutory rape to cheat on their wives is surprisingly low. Weird.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      hi there, how’s stalking me coming along?

      • operator says:

        hi there, how’s stalking me coming along?

        Stalking usually involves some level of motivation – sorry, not interested.

        Just like debunking bunk.

    • Sfon says:

      “Meanwhile, in the reality which informed people occupy, the number of men who commit statutory rape to cheat on their wives is surprisingly low. Weird.”
      To say most men value youth more than everything else combined would be completely silly, but that doesn’t rule out that it is a bit more valued than any other single quality.

      I suspect the most important single quality would be good personal history/bonding with someone regardless of gender. Images are shallow, though, so shallow qualities take preference in them.

  10. Madison says:

    or perhaps it shows the mother’s desperation; she has to show quite a bit of the skin to be considered attractive. The daughter seems to look straight into a viewer’s eyes and say “My biggest asset is my youth..I do not NEED to flaunt ‘it’ to be attractive. I AM sexy by the virtue of my youth.”

    message to older women: you need our (lingerie company’s) help to compete in the meat market. And make no mistake there is NO sisterhood of women, but a constant internal (as in , to paraphrase that ) struggle on which bitch is really rules the pack

    • Guy Fox says:

      That’s actually pretty plausible. The young have the unfair advantage of their youthful beauty, and old have the unfair advantage of the power they’ve been able to accumulate over a longer duration. And it often seems to be the case that each cohort desires just that quality in the other. Perhaps because it’s just what they can’t credibly have themselves (e.g. nobody takes Cher’s ‘beauty’ seriously, and nobody takes Paris Hilton’s ‘power’ seriously). Silvio and Ruby are a fantastic example of that.

  11. Madison says:

    please excuse yet another correction …
    Last paragraph should read
    “…there is no sisterhood, but there is a constant internal (as to paragraph the infamous Nature article (link above) struggle within WOMANLAND) to decide which bitch really rules the pack.
    Hope at some point Alone could dissect that Nature article and especially the comments.

  12. sdfijoidsj says:

    “Is this mother-daughter lingerie ad too sexy? Too gay?”
    I see no one commented on the “too gay” part of the title. Is TLP insinuating that gay men hate women?

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      He was implying that the two women were presented as lesbians, so the ad would be “too gay”.

      No one commented on it, because it’s obviously not too gay. Straight women who behave gay are okay and do not inspire controversy, as the presumption is made that femme lesbians are really heterosexual women trying to excite men. Therefore, seeing two girls kiss for a moment (e.g. britrney spears/madonna) does not upset anyone as it actually isn’t gay at all, such behavior is done in the service of male sexuality.

  13. Minerva says:

    Dammit doc, how do you know these things only a woman could know, how?!

  14. bbrodriquez says:

    Because we all think we’re more of an individual than we actually are? :-> It’s like the same trick psychics and astrologers and other “cold readers” use?

  15. morerap says:

    What makes me cringe about it is that it looks like she just fucked her daughter. Fairly simple, few layers.