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Someone's Got a Dirty Mind:

A lot of advertising uses sexual appeals (not just nice-looking people, but something well beyond that). But it usually doesn't involve people fully dressed is snow gear:

Still, some people are up in arms, according to Consumerist:

A Target billboard depicting a woman spreadeagled over a Target logo with her vagina centered squarely on the bullseye has some parents and feminists all riled up. One of them, Amy from ShapingYouth.org, contacted Target to see if they realized, you know, that their ad had a woman's crotch centered on a bullseye.

Advice Goddess Amy Alkon has, I think, the better view: People dressed in snowgear who are in that position are usually making snow angels (or, in rare instances, doing a highly bowdlerized version of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man), not preparing for sex or showing off their vaginas.

Of course, we're all free to think that "when correctly viewed, everything is lewd," and titter at whatever we find titterable. But making a fuss about how vile these ads are says more about the fussmaker than about the ads.

This, of course, brings up this old chestnut:

A man goes to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist shows him an ink blot and asks him what he sees. "A man and a woman having sex," the patient says.

The psychiatrist shows him another ink blot. "That's a man and two women having sex," the patient says.

The psychiatrist shows him another ink blot. "That's two men and a woman having sex," the patient says.

The psychiatrist says, "I'm afraid you're excessively obsessed with sex."

"Me!?," says the patient. "You're the one who's showing me the dirty pictures!"

ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmmm.

Aren't femnazis always going on and on about the vagina?

What about the Vagina Monologues? Don't kids have to endure that nonsense?

So this is bad, but that other nonsense is good?
1.18.2008 2:10pm
Hoosier:
Re: "showing off their vaginas"

Rather hard to do, since vaginas are internal (prolapsing aside). But it /is/ shorthand for a woman's /external/ genitalia. How did that happen?
1.18.2008 2:11pm
AF -- other one:
I do not agree with you — the ad designer is not a dumb dumb and knows exactly what he is doing by using this imate. In fact, the double entendre is one of the most well-used tools in advertising — snow angel, or women inviting you for sex. Hopefully the boys think the latter, and the girls think the former, and both want to go to target.
1.18.2008 2:14pm
Chuck (mail):
Ahem....

Mouth - Throat

Vulva - Vagina

I hope that clears things up.
1.18.2008 2:16pm
Hoosier:
After a second look, it is clear that her genitals are actually right-of-dead-center, from her perspective. Target is clearly trying to make us think about her left hip.

But WHY?!
1.18.2008 2:17pm
dearieme:
It's a subliminal attempt to remind you of the anti-nuclear symnbol. Or it's what rude young men used to call "the target for tonight".
1.18.2008 2:18pm
Hoosier:
Chuck--

Well, OK then. Thanks for planting that thought in my head. I'll be leaving the office now and heading home to MrsHoosier . . .
1.18.2008 2:19pm
FantasiaWHT:
Mmmm, Snowbunny!
1.18.2008 2:22pm
Amy Alkon (mail) (www):
Their criticism is ridiculous for another reason: If anything, men will be criticized for "talking to a woman's breasts" --an area of great visual appeal -- but I have yet to hear any man be accused of directing his conversational attention to a woman's coochie.

In short: Men generally aren't that interested in vaginas until the point of entry.
1.18.2008 2:23pm
Amy Alkon (mail) (www):
And thanks for the link, Eugene!
1.18.2008 2:23pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Men generally aren't that interested in vaginas until the point of entry

You apparently don't know a damn thing about men.

As for the ad--apparently you don't know advertising either. I can't imagine a teenaged boy, or older, who will not get this not-so-subliminal message.
1.18.2008 2:28pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
As long as sex sells, the consumer has no right to complain about people using sex to sell things to them.
1.18.2008 2:35pm
ProctorOfAdmiralty:
In my opinion, they should get their minds out of the gutter...and if they don't, then just find it comical.

PoA
1.18.2008 2:36pm
Borat (mail):
Are these feminists the same ones calling Chris Matthews a sexist? Why can't the feminists just go away?
1.18.2008 2:37pm
gregh (mail):
J.F.Thomas,
I guess I don't know a damn thing about men either, and here I always thought of myself as one, and a manly-man sort of one at that. Now that I "get it", I guess I should stop hanging out at bars and spend spend more time at the Target if I want some nookie.
I have to agree with Eugene, only people with dirty minds to begin with see what you see.
1.18.2008 2:38pm
BostonGuy (mail):

Chuck--

Well, OK then. Thanks for planting that thought in my head. I'll be leaving the office now and heading home to MrsHoosier . . .


Well, he's actually observing (quite correctly, in fact), that the external genital organs of the female are properly known as the vulva, not the vagina. The battle over the appropriate usage, though, is, at least with respect to common speech, probably lost.
1.18.2008 2:41pm
anonymous coward for what should be obvious reasons:
I know I've had sex with a woman before in my life, but I've never had sex with a woman who was in that position. I mean, the geometry for coitus is just all wrong unless the male is well-endowed given the angle of her hips. Well, I mean, yeah, you could perform the deed but it wouldn't be very enjoyable for either participant.
1.18.2008 2:41pm
philo:
Sudden . . . irrisistible . . . urge . . . . to . . . shop . . .at . . . Target.
1.18.2008 2:50pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I guess I don't know a damn thing about men either

My comment was aimed more at Amy's comment that men don't care about the vagina (or, more properly as we have all learned today, the vulva) until the point of entry, rather than the ad itself.
1.18.2008 2:59pm
Lior:
Let's hear it for the supreme court: don't let them take it away.
1.18.2008 3:00pm
Mark Eckenwiler:
The word "Tarzhayzhay" comes to mind.
1.18.2008 3:00pm
gregh (mail):
J.F.THOMASS,
Sorry, I misunderstood. I do agree with her though, the areas we get aroused by looking at though are the butt, breasts and legs. No one stares at a woman's crotch.
1.18.2008 3:06pm
rarango (mail):
Is this internet a great thing, or what? If we are taking a poll, I don't happen see the sex symbolism in the ad--unless, of course, its operating on my subconscious.
1.18.2008 3:08pm
Guest101:
I tend to agree with J.F. Thomas. Amy-- the reasons men generally don't direct conversation to womens' "coochies" are that 1) the breasts are close enough to the eyes that we sometimes think (perhaps wrongly) we can get away with ogling them without getting caught, whereas the vaginal* region is so far removed that we'd have to carry out the conversation from a kneeling position for that to work effectively, which would be rather conspicuous; and 2) while cleavage is often left exposed and the form of the breasts can usually be discerned to some extent even when fully covered, the same is not at all true for a clothed vagina*; staring at that area when covered by pants or a skirt is not particularly stimulating.

* I'm going to adopt a descriptivist stance in this instance and say that, medical terminology notwithstanding, the term "vagina" is a generally accepted reference to the female reproductive complex in its entirety.
1.18.2008 3:10pm
A.S.:
People dressed in snowgear who are in that position are usually making snow angels

Well, sure. Except that people making snow angels are usually in the snow. I, for one, don't see any snow in this picture.
1.18.2008 3:14pm
wfjag:

No one stares at a woman's crotch.


gregh was obviously never a beer-goggled frat boy in college.
1.18.2008 3:20pm
Sean M:
I could tell you things about Peter Pan.

And the Wizard of Oz? There's a dirty old man!
1.18.2008 3:22pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
No one stares at a woman's crotch.

I have it on good authority (not that I would know this personally) that there are entire websites dedicated to pictures of just such things.
1.18.2008 3:37pm
gregh (mail):
Points taken. I meant that we are usually staring at the partially exposed, or tight-sweater defined areas, not a flat section of a woman's dress.
In college I could stare at their t*ts and throw up on the carpet with the best of them, thank you very much.
1.18.2008 3:45pm
WHOI Jacket:
Master Shake: All right, you see the homeless guy up there in the gridwork? Not him. It's above him.

Frylock: Nuh-uhhh... I don't see anything but wood. I mean, it's just woodgrain...

Master Shake: It's right in the butt of the gun. Lookit the butt of the gun.

Frylock: I'm lookin' at the butt of the gun. I don't see nothin' but the gun.

Master Shake: What the hell's the mat - hey! Yo! Choch! Show my dumb friend over here where Gee Whiz is, willya?

Homeless Man: [mumbling] Mehmhmhmhhmmmm... Gee Whiz... you Gee Whiz?

Master Shake: That's gr... yes, thank you! Okay! SHOW HIM. ON. THE. BILL. BOARD!

Homeless Man: [long pause] ME! ME GEE WHIZ!

Master Shake: Ohhhhhhoohohohhhhh... great. 'Nuther whackjob. Hey, Gee Whiz: can you FLY?

Homeless Man: [hysterical screaming] GIMMAHYAMUNNNAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!
[THUD]

Master Shake: [nonchalantly, as Frylock stares in horror] 'Kay, now that he's gone. Right where his head was, you gotta squint like...

Frylock: [deadpan] I'm outta here. This is bull.
1.18.2008 3:49pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I thought she looked like she was having fun, and then I thought that she looked like she was being smushed against that target by the wind (she's very flat-looking near her head, I think it might be the camera angle) and then I thought "this [controversy] is why there are some cultures that ban depictions of the human body."

Unfortunately, it took just as much "priming" via suggestion for me to see the "snow angel" as the... I don't even know what to call it. The pose seems totally unerotic to me, but I also don't "get" shoe/foot fetishes, so.

And, um, even after I was told it was a Target ad, I still managed to not see the logo until someone spelled it out on Amy Alkon's blog.

I'm not a visual learner, though. If only the designer could have put a thought bubble above the girl's head, explaining what was going on (and perhaps her desire to go to Target and buy, I don't know, snow gear.) This would solve both my problem and the problem experienced by the feminists in question.
1.18.2008 3:53pm
PLR:
This whole thing is ridiculous, but then again I'm a breast man.

Speaking of which, where did...

Oh, just forget it.
1.18.2008 4:07pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
I'd point out that sexualized double entendres are very common in advertising, except that this one doesn't seem subtle enough to qualify as a double entendre. Also there's no snow in the picture.
1.18.2008 4:28pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
No one stares at a woman's crotch.

I have it on good authority (not that I would know this personally) that there are entire websites dedicated to pictures of just such things.
I'm even told that men will pay good money to view the pictures on such websites.
1.18.2008 4:29pm
Dada Vinci (www):
It's a reference to Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man if she's centered on the target. If she's off-center, the reference loses all force. Should we castigate Da Vinci too?
1.18.2008 4:43pm
JBL:
So...would it be less offensive if she were wearing a burqa?
1.18.2008 4:50pm
theobromophile (www):
Maybe I'm a nerd, but I kept seeing Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, just with a happy-looking young woman and a Target sign instead of a circle. Then I looked again, and she is a slightly off-center Vitruvian Woman, on a circle a bit too big for her. Then I looked a third time and saw the snow angel. After time #4, I still couldn't see the sexual symbolisum

Maybe that's why I'm an engineer who isn't getting any.
1.18.2008 4:56pm
Hoosier:
JBL--You may be on to something. This may be meant as porn for al-Qaeda operatives living in Minnesota.
1.18.2008 4:56pm
Dave N (mail):
Should we castigate Da Vinci too?
Well yes and Michelangelo, too. After all, his David is not only nude, but publicly displayed.

As for this advertisement in question, I propose that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright give this ad some kind of an award and then we can spend 3 days debating whether Barack Obama should be required to repudiate it.
1.18.2008 5:06pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
It seems to me that we are not seeing the actual ad, but rather the ad photographed from below.
1.18.2008 5:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
It's times like these I thank God I'm gay.

Now, if the ad featured a man wearing Calvin Klein's....
1.18.2008 5:57pm
Waldensian (mail):

a generally accepted reference to the female reproductive complex in its entirety

I'm pretty sure Eisenhower warned us about this!!

As for this advertisement in question, I propose that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright give this ad some kind of an award and then we can spend 3 days debating whether Barack Obama should be required to repudiate it.

Awesome. Thread victory to Dave N.
1.18.2008 6:00pm
Smokey:
She sure does have a wide stance.
1.18.2008 6:38pm
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
No one stares at a woman's crotch.

Unless, of course, she's got a camel toe.

And there are web sites dedicated to those too!
1.18.2008 6:53pm
REPEAL 16-17 (mail):
[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the female reproductive complex.


Sounds about right to me. ;)
1.18.2008 7:12pm
Ted10 (mail):
My guess is this is an ad for women's clothes. Being a man, this doesn't make me want to go to Target and buy womens clothes. If it's supposed to be subliminally sexual it must be directed at women who like women. Don't know whether the market share justifies the advertising dollars...
1.18.2008 7:16pm
JustAnotherLALawyer (mail):
Jeez, my dad told me that "vulva" was a Swedish car, and "vagina" was the queen of England.
1.18.2008 8:03pm
theobromophile (www):

Jeez, my dad told me that "vulva" was a Swedish car

I will never think of my car - much less the act of getting into it and driving it - the same way again. Thanks, JustAnotherLALawyer. :p pppptttt
1.18.2008 8:18pm
Truth Seeker:
Jeez, my dad told me that "vulva" was a Swedish car

When I worked on a university newspaper we put fake ads in the classifieds like "WANTED 1972 Vulva, must have good body."
1.18.2008 9:26pm
straight-ish chick:
I don't think it takes much imagination to find the picture hot. Doesn't make me (consciously) want to shop at Target much. But she is kinda hot.
1.18.2008 9:32pm
galeH (mail):
I'm starting to worry that my previous notions about lawyers is wrong.

After reading your comments, you folks seem entirely normal to me.

Most distressing!

(Not a lawyer)
1.18.2008 11:00pm
Just a thought:
Here's my question:

Why are people getting riled up about this ad and not the hundreds of other ads by Target and other companies, depicting women in revealing clothing/swimsuits/lingerie which are clearly more sexually suggestive, "lewd", etc. than this ad? Shouldn't "Amy from ShapingYouth.org" worry about those ads first?
1.18.2008 11:52pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
Mouth - Throat

Vulva - Vagina

I hope that clears things up.




If I remember my anatomy from back in freshman year the raised bump we can discern through clothing is called the mons pubis or the mons veneris. Directly below the mons is the vulva and its double set of lips. It takes really tight clothing for those to be perceived.
1.19.2008 12:03am
fishbane (mail):
Being a man, this doesn't make me want to go to Target and buy womens clothes.


True - I think most men who want to buy women's clothes shop elsewhere.
1.19.2008 1:57pm
SenatorX (mail):
Best Target ad ever. Considering the attention it garnered I'm sure they got quite the bang for their advertising buck.
1.19.2008 4:00pm
Curious (mail):
Those who claim men harbor little interest in vulvar watching might reconsider after studying this video (very humorous, though risque--be warned).
1.19.2008 6:41pm
Cornellian (mail):
Should we castigate Da Vinci too?
Well yes and Michelangelo, too. After all, his David is not only nude, but publicly displayed.


Who can doubt that if Michelangelo sculpted "David" today, there'd be battalions of politicians attacking him for creating pornography, corrupting family values, disregarding tradition etc.?
1.20.2008 2:30am
Automatic Caution Door:
In short: Men generally aren't that interested in vaginas until the point of entry.

No offense, but that's one of the most clueless things I've read or heard in at least a couple of days.

Just trust me on this: Men are very, very, very interested in vaginas. At all times of day. While awake or asleep. Before "entry," during "entry" and after "entry."

Men are so fixated on crotches, in fact, they can't break the habit of stealing a glance even when it turns out there's no vagina involved, disappointingly.
1.20.2008 11:19am
theobromophile (www):

Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site.

(From the link.)

Wow. That is more than I ever needed to know.
1.20.2008 12:20pm
whit:
"1) the breasts are close enough to the eyes that we sometimes think (perhaps wrongly) we can get away with ogling them without getting caught, whereas the vaginal* region is so far removed that we'd have to carry out the conversation from a kneeling position for that to work effectively, which would be rather conspicuous; and "

there is a theory in biology/evolutionary psychology ...

that the whole reason women developed breasts around their mammary glands was as a visual stimulus to men to simulate buttocks cleavage, as man (woman) moved to upright stances.

the human breast is mostly composed of fatty tissue. that's what makes it look good, unless you live in california where silicone/saline is the primary ingredient.

animals on all fours (humans included) have as the primary visual stimulus - THE BUTT . upright women supposedly developed breasts to compensate and give a visual stimulus to men as to what lay below.

if you crop the cleavage area of the breasts and the buttocks cleavage and put them side by side, they look REMARKABLY similar. seriously.

same scientist peeps also get into the full red lips (enhanced by lipstick) as visual stimuli to represent vaginal lips - both getting redder and engorged with blood as sexual excitement arises.

etc. etc. etc
1.20.2008 1:53pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
How, or why, are we certain that the model is a woman?

From any indicators I can see, which are few, it might just as well be a young teenage boy with long hair.
1.20.2008 3:05pm
MikeS (mail):
Isn't this an add for crotchless snow pants?
1.20.2008 8:18pm
Hoosier:
Libertarian1, whit, et al.,

Gee, thanks.

I used to be able to read VC without getting horny.
1.20.2008 11:32pm
BU2L:
Just trust me on this: Men are very, very, very interested in vaginas.

One might even say that men are very, very, very deeply interested in vaginas.
1.22.2008 1:06am
Hoosier:
Some of us more deeply than others. (Rimshot)

But seriously, folks . . .
1.22.2008 3:29am