Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so for the past couple of months we’ve been bombarded with advertisements (mostly targeting the male buyer) for chocolate, roses, and, more than anything, jewelry.
What is frustrating and perhaps even ignorant about such advertisements is their direct link between gift giving and getting something back. That something is most often physical contact, such as kissing, or hopefully intercourse. Kay Jewelers is a prime example of such messages; their ads feature not only Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day gift giving, but marriage proposals and Christmas gifts as well. Not only are these advertisements extremely stereotypical–they most often portray women and men in the exact same roles, one passive and one active–but they endorse the notion that women are very likely to use their sexuality as a resource to attain material things, such as expensive jewelry.
Men, on the other hand, are depicted as being very likely to pay large sums of money to attain sexual “favors” from women. Overall, the roles depicting men as the buyer (of jewelry, to start out with) and women as the providers of sexual favors, echoes the notions of prostitution. Not only is it annoying that Kay Jewelers’s slogan is “Every kiss begins with Kay,” but the gasping-for-air, about-to-faint depictions of women and images of proactive, strong, protective, masculine men are outdated and boring. Remember the ad depicting a woman who is afraid of lighting and throws herself into the arm of her partner?
These advertisements most often feature adults, but a commercial for Kay’s Open Hearts Collection (by Jane Seymour) shows a man giving his fiancee’s daughter the same necklace that he gave her mother. Not only does the child mirror the adult female response by gasping, but the underlying message is similar: that it is possible to buy sex and love–or in this case, acceptance and even admiration. And all the commercials end the same way, with the giver receiving a “reward” as a result of spending money.