The False Narrative of Chocolate & Female Sexuality, and the Importance of Promoting Chocolate to Women Without Degradation

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Advertisement for Dove’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar from the “My Moment. My Dove.” campaign (2008).

Historically, chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac, associated with love and sex, and perceived in highly gendered ways, with evidence of this in the Aztec culture and Victorian Era, for example (Martin). Modern advertising narratives, such as the Cadbury Flake ad featuring a woman in a bath, continue these traditional themes associated with chocolate by selling the candy with highly sexualized, erotic images and messages. Chocolate advertisers frequently depict the experience of consuming chocolate as “identical to the pleasure of sex or redeemable for the pleasure of sex” (Anderson). I will examine the Dove ad for their Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar, pictured to the right, and consider how the image, and other chocolate ads, create a harmful narrative around chocolate and female sexuality. Too often, they promote a notion of women as weak objects, who, once exposed to the influence of chocolate, which serves as an alternative to men, are completely powerless.

The Dove ad is not true to the actual product: the cranberry almond bar is not a substitute for sex and it will not incapacitate the woman by providing her with irresistible physical satisfaction. By obscuring the reality of the product and depicting women as easily, irrationally entranced by chocolate, and by extension, as helpless, I contend that ads like this Dove ad are promoting an injurious characterization of women as objects without agency, and without interests beyond satisfying their own pleasure. It is important to consider the effects of these messages on female self-perception, and work to create ads that instead more accurately celebrate chocolate as a tasty sweet, rather than a “sexual surrogate” (Kawash), and women as real people with depth and personality.

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This ad for Magnum Chocolate is one example of the preponderance of ads suggesting that women share sexual experience with chocolate.

Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, notes the “overt sexuality” of the Dove ad, which she describes as featuring a “lithe woman caressed by brown silk, writhing in pleasure” (Kawash). Upon first glance, the viewer notices a woman wrapped up in a silky brown material with an expression of pure bliss. Her eyes are closed, her features are soft, and her expression is one of peaceful ecstasy. She is certainly in rapture, but her face has been molded in a way so as to not create a dramatic appearance, so she does not appear too powerful. The ad focuses on the comprehensive sum of the different elements of the image: the woman’s euphoric expression, the silky folds of the fabric, the soft lighting, and the suggestive overlaying words.

Noticeably, the whole advertisement is tinted brown and it is difficult to discern sharp boundaries between the woman’s face, her hair, and the silky cloth that is wrapped around her. Dove has carefully crafted and edited the image so as to make the woman in bed resemble creamy chocolate in hue and texture. It is if chocolate is literally taking over the woman because of its overpowering effect on her. She is a remarkably flat figure and resembles a painted face, rather than an individual with a personality, sense of self, and means of influence.

The words at the bottom of the advertisement further reinforce the overt sexual connotations of the image and characterize the woman as easily seduced and without agency: “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat.”

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My re-designed Dove ad, working to promote a more realistic characterization of chocolate and a positive depiction of women.

My re-designed ad celebrates women as strong, dynamic beings, and markets Dove chocolate for what it is — a sweet. The new ad focuses on the women’s actions, namely, their decision to go for a bike ride together, rather than their sexual satisfaction. It shows that women are strong and in control; they enjoy adventures, represented through biking, and sweets, presumably chocolate, and will not be manipulated or lulled into an euphoric slumber by a mere candy. Furthermore, I incorporated three women into the advertisement to suggest the social nature of chocolate as a food to be shared among friends, rather than an erotic object or substitute for sex that is enjoyed alone in one’s bed, as the initial advertisement suggests with the shrouded woman. The new slogan, “Now life can be full of adventures and sweets,” promotes chocolate as a delicious addition to an active life, rather than an instrument to prod female sexuality.

Considering that most chocolate, and certainly the “My Dove, My Moment” ad, is targeted at women, the implicit messages of female degradation have a negative effect on self-perception. The re-designed ad takes the opportunity to reach so many female consumers to convey a positive, uplifting message by featuring women who are engaged with the world around them and with one another. Dove chocolate will provide women with “sweet” support in their active lives.

 

Works Cited:

Anderson, L.V. “Cuckoo for Chocolate.” Slate Magazine. Slate.com, 13 Feb 2012. Web.

Cadbury’s Flake: Deliciously Terrifying. Video. YouTube. N.p., 2 Mar 2010. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.>.

Cranberry Almond Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate. Digital image. Calorie Count. N.p., 2016. Web. <https://www.caloriecount.com/calories-dove-cranberry-almond-silky-smooth-i132158&gt;.

Dove Ad. Digital image. The Society Pages. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg&gt;.

Magnum Chocolate Ad in Beautiful HD. Digital image. YouTube. N.p., 9 May 2011. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. The New York Times Online,, 13 Feb 2014. Web.

 
Martin, Carla, PhD. “Chocolate expansion.” AFAM 199X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 10 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

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