Every day in shopping malls across the country, little boys, adolescents and teenagers pass by massive window displays of women in thong underwear, garters and lace bras, almost naked, emblazoned with the Victoria’s Secret logo and words like, “Obsessed.” The women look like they are walking into a sexual encounter or already engaged in one.
Several store fronts down, a window display for Aerie, by American Eagle, boasted an eight-foot photo of a very young woman in bikini underwear showing the clear outline of her vagina.
In my opinion, Victoria’s Secret, Aerie and every woman who buys any item of clothing at either of them (or at many more racy retailers), is contributing to a new generation of Harvey Weinsteins. The idea that women think nothing of being plastered nearly naked in public displays all over the world, while expecting males to still take them absolutely seriously in board rooms, is irrational.
By the time a 13-year-old becomes the age Harvey Weinstein is right now, he will have been exposed to tens of thousands of advertising impressions that suggest that, underneath it all, women just want sex. Why else, a 13-year-old might unconsciously think, would they be A-okay with massive posters of women ready to have sex at the mall.
Victoria’s Secret and Aerie aren’t alone, of course. Remember Brooke Shields in those famous Calvin Klein jean ads? She tantalized men with her suggestion that “nothing” came between her and her Calvins—implying she was wearing no underwear beneath them. How many millions of boys were watching then? How many remember, even unconsciously, that even if women are wearing jeans, they may be just waiting to be unzipped and touched?
Think how many teenagers who go to the mall are also going to high schools where young women show up in leggings—which aren’t really designed for comfort, but to tantalize young men, sexually. How can a 15-year-old really take 15-year-old females entirely seriously when they want to wear the equivalent of tights to school?
Answer: He can’t.
With all the justifiable rage women are expressing about sexual harassment, they should be equally enraged at themselves, for permitting and reveling in their sexual objectification and relentlessly exposing men to it.
Keith Ablow, MD