I recently “liked” Adriana Lima’s page in hopes of learning more about her everyday activities in the fashion world and as a fellow Latina. Today I clicked on her page and was surprised to see her timeline cover page that mimics a Dolce & Gabbana “gang rape” ad that was banned in 2007. The D&G ad portrayed a women with her wrists pinned down to the floor, surrounded by five men.
Even though Adriana Lima’s cover photo isn’t necessarily suggestive of “gang rape,” it is very sexually explicit and suggests women’s vulnerability as sex objects in a dominatrix, lesbian fantasy scene. Their facial expressions express everything, but happiness or joy. Adriana Lima has an androgynous look, and an animalistic stare suggestive of anger and lust.
It makes me sad that the fashion industry constantly puts female models in the position of the male gaze, which only makes real women doubt their beauty and sex appeal. Self-esteem and good mental health matter just as much as physical health. How can mainstream media continually provide venues for scenes of sexual violence against women? How can this happen especially when the visibility of sex slavery is increasing worldwide? Based on this, Western society is saying it’s “okay” to exploit women as a fantasy, and in real life because these are real-life successful models. At this rate, women are never going to be considered equal and truly respected in societies throughout the world, especially if female pioneers, like Adriana Lima, are taking pride in photography that connotes sexual exploitation.
During the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, the models are portrayed as “angels” and come off as innocent beauties modeling ‘high fashion’ lingerie to the beat of hip music. They command the attention of celebrities in the front row, and viewers at home with their energetic struts and flirty poses. In the last show, there was an emphasis on the “angels'” social media power and the major following they each have.
They are walking advertisements for Victoria’s Secret everywhere they go. Should Adriana’s cover page be “acceptable” because she carries the Victoria’s Secret brand image and is technically a “lingerie” model? I’m leaning towards a no… In Victoria’s Secret commercials, no men are shown with the female models, and from what I recall, there are no sex scenes among female models. The commercials come off as playful for the most part. I don’t know where the cover page ad was originally run, but it positions Adriana Lima as daring and sexually aggressive in a fantasy role. For regular, female VS lingerie customers, the cover page ad might make them feel uncomfortable by placing pressure on them to live out this fantasy for their male counterparts. For her male audience, the ad makes her more sexually appealing, and reduces her capability to be seen as more than just a sex object. Regular women can lose psychological power in their self-esteem, and men can gain confidence in obtaining a sexual fantasy since it is “O.K.ed” by mainstream society.
Adriana Lima is gorgeous and one of the few Latina models who are household names. She was very public about waiting to have sex until she was married, at age 27. As a leading fashion model, she has major social and cultural power, I would assume she would be capable of rising beyond roles that promote female vulnerability and weakness. Although some people might argue that female sexuality is liberating because women are free to do what they want, a lot of women are also forced and trapped into being sexual objects and promiscuous. Women are trafficked everywhere, they become victims of sexual abuse and are treated like disposable products rather than people. Sexual promiscuity shouldn’t be promoted when so many women are suffering physically and psychologically. Women continue to be regarded as second class citizens and the mainstream promotion of sexual exploitation only perpetuates this injustice.