Boo or hoorah? BOO OR HOORAH?!

5 Sep

Today, I saw a tumblr post reporting the emergence of an advert for K-Y Intense featuring a couple consisting of women, which is due to be first aired today:

On the one hand, I think it’s really rad that, as the original Jezebel post says, a couple consisting of women is being represented for reasons other than the fact that they are a couple consisting of women (obviously I have a bit of beef with the Jezebel post for presuming – and the Deviant Femme post for not questioning the presumption – that they identify as lesbians but, since this niggle isn’t to do with the advert itself, I’ll leave it to one side for now.) The idea of living in a media culture in which more positive depictions of non-heteronormative couples (or groupings) are more frequent is a very pleasant one, and I would really like to think that this advert might pave the way for that kind of environment: I have, after all, never seen an advert involving a couple consisting of women before.

That said, I have a fair few questions and issues with this representation. Following a Facebook comment from a friend of mine, I’ve been thinking about how it is going to be appearing on television (I presume that it will be appearing on television since it has an airing date). How many channels will it be appearing on, and which channels will include it in their advertising breaks? Which programmes will it be shown next to? Is it aimed at an audience of queers/queer women/queer people who have connections with the labels ‘woman’ or ‘female’ (which seems odd since it’s such a comparatively small group and no company ever seems to have done this before), or is it also hoped to function as a tool for promoting further inclusiveness and tolerance (which seems wildly unlikely, although that might just be because I am very cynical about business)? Will it have to adhere to a watershed? I wish I had the means I could find this stuff out myself, although bloggers in a position to might yield this information in time. The answers to these questions make quite a big difference to how positive I feel this advert is, or can be – that it would be on television is, obviously, awesome, but there are lots of degrees of awesome and I don’t want to feel like it’s making-out-with-Lady-Gaga-awesome when it’s actually finding-a-pound-in-your-sofa-when-you-previously-had-38p-to-live-on awesome.

I also have some concerns regarding the way in which women who have or are in relationships with other women are being represented here. I really like the conversational tone and feel it adds to a sense of validity – these characters are clearly very close – as does the friction between the characters when one of them produces the K-Y jelly and derails the other’s serious monologue about the ways in which their relationship is “successful.” I wish very much that there were direct references to orgasm rather than the use of euphemism to shroud it; although it might seem a little “too much” to expect from an advert, this is the first thing that made me feel tense about the representation of positive sexuality without masculine involvement. The second thing that made me feel tense about this was one member of the couple’s use of the phrase ‘like nothing we’ve ever felt before,’ and the reason that these things make me feel tense is because I worry that, for some bigoted viewers, this will support the myth that sex between women can’t be as fulfilling as (specifically penetrative) sex between a heteronormative couple.

Personally, I do not think that the inclusion of lube, sex toys, role play, or any other “marital aids” (lol) in sex compromises the quality of that sex, providing, of course, that those involved are using these tools because that is what they want to do. I don’t think that anyone watching this advert should have the right to use it to bolster their own prejudices about what women “need” in bed, and neither do I think that this advert should be used as “evidence” for the belief that, for a woman, sex with another woman will be inherently less fulfilling than penetrative sex with a man. But just because I believe that the advert should not be used for those purposes doesn’t mean that it won’t be.

I understand that you can’t encapsulate the nuances of any gender politics in something as brief as an advert. I also understand that there is a revolutionary aspect of including a couple consisting of women in an advert without linking their relationship with a heteronormative man. I think what I’m trying to figure out here is whether it is worth the risk. Or, in saying this, am I just pandering to the offensive and oppressive attitudes that I am seeking to minimise? What do you think?


3 Responses to “Boo or hoorah? BOO OR HOORAH?!”

  1. Zoltán (@NQRW) September 11, 2011 at 19:27 #

    Just a thought about skirting around “orgasm” – judging by the fact that the voiceover at the end repeats that phrasing, I’d guess that’s how K-Y jelly generally advertises, as people in television haven’t ceased to be prudes overnight – obviously, not being American, I don’t know for sure. But if it is so, I’m not too worried about the fact that one of the two women uses K-Y jelly’s preferred phrasing (though it sounds really quite silly).

    Like nothing we’ve ever felt before did worry me slightly when I heard it. I’m still not quite sure how to interpet it, but you’re quite right that certain viewers can choose their own interpretation.

    • lizsylvian September 25, 2011 at 11:55 #

      I think you’re right overall re: orgasm euphemising – if it’s across the board it is less concerning for women who have sex with women, although I don’t want to ignore the fact that it can have a very different and problematic consequence when applied to women because of the prejudices I talked about. But then if it actually is like nothing they’d ever felt before then they should be able to say so. Maybe I should do some research.


  1. What’s Kim Kardashian got to do with it? « Come on, Lizzo - November 2, 2011

    […] know if my beef with marriage is really reasonable on these grounds – perhaps it’s similar to my feelings of concern regarding that K-Y intense advert and how it might fuel bigoted ideologies. What do you think? Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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