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Sex, Lies, and TV Commercials

This is the part of the blog where I write about gender politics as portrayed in Super Bowl commercials. A few years ago I would have thought this was liberal, feminist nonsense. I don’t think so anymore.

The Bible tells us that we should not allow the culture around us to influence our mindsets, but instead we should allow the teachings of Jesus to redeem and transform us and give us a new outlook on the world. This transformation should touch every aspect of our lives. (see Romans 12:2)

There have always been the blatantly offensive Super Bowl ads – the GoDaddy and “banned” PETA spots designed to make people angry and grab free publicity. The gratuitously “sexy” ads that cause parents to cover children’s eyes and wives to look at husbands to make sure they aren’t looking at the TV. There are always the gratuitously “sexy” women selling cars, beer, and deodorant  – women who appear in commercials only to be objectified for their bodies. However, these are not the only commercials that should concern followers of Jesus. Last night there were other ads that didn’t splash as much bare skin across our televisions, but that did carry unhealthy and dangerous messages about gender relationships.

The Audi commercial is a good example: A boy borrows his dad’s car, drives to the prom, kisses the prom queen, and then drives away. It’s just a cute story, unless you think about the moral structure of the story. In the world of this commercial, the woman is nothing but a prize. A conquest. A trophy. He kisses her and then leaves without a word, celebrating his “success”. This objectifies women just as much as any swimsuit-edition commercial, and it celebrates a man who forces himself on a woman. He stalks her, sneaks up on her, and surprises her. As soon as she sees him, his lips are on her. She has no choice. She gives no consent. But it’s ok, “because she enjoyed it”. This is not romantic; it’s rapey.

audi superbowl commercial

Then there was the Gildan commercial where a guy is trying to sneak out of a girl’s room after a one-night stand. He realizes that she’s wearing his favorite grey t-shirt. This produces quite a bit of narrative tension; obviously he’s never going to see the girl again, so how can he get his favorite shirt back without waking her up? He opts for the creepiest option possible – attempting to remove the shirt from the sleeping girl without waking her up.

The moral of the story is that all guys should have a t-shirt that they value more than the dignity of a woman.


A lot of people say that we shouldn’t be so sensitive, that it’s just a commercial, that it’s not actually about rape.

The problem is, this has been the dynamic between men and women throughout history. Scattered all through the Bible are stories of women being sold, traded, bargained for, kidnapped, murdered, and married… all for political reasons. They weren’t seen as women; they were property, pawns in the great power struggles of scheming men. Used and then tossed aside when they were no longer useful. Even the great patriarchs of the Old Testament fell into this mindset. Abraham refused to stand up for his own wife, allowing her to become part of a foreign king’s harem and accepting piles of livestock and slaves in exchange for her. David used his power as king to steal another man’s wife, murder her husband, and make her his own. Sin has violently twisted the fabric of history, damaging and destroying the beauty of women who carry the Creator’s image.

But Jesus modeled a different attitude.

He treated women with respect, even when it was culturally unacceptable. He talked to them. He rescued them. He befriended them. He healed them. When they were marginalized, threatened, and judged, Jesus recognized their humanity and loved them and redeemed them. We need to follow His example.

There’s more to healthy Christian sexuality than just “guarding your eyes”.

We need to make sure we’re guarding our hearts as well, not allowing twisted messages to creep in. We need to reject the lies – that a woman will make you a real man, that sex is all you need for true happiness, that women can be used and discarded according to our whims. The dignity of women isn’t a liberal, feminist issue. All of us who follow Jesus need to make our voices heard in the conversation. As men, it is our responsibility to throw off the attitudes that we’ve inherited from our fathers and instead learn to see women through redemptive eyes.

When we pray “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we commit ourselves to live by a different ethic. 

Rather than using women, we need to protect them and honor them and elevate them and serve them. As we follow Jesus, the Scriptures tell us that we can no longer define one another by racial, socio-economic, or gender role stereotypes (see Galatians 3:28). Instead, we learn to see those around us as children of the Creator, our brothers and sisters whom Jesus died to redeem.

[Note: Two different commenters have pointed an inaccuracy in this post, where I referenced the actions of Abraham and David. I have changed those sentences to reflect an more accurate reading of the Old Testament stories. Thank you both! ] 

published February 4, 2013

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