It’s 2020 and we’re still fighting for mainstream media to ditch slut-shaming. There are issues with commercialising queerness and feminism just to sell us capitalist-wrapped products rather than empowering ideas. However, in a cisheteropatriarchy it’s still refreshing to see adverts that are sex-positive! And I’m not saying that I’m a fan of sex-positive feminism that makes people a little bit uncomfortable… but I am, and I think some of these ads will do so.
ellaOne – My Morning After
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an advert for the morning after pill before, but certainly not one so sex-positive. The ad shows women and afab people with a diversity of skin colours and gender expressions waking up after a night of sex and making the choice to take the morning-after pill. In a world where every advert for a pregnancy test seems to include a couple delighted that the test is positive, it’s brilliant to see a piece of media that shows that you don’t have to be ready or want to have a child.
The advert normalises the idea of women or afab people having casual sex – some of them visit the pharmacy with partners, and some on their own. It also suggests that an accident with contraception is something that can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed of. It prioritises autonomy and the line “it’s my life, my rules, my morning after” makes me grin every time I hear it.
Scottish Government – Let’s call periods, periods.
We do now have a period emoji, but there’s still a huge stigma around periods. This advert shows Scottish people sharing synonyms for a period, to stress the importance of actually saying the word. They explicitly say in the ad that avoiding the word period suggests there’s something to be ashamed of, and we need to challenge that. While it’s depressingly true, it’s freeing to be able to admit that we hide tampons in our sleeves or pads in our pockets and are too embarrassed to even say the word period, let alone talk about it. We need to talk about it.
Additionally, the advert was just released just before the Scottish Government approved a plan to make menstrual products available free in public spaces such as community centres, pharmacies, and youth clubs. (Scotland has offered pads and tampons free of charge at schools and universities since 2018.)
Tango – “Head Massager”
The premise of this advert is a young woman walking into her bedroom to find her dad holding a sex toy. He asks her what it is, and while she pauses in panic the “Tanguru” appears – handing her a Tango and what she should tell her dad. I don’t love the invasion of privacy – that’s not something we want to normalise! – but it’s still awesome to see a young woman who is clearly exploring her sexuality and prioritising her pleasure. Even better, the toy also looks like it’s body-safe, and it’s a vibrator rather than a rabbit, dildo, or toy for penetration. Perfect for clitoral stimulation, and thus orgasms.
The young woman in the advert lies to her dad about what the sex toy is: “it’s a head massager, perfect for relaxing after a long day!” While she shouldn’t have to do this to escape shame, it’s still a really powerful advert. We need more women owning sex toys without stigma!
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