Several years ago a passing trend emerged in advertising; using sexualised images of men. In 2002, Voodoo produced an ad featuring a woman in a mini-skirt "walking" two naked men wearing collars - an image strangely prescient of the prison abuse images which have come out of Iraq. Is there such thing as reverse sexism? Who cares, as long as it creates a controversy that generates sales.
Voodoo's "men-on-leash" ad generated about 60 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau. All were dismissed. The ABS apparently appreciated the humour, reasoning: "This ad clearly intends to depict a tongue-in-cheek view of the well accepted right of a woman to be in control of her choices and her 'accessories'."
Censors in England were not so open minded. A very similar ad showed Jerry Hall holding men on a leash with the tagline: "Twelve get trained, only one gets kept". The ad was banned by London Underground Rail on grounds that it "breaches our advertising code relating to the depiction of men, women and children as sexual objects." A series of bans also saw the ad removed from television.
The fact that this kind of ad was only a passing fad indicates that they do not resonate with women and are not effective advertising. In fact, they probably attract more of a response from men. Is this kind of image offensive and exploitative? Clearly advertisers could not get away with using women in the same way. An image of a man walking naked women on a leash would certainly create an outcry. However, considering the rarity of this kind of image in mainstream advertising, they can be seen as redressing the imbalance to some extent.
There is never a shortage of advertising using exploitative images of women. Putting the boot on the other foot certainly makes commuting a great deal more interesting.