Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Sex in Music

Yesterday Beyoncé’s new perfume advert was banned for being too “sexually provocative.”

The singer is shown apparantly naked and then dancing in a revealing dress.

The Advertising Standards Agency [ASA] said:

“We considered that Beyonce’s body movements and the camera’s prolonged focus on shots of her dress slipping away to partially expose her breasts created a sexually provocative ad that was unsuitable to be seen by young children.”

Yesterday I blogged about gender portrayal in ads, but didn’t discuss the over-sexualisation of not just adverts, but lots of other television content.

Music videos in particular seem to subscribe to the view that ‘sex sells’ and if it isn’t sexy, it probably won’t.

Even bands with audiences of largely young teenagers use overt sexualisation as a marketing tool.

Girls Aloud for example have donned black skintight PVC catsuits, french maid dresses and skimpy rubber outfits for various videos.

And their videos do not even stand out as being particularly over-sexy.  Shakira, The Pussycat Dolls, and The Saturdays  are just a few of the artists who use very obvious sex appeal to sell music.

Lady Gaga often becomes a target of attack because of her skimpy and outlandish outfits.  During the summer Camille Paglia criticised her lack of sex appeal, saying

“Despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android.”

But perhaps this is the point, Gaga isn’t trying to be sexy.  Her videos take sexualisation to a level that is shocking and even disturbing.  Perhaps her videos show the dark side of a sexualised music industry, at a time when a lot of singers are prepared to be very sexually overt.

When she wore the infamous meat dress to the MTV music awards in September she said:

“If we don’t stand up for our rights soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones. And I am not a piece of meat.”

Women in music are meant to be there because they have a talent.  So why do they have to appear as idealised sex figures in order to be successful?


About Rachel Conner

Rachel Conner is currently a postgraduate newspaper journalism student at Cardiff University. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Durham with an LLB. View all posts by Rachel Conner

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