Tag Archives: femininity

Women in Chocolate Advertising – Does Sex Sell?

Gender has been an important aspect of chocolate consumption since its introduction into the west. Although chocolate was mostly consumed in male-dominated coffee and chocolate houses in the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century marked the feminization of chocolate as it became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic setting. As industrial manufacturing developed over the nineteenth century, chocolate became affordable to all, and in consequence, women were made responsible for providing ‘wholesome cocoa’ for their families (Robinson 2010). However, even today, when men consume as much chocolate as women, being a ‘chocoholic’ is a trait that is mostly identified with, by women. The portrayal of women in advertising however, often presents women in a fairly negative light. They emphasize a supposed female weakness for temptation, depicting women in a sensual setting, mesmerized by the product that brings them to near ecstasy. Moreover, the seductive nature of the women in the advertisements seem to be undeniably linked with what society believes to be the ideal of female beauty, to the point where a critical observer would be skeptical of whether the model in question would ever eat a piece of chocolate. The issue of nutritional value, is a key problem that marketers of chocolate had to overcome, as the product they are promoting is inherently high in sugar and fat, while their key audience has become increasingly more health and body conscious. This is, in part, due to the fact that today’s society has become more obsessed with outward appearance and resembling the ‘ideal’ female body, so much so that over-indulgence has become taboo. Yet, this is exactly where lies the tension of the sensual depictions of women in chocolate advertising. How is the chocolate industry getting away with using skinny models usually in a seductive setting, an advertising choice offensive to many women, to entice this very consumer base to buy their inherently fattening product?


A Brief History of Chocolate in Advertising

Chocolate advertising has always targeted women according to the different roles they play in society. In the early 20th century, prominent chocolate companies such as Rowntree and Cadbury developed entire marketing strategies around housewives and mothers. Although these advertisements most certainly did not have sexual connotations associated with them, advertisers back then already knew how to manipulate their key audience, as proven by the following statement from Rowntree’s advertising firm: “Any technique by which we can appeal to the mother’s concern for the well-being of her family or her related anxiety about being a successful mother and winning the loyalty and gratitude of her husband and children might serve as a vehicle to make her think of Rowntree’s Cocoa in the way we want her to think of it”(Robinson 2010). In contrast, chocolate, in the form of luxury assortments, was the epitome of heterosexual love and romance. Many advertisements from the early 20th century show chocolate consumption as the ultimate sign of courtship, as chocolate was to be a gift from a man to a woman and a way to “keep your sweetie sweet” (Robinson 2010). Towards the end of the 20th century however, chocolate advertising begins to target women as individuals, and not as gateways to their husbands and children, and even in the more romantic advertisements, men start to fade into the background. Simultaneously, chocolate advertising became increasingly more sexualized. The women are depicted independent of any man, and have found a new obsession: chocolate. An example of this, is the 1960 advertisement for Cadbury Flake. The actress looks flirtatiously at the chocolate and seems to be constantly battling temptation, until she finally gives in, at which point the music speeds up and becomes more high-pitched. The slogan “Cadbury’s Flake, a heaven all of your own” underscores how the product can bring a woman pleasure in the absence of a man. Although the sexual reference is made abundantly clear, this commercial is relatively tame in comparison to the more sexually explicit commercials and advertisements of the present day. What caused the chocolate industry to drastically increase the sexualization of women in their marketing strategies?

The Demonization of Chocolate & The Sin of Overindulgence

During the early 1900s, the United States was known to many as a “great candy eating nation”. Athletes swore on the performance-enhancing abilities of candy, aviators survived record-breaking flights on chocolate bars and the National Confectioners’ Association campaigned for daily candy eating. Candy advertising even framed it as a weight-loss agent. An example of this is the Curtiss Butterfinger advertisement. Their slogan “Candy…enriched with dextrose” made the added sugar seem like some kind of nutritional perk. The popularity of candy, and thus chocolate, soared as housewives and mothers were encouraged to incorporate sweets into the diets of their children. Towards the end of the 20th century however, as the negative health effects of candy became known to the public, an anti-candy movement was started in which candy was demonized (Dr. Carla Martin, Lecture March 8th). The consumption of fatty, sugary foods became taboo for women who were expected to be skinny in order to maintain their feminine allure. Eating chocolate, a product inherently high in sugar and fat, became associated with overindulgence and harmful to a women’s sexual appeal. Being overweight would signal an inability for self-constraint, something that wasn’t desired in a future spouse (Parsons 2015). Although this ideal of self-constraint and a women’s responsibility to fight off temptation wasn’t novel, in combination with the temperance movement against candy gaining popularity, it posed a real threat to the chocolate industry. Many companies moved to make their products bite-sized, in order to create the allusion of a more moderate, and thus healthier, snack. But it wasn’t enough. Marketing strategies had to find a way to distance their product from the sin of overindulgence and the taboo of food in order to entice their audience to buy the products society told them not to consume.

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Figure 1: A 1952 Curtiss Butterfinger advertisement promoting their candy enriched with dextrose


Chocolate as the Forbidden Fruit

Chocolate has had a long-standing relationship with love and romance, but also sex. Even in ancient times, the Aztecs and the Mayans believed that chocolate could cure impotence and, although modern science has found no significant scientific basis for this, many people today still think of chocolate as an aphrodisiac. Advertisers, looking for a different way to attract their target demographic, happily tapped into this misconception and rebranded the chocolate experience as a sexual experience. Chocolate advertising no longer promised to fulfill one’s energy needs, but vowed to provide intense pleasure and satisfy all sexual desires, portraying chocolate as a substitute for sex. Interestingly, advertisers chose to maintain the element of sin, as demonstrated by the advertisement for Ferrero Rocher. Besides the very blatant reference to Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the model is holding in place, with her hand on her inner thigh, what could be bedsheets and her hair has been teased to make it appear as if she has just had sex. That being said, she is still eying the Ferrero Rocher and is fighting temptation not to grab the “forbidden fruit”, underscoring the boundless obsession women supposedly have for chocolate. The text on the left-hand side, “Are you a chocolate sinner?”, encourages the consumer to identify her craving for chocolate with (a lack of) sexual gratification, while the text “And that dream is just one sin away…” invites her to buy their product and give in to sin. The consumer is made to believe that if a model with the perfect female body gives in to temptation now and then, who is she to resist it? Although this particular advertisement takes the relationship between sin and chocolate quite literally by incorporating “The Ultimate Sin” into their campaign, references to sexual transgressions are abundant in chocolate advertising. As cleverly observed by Fahim, advertisers have “turned chocolate into a sexual, self-indulgent, private experience that invokes a taboo similar to that of masturbation” (Fahim 2010). It might seem superfluous to replace one taboo, that of food and overindulgence, with another taboo, that of self-indulgence, if the ultimate plan is to maintain the ‘sin’ aspect of consuming chocolate. But these taboos have very different, if not contrasting, connotations in today’s society. Although both are associated with losing control and the inability for self-restraint, overindulgence in food is thought to harm a women’s feminine appeal by harming her figure, while the sexual taboo brings her more in touch with her femininity through sexual satisfaction. The fattening nature of chocolate would seem to make it impossible to advertise it as a product that would make women more attractive. Nevertheless, advertisers try to persuade women into thinking that consuming chocolate can enhance their femininity while it is known to do the opposite.

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Figure 2: Ferrero Rocher likening their product to ‘the forbidden fruit’


Sex Sells?

The taboos are inherently linked. Nevertheless, the chocolate industry has been able to emphasize one, while pushing the other to the background. But there is another aspect as to why it’s so surprising the chocolate industry is successful in its usage of sexual references in its marketing strategies. Research has shown that women have a marked negative response to sexually explicit images in advertising, questioning the old saying that sex sells (Dahl 2009). Dahl et al. argue that this is the case because advertisements with blatant sexual references place sex outside of the whelm of a committed relationship, which is not in line with most women’s perceptions of sex. However, they found that if the sexual references in the ad could be seen in a broader context related to a committed relationship, rather than casual, non-emotional sex, through subtle cues such as gift-giving, the response would be less negative. Interestingly, that is exactly what the chocolate industry moved away from in targeting women. Ads have become more individualistic and chocolate is less frequently represented as the token of courtship and something that has to be gifted by a man. Instead they portray chocolate as a substitute for sex through their sexually explicit campaigns. In contrast, the same study showed that men had no issues with gratuitous sexual references and in consequence, chocolate, and its characteristic association with sex, has been used to promote male products virtually unrelated to chocolate. For instance, in an ad for Axe Dark Temptation, the deodorant turns the man into a chocolate man, after which he is virtually assaulted by the women he encounters. Although the ad is clearly targeted towards men, it still shows women to be obsessed by chocolate, unable to restrain themselves from getting their fix and taking a bite out of this chocolate man. This idea is perpetuated by the name, “Axe Dark Temptation”, further implying that women won’t be able to resist men wearing this deodorant, like they are unable to resist chocolate. There is even a scene in which women working out in the gym, jump off their treadmills in order to get a glimpse of the chocolate man, once again emphasizing that when chocolate is presented in a sexual setting, women are portrayed to forget all about the harmful effects chocolate may have on their figure, effects society tells them to be mindful of.


Creating ‘Chocoholics’ Everywhere

Although chocolate marketing efforts have targeted predominantly women since the beginning of the 20th century, chocolate advertising has undergone drastic transformation since then. While the early 1900s marked the time of appealing to women’s more wholesome roles as mothers, housewives, or as the subject of heterosexual courtship, contemporary chocolate advertisements have consistently portrayed women as irrational and obsessed, always fighting and losing to temptation. Chocolate advertising has become increasingly more sexualized, despite the fact that research has shown that women seem to have an aversion for sexually explicit images in advertising. Nevertheless, the chocolate industry seems to be succeeding in persuading women to buy their products, as proven by the many self-proclaimed ‘chocoholics’ out there. Moreover, they’ve been able to convince their key demographic that their product will enhance their femininity through its connotation with sexual satisfaction, by eating a product that has also been demonized for causing women to lose their female figures, and thus their sex appeal. To complicate the already complex relationship even further, the models used in the ads and commercials are often thought to represent the ideal female body. A skeptical observer would question whether these models have ever even tasted the product they are selling. But perhaps this further reinforces women to buy the chocolate. If the gorgeous, slim woman is able to enjoy the occasional chocolate and still looks the way she does, then why couldn’t the consumer? One could imagine that the relationship is even stronger than that, in which case the consumer might think that the model looks the way she does, because she eats the product she is selling. One way or another, the chocolate industry has found a way to emphasize one taboo, while letting the other fade into the background, and although both taboos seem to be inherently united in their product, women all around the Western world are falling for it.


Works Cited

Dahl, Darren., Sengupta, Jaideep, Vohs, Kathleen. 2009. Sex in Advertising: Gender Differences and the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research Gainesville: 36(2): 15-231

 Fahim, Jamal. 2010. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. Sociology Student Scholarship. http://scholar.oxy.edu/sociology_student/3

Martin, Carla. 2017. Lecture March 8th – The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.

Parsons, Julie. 2015. Gender, Class and Food – Families, Bodies and Health. pp. 108-133. Print.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131. Print.

Multimedia Sources








Chocolate and Females: A Relationship Study

Chocolate is one of the most gendered and sexualized products being sold today.  Its many forms serve many purposes and there are marketing techniques to sell every single one of them.  But in nearly all cases, in each ad there is some reference to a woman in a hetero-normative manner.  All the depictions of women in these commercials imply that the featured woman is in some kind of relationship, usually one with a man.  In order to explore chocolate’s role in relationships, I first examine the overabundance of ads targeted towards heterosexual couples and the idea that men give chocolate to women.  Second, I detail the lack of non-heterosexual ads and show how some ads could be converted in order to begin to break the gendered stereotype.   Third, the relationship specifically between a woman and her chocolate is described and dissected.  Overall, in conducting interviews with couples and delving deeply into advertisements I learned that chocolate is intrinsically linked both to femininity and to relationships, though chocolate’s exact place in a relationship is variable.

Chocolate and the Heterosexual Relationship

The traditional heterosexual relationship is defined as a female engaging romantically with a male.  Romantic interactions may include, but are not limited to, spending time together, exchanging gifts, and engaging in sexual intercourse or other more PG-13 physical encounters, like kissing.  Those three components of relationships feature heavily in the majority of chocolate ads, though often they are not all present in the same ad as that overcomplicates the ad.  Romantic interactions can be generalized to any type of relationship (heterosexual or other), but in chocolate ads we only see them in the heterosexual context.  There is no database of chocolate ads that confirms this. I make this claim using my own knowledge, gathered from years viewing chocolate ads in the media and more significantly, from four months intensely studying chocolate advertising in Dr. Martin’s course.

Let’s begin by examining a 1967 Brach’s ad for Valentine’s Day chocolate (Figure 1 below). I first saw in a Slate Magazine article titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa”.  The article expounds upon women’s supposed craving of chocolate and how the media portrays and takes advantage of it (Anderson).  In this ad, Brach’s claims that the giver of the chocolate will receive “free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine Chocolates you give to her”.  Note the use of the word “her” in this advertisement.  Brach’s is specifically marketing this box of chocolates as a gift for a woman.  The gender of the giver is not specified in the ad, but using a number of context clues, we can determine that the giver is almost certainly male.  First, the ad is for Valentine’s Day, a conventionally romantic holiday.  The box of chocolate is given in the attempt to get “free kisses”, which again falls under the umbrella of traditional romantic relationship activities.  Together, these two facts lead us to believe that the chocolates are given from one partner in the relationship to another. The third context clue is that defines this as a heterosexual relationship is the knowledge that this ad was created and distributed in 1967, a time where non-heterosexual relationships were still very much hidden, or at least not publicly marketed towards.  We’ve determined that this Brach’s ad targets males, inciting them to give chocolate to their girlfriend/wife in order to get “free kisses”.  Of course, the kisses aren’t actually free.  They cost either $2.95 or $5.50, depending on which box of chocolates is purchased. The ad is overly feminized, featuring a lacy chocolate box covered in ribbons, many heart shapes, and the imprint of very female lips.  This ad not only reinforces the heterosexual relationship, it furthers chocolate’s classification as “feminine”.



The gendered nature of chocolate probably began when chocolate was carried to Europe.  Robertson argues that the “consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in history” and that “chocolate became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere from the eighteenth century” (Robertson 20). From Robertson, we know two things: that chocolate became associated with luxury and also became feminized. Because of the strict gender roles of the era and the difficulty of transportation, both associations make a great deal of sense.  Cacao was only grown in the New World, so getting it to Europe was an expensive and lengthy process.  Thus it could only be purchased by those with enough coin and so it became associated with luxury.  In the 1700s, women did not have the power to make all their own purchases.  While they did have some autonomy, European women were largely reliant on men for their clothing, shelter, and spending money.  Only in rare cases would women have enough money to purchase their own chocolate.  Instead, men could present their female sweethearts with gifts of chocolate, thereby feminizing chocolate.  For example, in the 19th century, it became popular for men to give their partners “an elegant box of imported bon-bons” (Kawash 1).

The idea that men give chocolate to women has been perpetuated in the modern era.  Advertisements specifically targeted towards men as chocolate-givers continue to reinforce the idea that the gifts are unidirectional and appropriate to give in a romantic context.  A recent New York Times article titled “Sex and Candy” and published right before Valentine’s Day said that “nothing is more symbolic of the romance of Valentine’s Day than a box of chocolates, traditionally a gift from Him to Her” (Kawash 1).  The article goes on to pick apart the reasons why chocolate marketing is aimed at women and why the gift from “Him to Her” is no longer accurate or even appropriate in today’s much broader relationship spectrum. But despite forward-thinking articles like Kawash’s, the “conventional wisdom is that women naturally crave the stuff [chocolate]” (Kawash 1). To determine whether this was true or whether people believed it was true, I interviewed a number of couples –same sex and opposite sex.

Diana and Felipe, 22 and 23 respectively, have been dating for five years.  Three of those years have been long-distance and have involved quite a large number of in-the-mail presents.  Interestingly, most of those presents are sent by Felipe to Diana and many of them feature chocolate or flowers, two stand-by romantic gifts.  When asked why he sent chocolate to Diana, Felipe replied that he believes people, women in particular, feel happy when they receive and consume chocolate.  He wants Diana to associate that feeling of happiness with him, so he sends her chocolate in the hope that, by the transitive property, she will feel happy when she thinks of him.  Where did Felipe get this idea that chocolate makes women happy? “First-hand experience”, he stated, “along with media, family, and friends telling me so”.  Diana and Felipe fall firmly in the heterosexual relationship standard shown by the media, but that does not mean all heterosexual couples do.

The Lack of Non-Heterosexual Chocolate Advertising

After scouring the internet, I was unable to find an overtly homosexual advertisement for chocolate.  There are ambiguous ads that market chocolate to women without directly saying that the chocolate will be given to them by men, but they are much fewer in number than those that firmly depict men giving chocolate to women, or at least feature men and women in some kind of relationship exchanging chocolate.

Follow this link to see an ad by Bonjour Chocolate.  It features very attractive, shirtless men preparing a chocolate creation sensuously.  In this video, there is no implicit male-female relationship.  In fact, it could even be argued that there is some kind of male-male relationship going on.  A group of attractive, naked men making chocolate together? For each other?  The sexual tension in the ad is palpable and if this were the entire ad, one could make a very convincing case that it breaks the heterosexual norm.

Unfortunately, the ad viewed isn’t the entire ad.  In this depiction, I omitted the first twenty seconds.  The full ad can be seen below.

With the additional twenty seconds, the entire gender status of the ad changes. Women are seen coyly flirting with men and almost throwing themselves at the men.  Because they are attractive?  Certainly.  Or at least, before we see the chocolate, that is the primary reason.  After the conclusion of the ad, we might guess that the women are throwing themselves at the men because they know that they make these delectable chocolate creations.  And really, according to today’s society, women are after the chocolate, not the men.  Though if men have chocolate, that certainly increases their chances.  This ad, which is effective even without the first twenty seconds, places itself firmly in the hetero-normative category, when it could just as easily be gender-neutral.

But even in the last forty second of the ad, the men and chocolate are portrayed as feminine.  Note, they are not portrayed as being for women, more that they themselves are feminine.  The portrayal of femininity comes across because the men are being viewed by an outside party and being objectified.  They are being sexualized in a way that usually only women are.  The ad focuses on the lines of their bodies, the play of shadows on muscle and the silkiness of their smooth, hairless skin (almost like that of a woman’s).  The men in the ad are objects to be admired because of their physical beauty and their sensuality, not at all because of their personality or skills. They are preparing food, a traditionally feminine task, and the food they are preparing is delicate and sweet, again expressly feminine.  This ad, while it could break the heterosexual trend in traditional chocolate ads, nevertheless reinforces chocolate’s femininity.

We’ve seen that there are virtually no advertisements targeted specifically towards homosexual couples, so the question becomes, do these couples still exchange chocolate?  The answer is clearly yes.  Just because there ads are not specifically targeted at a given group of people does not mean that they are not affected by the ads.  In fact, because women are so “chocolate-crazy”, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that women in same-sex relationships purchase and enjoy chocolate more than their heterosexual counterparts?

This assumption breaks down for a number of reasons.  First, studies have shown that women do not actually desire chocolate significantly more than men do.  A UK study by the Mintel research group showed that 91% of women admit to eating chocolate while 87% of men admit to consuming it – a mere 4% difference (CNN).  Second, unlike the common assumption, PMS has nothing biological to do with the desire for chocolate (Nutter). The association of chocolate with PMS is largely a social construct and continues to exist simply because it is well established. Third and most importantly, women have more wants and needs than chocolate.  In fact, chocolate ranks pretty low on the list for many women, such as for Ana and Wynn, one of the couples I interviewed.  They prefer to give and receive meaningful gifts as opposed to chocolate, which another interviewee, Charlotte, calls chocolate “the gift you get when you don’t know what to get”.   So chocolate isn’t destined to be the ultimate gift for same-sex female couples, but many still appreciate and enjoy it.

I Take Thee, Chocolate

We’ve talked about male-female relationships and female-female relationships, but we haven’t yet talked about the female-chocolate relationship, which is probably the most interesting and newest to advertising of the three.  In this relationship, chocolate becomes the female’s partner.  Take the ad below (Figure 2) for example.  Though it appears to be an older ad, it is a modern take on a 1950’s era chocolate cake ad.  The tagline, “because chocolate can’t get you pregnant,” directly urges the viewer to buy chocolate because it does not have the sex’s potential side-effect of pregnancy.  As only men can cause women to become pregnant (assuming standard biological procedures) it is clear that chocolate here is a substitute for sex, for men.

Figure 2.4

But why is chocolate an acceptable substitute in the present day?  What about contemporary chocolate makes it so similar to men/sex that it is commonly thought to be an appropriate replacement for either?  There are certainly numerous parallels.  First, for “chaste” women, and women are still supposed to be chaste in today’s world though there is much more sexual freedom, both sex and chocolate are forbidden fruits (Parkin). Sex is forbidden because engaging in it reduces a woman’s virtue and chocolate is forbidden because its consumption will eventually lead to weight gain, which is perceived as a negative consequence by much of society.  Second, both chocolate and sex are luxuries, chocolate because it can be expensive, sex because finding a good partner can be quite difficult.  Third, both chocolate and sex can only be had in limited quantities because a healthy body can only handle so much of either.  Basically, chocolate, like sex, is an indulgence, a temptation.  Women want it because they know they shouldn’t have it, and that only makes them want it more.

Chocolate is much more manageable than a man, than sex.  It doesn’t argue, it can’t cause pregnancy, and it is always, always there when a woman wants it. She can pick the brand, the cacao content, even the packaging, to suit her mood, whereas a man cannot be similarly engineered.  True, chocolate cannot give a physical hug in times of trouble, but the media’s portrayal of chocolate as a comfort food means that many people convince themselves that they are comforted simply by the act of eating chocolate.  The media, by continually advertising chocolate as a carnal pleasure (and therefore similar to sex) and by portraying it is as a comfort food (replacing a man’s emotional value), has effectively made chocolate a substitute for men.  But it is even better than men because it is always available and requires much less effort to keep around.  The Axe commercial below shows how crazy women become over the “chocolate man”.  In this ad, chocolate literally takes the place of a man (and by implication, sex).  Women want the chocolate more than they do the man.

Modern women can purchase chocolate by themselves, thereby asserting their independence and placing them in somewhat of a masculine role.  However, the femininity of chocolate reduces the effect of that masculinity.  In fact, consuming chocolate, especially luxury chocolate, which is a firmly feminine food, enhances a woman’s femininity every time she eats it simply because chocolate is so essentially female.  Combined, chocolate’s femininity, the ease with which it can be acquired, its numerous parallels to men, and the media’s continual, in-your-face depiction of chocolate as a substitute for men have made American society believe that chocolate really is an appropriate, even desirable, candidate for a woman to have a relationship with.

Chocolate fits into relationships in a variety of ways, but always it carries a feminine connotation.  Its status as a heterosexual gift could be changed with a large media effort, but its feminine status will not be so easily altered.


Works Cited

Aaron, Shara, and Monica Bearden. Chocolate: A Healthy Passion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2008. Print.

Anderson, L. V. “Cuckoo for Cocoa.” Slate 13 Feb. 2012: n. pag. Web. 4 May 2015.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times 14 Feb. 2014, Opinion Pages sec.: A31. The New York Times. 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 May 2015.

Nutter, Kathleen B. “From Romance to PMS: Images of Women and Chocolate in Twentieth-Century America.” Edible Ideologies: Representing Food and Meaning. By Kathleen LeBesco and Peter Naccarato. Albany: State U of New York, 2008. N. pag. Print.

Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2006. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. N.p., 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 4 May 2015.

Multimedia Sources

TV Ad – Axe Dark Chocolate Temptation: Chocolate Man. Adapt. adsoftheworld. YouTube. N.p., 3 Dec. 2007. Web. 3 May 2015.

DK, Anna. Retro poster, “Because chocolate can’t get you pregnant” Digital image. Bird Reynolds. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. 5 May 2015.

1967 Brach’s Valentine Chocolates. Digital image. AdClassix. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015.

The Sexiest Ad for the Sweetest Thing. Adapt. ZazulaTheGreat. YouTube. N.p., 14 Mar. 2007. Web. 1 May 2015.


Sexy Chocolate: How white women and black men are aphrodisiacs in advertising

Axe’s Dark Temptation commercial (2008) portrays a young white man who morphs into a “chocolate man” with brown skin, an exaggerated smile and bulging eyes after using the body spray. He then walks around a city while young thin white women scramble to snap his arm off, aggressively lick and bite his ears, and seem controlled by their cravings for chocolate/his body. They have no hesitations about consuming him and do not ask for permission to touch him. He seems in on the joke; at one point he breaks off his nose and sprinkles it into two white women’s ice cream cones without asking, because he already assumes their reaction will be delight and ecstasy. Even though the chocolate man is carnally exploited by white female desire, his plastered smile underlines that this is exactly what he wanted, and that is why he used the product in the first place. Despite that this commercial does not advertise a chocolate product, the fact that chocolate is used as a vessel to advertise the deodorant is significant in understanding how Western society conflates race and sexual desire, masculinity, heterosexual relationships, and chocolate as a food.

The commercial operates on the stereotype that women cannot resist chocolate and therefore will not be able to resist men who use this dark temptation spray. This is even literally written on their website advertising the fragrance today (2015).


This trope has been done again and again in chocolate advertising involving young white women; it is implied that chocolate is something that they irrationally, orgasmically enjoy, and that in exchange for affection from these women, men should give them chocolate products (as evidenced by Valentine’s Day marketing).


The blatant undertones of race take center stage in this ad; the chocolate man looks like a classic minstrel blackface stereotype, and the exaggerated smile has a history in chocolate advertisements such as the French company Banania’s ads that echo the Uncle Tom motif, a black man content with his exploitation for the pleasure of white consumption. There is also a history of black bodies posing as literal chocolate snacks for white cravings in Western advertising (i.e. Little Coco and Honeybunch from Rowntree’s Cocoa in the U.K., Conguitos in Spain), so this Axe storyline is nothing new (Robertson 42-44).

blackface     “classic” minstrel make-upScreen shot 2015-04-10 at 9.41.38 PM (screenshot of video above)


banana  Uncle Tom imagery  (France)

Axe is simply following tradition (i.e. Old Spice) by conflating the black male body with white female sexual desire and white male longing and envy when marketing their product. Axe is operating on the idea that in order to obtain the sexual attention of white women one must acquire “dark” characteristics (the product’s name isn’t even “Chocolate Temptation”—it’s “Dark Temptation.”) This ad shows that American society has a long way to go concerning portrayals of white women serving as the ultimate “trophy” for male sexual desire and black male bodies as sexual, hyper-masculine objects in chocolate advertising.

The second advertisement is for a fictional perfume for women called “White Chocolate Truffle” with the tagline “Anything but Vanilla”.


The image of a young, curvy white woman wearing a revealing evening gown while unwrapping and eating a white chocolate truffle already echoes many themes already mentioned in this essay; white female beauty, lust, and chocolate products are all fused together, and the presence of the evening gown implies wealth and upper class status. White skin, specifically white female skin, has long been associated with quality and high social capital.  Here intersectionality plays an important role (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 11)—for even though her white skin is historically viewed as superior and desirable, she is still a woman, and ultimately in many chocolate advertisements her body itself is a commodity to be consumed, not unlike the truffle in her hand, or the implied truffles popping out of her neckline waiting to be “unwrapped” and enjoyed.


Commodification of women’s bodies (vimeo)

The message is clear: Women need to buy this perfume to smell like white chocolate—a desirable, sweet treat so they can smell as appealing/be as appealing as this sexy woman eating an actual white chocolate truffle, with curves that mimic the truffle shape of the candy to be consumed to satisfy another type of desire (male desire), yet again drawing a connection between receiving heterosexual attention by becoming more like a chocolate product.

Whereas the Axe commercial may be seem odd at best, offensive at worst to 2015 viewers, the White Chocolate Truffle ad looks like something we have all seen before in magazines, and could easily star a buxom white celebrity such as Christina Hendricks, Scarlett Johansson, or Marilyn Monroe, which brings up other complicated issues. White women who showcase their curvy bodies are associated with glamour, class and sex appeal in Hollywood, whereas women of color with round bodies in many cases are criticized for being overly promiscuous or classless for displaying their curves (one just has to look at the backlash for the recent cover art for Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda album to understand the double standard.) (Duca).








Why is society not offended when white curves are showcased? Would a milk chocolate truffle ad using Nicki’s curves be effective? 

This taps into Western cultural associations with the words “vanilla” and “chocolate” and their conflation with blandness, boringness, pure, clean, and whiteness and spiciness, exciting qualities, dirty, naughty, and people of color. This ad is communicating that this perfume is “anything but vanilla”, implying the user will be the opposite of vanilla–like chocolate—embodying the scandalous, sexually titillating qualities that chocolate (people of color) supposedly imbibe, but still while staying safely within the privilege of being white, and therefore “classy”, and like cocoa butter, sweeter and without as strong a kick. (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 12). The metaphorical imagery is allowing the white female consumer to become sexier and more sexual through the means of chocolate, while still safely and demurely playing up to common images of white female sexuality.

Ultimately, both white women and black men are consistently portrayed as sexual objects in chocolate advertising. Time will tell if this trend will continue.

Works Cited (in order of appearance)

“Dark Temptation” 10 April 2015. http://www.theaxeeffect.com/#/axe-products/dark-temptation-body-spray

Robertson, Emma. “Does you mean dis?: cocoa marketing and race”. Chapter 1: “A deep physical reason: gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. Chocolate, Women, and Empire A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press. New York. pages 35-44.

Blackface. February 6, 2014. Hulton Archive Image. banana1015.com 10 April 2015.

Banania, French Chocolate Drink. Image. Slide 13, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Conguitos, Spanish Chocolate Candies. Video. Slide 14, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

White Chocolate Truffle Ad original work of Julie Coates, conceived by Julie Coates and Dami Aladesanmi.

Six Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory. Slide 11, Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Naked lady covered in chocolate. https://vimeo.com/6742298

Christina Hendricks advertisement. 20 Sept 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk./tvshowbiz/article-2074214. 10 April 2015.

Scarlett Johansson Gallery. mobile.fanshare.com. 10 April 2015.

“Marilyn Monroe voted cleavage queen.” http://www.santabanta.com/newsmaker/3892. Image.

Duca, Lauren. “Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ Cover Reveals Something Way Bigger than Her Butt”. HuffPost Entertainment. 31 July 2014. Huffington Post. 10 April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/middlebrow-nicki-minaj_n_5635394.html

Chocolate and Vanilla. Slide 12.Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.