There Are Sexy Naked Women Absolutely Everywhere

This originally appeared on Eat The Damn Cake. Republished here with permission.

Is it really necessary to advertise everyday products using naked women? I’d like to raise my daughter in a world that didn’t force these images down her throat everywhere we look.

My husband, Bear, opened his new headphones. “Check it out!” he said happily, gesturing at them.

I peered into the box. There were the headphones (I don’t know much about headphones), and directly below them was a glossy photo of a naked woman, wearing the same headphones.

He followed my gaze. “Is she totally naked?” he said, only a little surprised.

“Yup,” I said.

“Is that a nipple?”

“No, but almost.”

“Phew,” he said, grinning. “Wouldn’t want to see a nipple or anything.”

“Awesome,” I said.

“Now I REALLY want to wear these,” he said, teasing me. “Naked ladies LOVE these headphones.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “But seriously? I mean, seriously?”

“Seriously,” he said.


We got off the subway, my daughter, Eden, on Bear in the frontpack, on our way to buy a little plastic plate and a little plastic spoon and maybe even a sippy cup for the first time. It was the weekend, life was good, the city was muddy and cheerful and the cold felt like the right complement to hot chocolate and wool. I glanced up, waiting to cross the street, and there, covering the side of a building, was a butt.

A mostly naked, young woman’s butt, the cheeks round and glowing and tanned. The panties being advertised were a blushing pink afterthought.

“Seriously?” I said.

Bear looked up. “Nice underwear,” he said. “Looks like a great product!”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s basically porn,” I said, and felt immediately self-conscious for sounding so histrionic about it.

“Nah,” he said. “See? Underwear! Just a happy young woman wearing some excellently crafted underwear.”

I made a face at him.

“Well, some of a young woman, anyway,” he added, studying the three-story image with a thoughtful expression. “And maybe it’s only implied that she’s happy.”

“I’m not happy,” I said.

I pointed at the baby girl on his chest. “See that?” I said. “She’s going to see that.” I pointed at the giant butt.


On our way to Eden’s six-month doctor’s appointment, crossing near the park on a snowy sidewalk, I was confronted with a bus stop advertisement for “European” waxing services. A woman’s long, bare legs strolled along beneath a gleaming, lean torso. The waxing was thorough, you could see, because only a faint slip of her vagina was covered with cloth. Again, she was headless.

I looked at Bear. He looked at me.

“How am I supposed to raise a daughter?” I asked him.


I keep telling myself that it’s not that big of a deal. Here’s what I say to myself: There are naked guys on billboards too sometimes. Probably a lot of them, in total. Just not as many. Everyone gets objectified…As though that makes it better! Well, it makes it more normal. So it’s normal. It doesn’t have to stand out. No one has to even notice or if they notice they don’t have to pay attention. Advertisements are stupid! Everyone knows that. They can fade into the background, hardly registering. I’m just noticing suddenly, but I can tune it out. I just have to tune it out.

Whatever! It’s gone!

I don’t want to be offended. Offended people are too serious. They get picky. They waste their time. They are distracted by things that don’t have to matter.

And at the same time, I can’t shake it. This feeling that something isn’t right. I’m not even looking for naked women and I’m seeing them everywhere. I can’t avoid them if I try.

I can’t shake the feeling that there doesn’t have to be a naked woman in the headphones’ box. It isn’t necessary at all. It tilts in the direction of insanity. Why does she need to be naked to wear headphones? (Isn’t it enough that she’s always gorgeous and sleek and perpetually 19 and 20 pounds lighter than everyone else and more often blonde than not? Isn’t that enough to sell something? You would think.)

I don’t want to say this out loud. I think it’s uncool. It’s a rant. No one cares.

I don’t even really want to say it to Bear.

I feel a little lonely, noticing the naked butts of the country’s advertising.

I feel strangely excluded from the world of consumerism. I can’t be who these ads are for. And yet the literature disagrees. It says: HA! You would think they’re for men, because of all the sexy naked women. But no! That’s the trick! They’re secretly for YOU!

HA! says the literature, it’s actually women who buy things that are displayed on the seductive lithe bodies of other women.

It’s aspirational, it’s compulsive, it’s some social psych thing that normal people can’t fully understand, but we keep responding to anyway. All of these campaigns are tested a million times first. There’s a million hours of market research here. And all of the market research agrees: Sexy naked women are the way to go—for everything!

So these ads are for me, then. That’s what the research says. Then why do I feel disturbed and put-off? I must be malfunctioning. It’s me. Something’s off-kilter. I have to figure out how to shake it back into obedience, into obliviousness, into the cool of not caring. I have to learn to be a better liberal—I sense that being a good liberal means embracing all of the nakedness. It’s just bodies! Bodies are beautiful! Don’t be a prude about it!

I think I’m supposed to ignore the fact that they are almost always the same bodies. That they are so much always the same bodies that they seem to implicitly ban the contemplation of other naked bodies. I think I’m supposed to ignore that they’re almost always young women, and that they are so sexualized that they seem to implicitly instruct that young women are for sex for sex for sex and only for sex.

Maybe my daughter will be more normal. Maybe she’ll just buy the underwear and move on with her day.

Only, I can’t help but think I don’t want that for her either, even though it sounds more emotionally efficient (although probably a waste of money).


“What am I going to do?” I ask Bear, standing still in the middle of the sidewalk as the people in their black down coats eddy around us. I’m so tiny in this huge city. My red hat is a speck. A drop of blood in a major artery.

He shrugs, obviously not wanting to think about it. She is only six months old. She is deliciously fat—right now, everyone thinks it’s perfect.

I try to imagine myself, walking in this city with my older daughter. Maybe she’s 10? Who the hell can imagine that far ahead?

I try.

I see that she’s looking at the huge naked butt.

“Isn’t that ridiculous?” I say. “What a stupid ad, right?”

We laugh a little. We agree. It’s very, very stupid. We go on with our day. At least she knows: This isn’t just normal. It’s not creatively liberated, either. It’s listing toward insanity. It’s laughably, seriously absurd. It may be right in front of us, but we know there’s something wrong.

Kate Fridkis blogs at Eat the Damn Cake. Her new book about her pregnancy is now available. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Salon, Tablet, and many more. She lives in Brooklyn, where it’s not totally weird to be as obsessed with sandwiches as she is. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Related Links: