Tag Archives: gender

Naughty but Nice: Gendered Sexualization in Chocolate Advertising

Chocolate is recognized as one of the most craved foods in the world, resulting in the coinage of terms such as chocoholic or chocolate addict. However, going from targeted marketing by most chocolate companies around the world, one would assume that the majority of the chocolate addicts or chocoholics were, women. As soon as a woman takes her first bite, in an advertisement, a sense of ecstasy follows triggered by the chocolate, invariably showing the relationship between women’s sexual pleasure and chocolate. Women’s sexual pleasure, much like the attitude towards chocolate, is considered sinful; the juxtaposition of these two views woven into narratives through chocolate commercials, only solidifies the concept of “naughty but nice” as they objectify women sexually while they are consuming chocolate.

Women tend to be sexually depicted in commercials in two ways, one, in which women are aroused by consuming chocolate, or two, women become attractive to men after they consume chocolate. Below are examples of two ads from Dove and Godiva that exemplify these two categories of portrayal of women in chocolate advertising. 

In both the commercials, chocolate is seen as a sinful treat that women consume. In the first Dove commercial, a woman is being wrapped in chocolate coloured silk as she sighs and savors the luxury of consuming chocolate whilst being wrapped around by a luxurious fabric. It is depicting the after effects of consuming the chocolate whilst showing what a privilege it is to be able to consume chocolate. The background music and noises further alludes to the effect of sexual arousal post consumption and the use of silk in the commercial shows luxury and class, and at the same time, it represents a material that is often used to portray sex. In the Godiva commercial, three women are shown in three different locations wearing long dresses that represent three kinds of Godiva chocolates; dark, milk and white. Three men can be seen gifting chocolates to the women, which in turn sexually arouses the women and thus excites the men. It is interesting to note that the commercial does not show men consuming the chocolate, but only women. In one instance in the commercial, one of the women almost shares the chocolate with the man but then teases him as she eats the whole truffle herself, because she just cannot share it or resist it.

Professor Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, explains: “A more compelling explanation lies in our ambivalent attitudes towards chocolate – it is highly desired but should be eaten with restraint”, he further states that “Our unfulfilled desire to eat chocolate, resulting from restraint, is thus experienced as craving, which in turn is attributed to ‘addiction’.” (Rogers, 2007) Women in the above commercials depict this relationship of resistance and indulgence with chocolate, not only through the consumption of chocolate itself but also through their sexual desires. Due to the perception that “nice” women and their sexual pleasures should be restrained as opposed to men’s sexual pleasures, chocolate gives them the narrative, the chance of indulgence, and gives them the opportunity to be “naughty”. Chocolate then starts to show women’s relationship with their own sexual desires, that relies on chocolate to be fueled.

Chocolate, then hence is portrayed to being the food for women by commercials. In contrast, a Burger King commercial shows meat as the food for men, aptly titled “I am Man”. The commercial shows men eating burgers while chanting socially accepted norms that make them men; these are men who are strong and can lift cars and pull heavy weights, men who cannot survive on “chick food” such as quiche. Commercials such as the one by Hungry Man, as well as Mc Donald’s McRib advertisement, show only men, consuming meat products. When catered to men such as the ones that are shown in these commercials, chocolate becomes delicate and feminine. When contrasted, meat becomes the socially accepted food for men while chocolate becomes the socially accepted food for women. 

Without any concrete scientific evidence, chocolate is now widely believed to be craved by women more than men. Dr. Julia Hormes from University of Albany states in her study published in Appetite in 2011 that “half of the women [in the U.S.] who crave chocolate say they do so right around menstruation,”. (Hormes, 2011) Hormes’s study tried to correlate menstruation with chocolate craving however, she arrived at the conclusion that “These biochemical, physiological hypotheses didn’t pan out.”  (Hormes, 2011) Hormes believes that the strong influence of culture, particularly the kind portrayed in commercials plays a role in how women tend to react to chocolate.

In an interview with Kate Bratskeir of Huffington Post, Hormes talks about chocolate marketing, she says;

“Chocolate is marketed as a way for women to deal with negative emotion (like, say, the stress and headaches that come with PMS), Hormes said. It is an “indulgence” because it is an exception to the rule — women who diet and subscribe to a certain ideal of beauty should only consume chocolate when they “need” it.”…“Only in America. In Spain, for example, women don’t report craving chocolate perimensturally nearly as much as women in the U.S. do. It’s not that Spanish women have a different make-up to their cycle, it’s really that tampon and chocolate ads aren’t aired during the same commercial break. In the U.S., it seems, there’s something so strongly feminine about chocolate that fewer men report wanting it. But, “Spanish men are almost as likely to crave chocolate as Spanish women.” In Egypt, neither men nor women really report craving chocolate; “They tend to crave savory foods,” Hormes said.” (Hormes, 2011)

The need that is described above by Hormes is a culturally manufactured one that is fabricated through commercials showing women needing chocolates, specially when it comes to sex.

Ferrero Rocher Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate advertisements not only play into women’s sexual desires but also women’s body image and various insecurities. The above print ad from Ferrero Rocher shows a naked model being tempted by chocolates that are growing from the tree. The ad is attaching the narrative of Eve and the forbidden fruit to chocolate, depicting this woman as a “sinner” for consuming chocolate and having sexual desires. The ad also shows a skinny model indulging in the sinful act of consuming chocolate. The inclusion of a model, gives off an image that makes it okay for women of regular sizes to indulge in chocolate. It shows that women can still be thin and be naughty, and consume chocolate as a guilty pleasure. While talking about the relationship of female body image and chocolate marketing, in his paper, Occidental College student, Jamal Fahim writes,

In order to remain slim and attractive, women must avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories. Images of the ideal body have permeated the minds of many consumers who are inclined to view the body as an object of admiration and a model for self-construction. Moreover, consumer goods may serve to compensate for a person’s “feelings of inferiority, insecurity or loss, or to symbolize achievement, success or power” (Campbell 1995:111)”.

Dove Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate companies tend to play up various different feelings that Campbell described whilst talking about consumer products, however in most cases those feelings within the wide spectrum from insecurity to success are usually related to sex and women in chocolate advertising. The print Dove advertisement above, for example, associates itself with an insecurity that is often linked with sex, lasting longer. The ad compares indulging the Dove bar to lasting longer while showing the face of a woman who is satisfied.

All the advertisements mentioned above adds to the misconception of chocolate as an aphrodisiac and that it works more on women. The New York Times article, tries to evaluate this claim stating;

“Nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love. But most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none. The most recent study, published in May in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The researchers, from Italy, studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none.” (O’ Connor, 2006)

The article concludes by stating that, “if chocolate has any aphrodisiac qualities, they are probably psychological, not physiological” (O’ Connor, 2006).

This psychological perception of chocolate and sex is one that is manufactured by chocolate advertising bringing out various themes that are associated with female sexuality starting from the perception that female sexual desires are akin to a sin, to body image issues that perpetuates women’s need to be slim to various other insecurities associated with sex such as lasting longer or overall satisfaction. Even though the findings and correlation between chocolate and sex are negligible, the marketing for chocolate continues to perpetuate chocolate’s association with sex and its implied special relevance to women’s sexuality as it plays into societal expectations from women, that require them to be and make them more attractive if they are “naughty but nice”.

Work Cited:

Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger” Huffington Post. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/10/chocolate-craving-pms-men-vegetables_n_6102714.html&gt;

Campbell, Colin. 1995. “The Sociology of Consumption.” Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. London, England: Routledge.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing”. 2010. Sociology Student Scholarship <http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student&gt;

Hormes, Julia M, Alix Timko. “All cravings are not created equal. Correlates of menstrual versus non-cyclic chocolate craving”. Appetite. Vol 57. 2011. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440592&gt;

Lindell, C.  Women and chocolate: A history lesson. Candy Industry, 180(3), 21. 2015

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac”. The New York Times. 2006. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/health/18real.html&gt;

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire. New York: Manchester UP, 2009. 

University of Bristol. “Chocolate Is The Most Widely Craved Food, But Is It Really Addictive?.” ScienceDaily. September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911073921.htm>.


Interview with EH Chocolatier

It was early February and Catharine Sweeney and Elaine Hsieh, co-owners of EH Chocolatier, were busy working on their Valentine’s Day orders. Sheet trays and whisks clanked against the steel countertops at a steady rhythm. February is one of the busiest time of the year for a chocolatier. Catharine and Elaine anticipated forty to fifty orders for Valentine’s Day; a modest amount for their three-year-old business, but enough to keep EH Chocolatier very busy. Catharine and Elaine make all of their chocolates by hand, as well as overseeing the packaging and shipping. As Valentine’s Day approached, they were hit with a New England curveball: winter storm Nemo, which would become the fifth largest snowfall in Boston history, was forecast to hit the weekend before Valentine’s Day. All around Boston the news warned of shutting down roads, airports, and subways. Authorities urged residents to prepare for a heavy downfall and warned of potential power outages. Nemo could wreck their biggest sale day and reputation.

However, EH Chocolatier had no idea of the real storm coming. On Tuesday, February 12th, Elaine was surprised to see EH Chocolatier featured in The New York Times  day’s “Best in the Box” article. Their salted caramels had been recognized as a top ten best chocolate caramel just in time for Valentine’s Day. Catharine and Elaine said that they did not get their hopes up initially, since  EH Chocolatier had previous exposure in major publications like Food and Wine. But at 9:05 AM Elaine’s email sounded off like an alarm, “bing, bing, bing, bing, bing”–the sound of hundreds of online chocolate orders pouring into her inbox. “It was kind of like an Oprah moment,” Elaine says recalling the experience. “We literally got five hundred orders in thirty-six hours.”

Most entrepreneurs could only dream of the success EH Chocolatier experienced with their first New York Times feature. However, waking up in the morning with five hundred orders of handmade chocolates is a daunting task. The article said chocolates could be ordered by Valentine’s Day–giving the team at EH Chocolatier merely four days to accomplish ten times their expected workload.  And then there was Nemo. “Oh my God, I don’t think we can handle this,” recalls Elaine of the experience. “But we did it.” With the help of friends and family, EH Chocolatier was able to successfully mail their chocolate orders in time for Valentine’s Day. Since The New York Times feature, Elaine and Catharine say that business has picked up at a steady pace.

Despite the publicity, the economic odds were against two mothers starting a business at the tail-end of a recession. “Micro-Chocolatiers” face tough competition from large manufacturers like Godiva or Lindt, who have extensive shipping networks and long shelf-life products. While EH Chocolatier still has room to grow as a business, there are benefits to staying small. “I think where we stand out is that its fresh,” Catharine says in our interview. “We make very small batches. . . . [T]he flavors [in chocolate] dissipate over time and will dry out a little bit. When you eat them and they’ve been made that week, theres no comparison to eating something that you’ve purchased from a large chocolate manufacturer who has [a shelf life of] maybe six months.”

Not only are EH Chocolatier’s confections fresh, but they offer creative flavor combinations. Inspiration for new chocolate flavors is not limited by the world of dessert. “A lot of it comes from our joy of savory eating,” Catharine says. “I have a friend that’s Thai and she cooks for me all the time. . . . [Y]ou start thinking; I wonder if I can pair these flavors with chocolate? [T]hats where our lemongrass Thai chili bonbon came from.” Beyond chocolate, EH Chocolatier also offers a passion fruit caramel  made with passion fruit puree combined with white chocolate.

The heart of EH Chocolatier that keeps the core of the business strong is the bond between Catharine and Elaine. “We knew of and heard of all those horror stories of friends starting businesses together,” says Elaine in the interview. “Catharine and I realized that it wouldn’t really be worth doing business together if we wouldn’t be friends afterwards.” “Because our strengths are very different it really is a match made in heaven,” Catharine says looking to Elaine as they share the kind of unrestrained belly-laugh that can only be had between close friends.

“We’re very ying yang,” says Elaine, who is dressed in a white linen shirt and brushed silver jewelry, with her straight black hair neatly parted down the side. Catharine sits by her side wearing a cherry red sweater with matching red rectangular glasses and red dangle bead earrings. “We are both equal in terms of developing new recipes and creating new ideas and we each sort of come at it from different bends and different palates. We’re equal in terms of strengths,” says Elaine.

Perhaps this strength is ultimately what enables a entrepreneurs to persevere through the difficult initial phases of a new business. After all, a business is fundamentally about relationships between people, whether it’s buyer or seller.  The challenges of winter storm Nemo and an unexpected bump in orders due to the Times article showed the EH Chocolatier has the right business model–and people for success.

Catharine and Elaine are helping to define what it means to be a female entrepreneur. In businesses highly dominated by men, women often forced to repress their femininity in order to be taken seriously. Desirable leadership traits are usually associated with male stereotypes of being aggressive, dominant, and individualistic. Women often feel pressure to be a “woman in a man’s world” and are not given the freedom to be a “woman in a woman’s” world because society has often categorized female-dominated industries as being less important, less deserving of respect, less difficult, and less desireable. As two mothers and entrepreneurs in the chocolate industry, an industry that has long been the domain of women, Catharine and Elaine reflect what it means to be a strong, female leader who fully leans into being a “woman in a woman’s” world.

It is important to see female leadership in the chocolate industry for a few reasons. The story of how chocolate rose to global prominence has largely taken place in the unwritten history of women. For example, many believe European colonists were responsible for innovating on cacao recipes taken from the Mesoamericans and transformed to fit European tastes. For example, Spanish Doctor and Military surgeon Antonio Lavedan wrote in 1796 in Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, cafe, te y chocolate:

“When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the Americas, the inhabitants there made a cacao liquor which was diluted in hot water seasoned with pepper and other spices . . . all these ingredients gave this mixture a brutish quality and a very savage taste . . . The Spanish, more industrious than the Savages, procured to correct the bad flavor of this liquor, adding to this cacao paste different fragrances of the East and many spices of this country [Spain]. Of all these ingredients we have maintained only the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon” (Lavedan, Antonio).


This Eurocentric view is fundamentally flawed but has persisted because historians have routinely overlooked the history of people of color and women. When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in Mesoamerica, they employed the encomienda system and forced women to perform housework and prepare food. As a result, Mesoamerican women introduced European settlers to the different ways of preparing cacao and rather than the Europeans modifying chocolate to fit their different cultural tastes, Europeans developed a cultural taste for Indian chocolate (Marcy Norton, 2006). Historians have often ignored the role of gender in shaping history and as a result, many people fail to realize that Mesoamerican women are largely responsible for introducing chocolate to the world out of obscurity.

For example, many people believe Europeans were the first to sweeten chocolate, however Mesoamericans had been sweetening chocolate for a while.


Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.


Source: Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

As chocolate made its way through Spain, Italy, France, and Britain, recipes were passed down between women from kitchen to kitchen. This played a formative role in discovering new uses for chocolate but scholars and historians have traditionally ignored studying and documenting this because chocolate has long been considered a “women’s” domain. As a result, the early evolution of chocolate throughout Europe is poorly documented and relatively unknown.

As the industry surrounding chocolate developed in the early 1900s, women were excluded participation in the development of chocolate as a business and it wasn’t until  1970s that Mar’s Chocolate hired a woman named Lone Clark to Vice President of HR, an unprecedented move at the time but still a testament to the newness of welcoming women into ownership of an industry that they by and large laid the foundations to.

Furthermore, chocolate has long been a tool for those in power to set the agenda on the wants and desires of women. Advertising is largely dominated by men and has historically had a lack of diversity of women in senior level positions. As a result, the messages connecting women to chocolate have focused on reinforcing highly gendered, heteronormative stereotypes of femininity. It is yet another way men have defined what constitutes women’s spaces and what it means to be a woman.

Catharine and Elaine’s success as chocolatiers represents women taking ownership of “women’s” domains, and paying homage to the unacknowledged labor of women who introduced the world to chocolate.



Dishman, Lydia. “The Gender Divide and the Traits of Effective Leadership: Who Comes Out on Top?” Fast Company, 05/20/2014. Retrieved online: https://www.fastcompany.com/3030754/the-gender-divide-and-the-traits-of-effective-leadership-who-comes-out-on

Hsieh, Elaine, Catharine, Sweeney. Personal Interview about EH Chocolatiers. Conducted March, 2015.

Lavedan, Antonio. “Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y chocolate : extractado de los mejores autores que han tratado de esta materia, á fin de que su uso no perjudique á la salud, antes bien pueda servir de alivio y curación de muchos males.” Madrid : En la Imprenta Real, 1796.

Retrieved online: https://archive.org/details/tratadodelosuso00lavegoog

Mars Inc. “At Mars, the Evolution of Female Leaders Started Early,” Mars News. Mars.com, 03/23/2017. Retrieved online: http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/womens-history-month-ione-clark

Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.


What Do You See?

Chocolate seems to permeate our lives. It saturates the grocery shelves during the holiday seasons and appears on our television screens. It is a true constant in our rapidly-changing world. Because our modern world is always developing, how has chocolate maintained permanent-product status? The easy answer is: sugar. Several hundred years ago when sugar first emerged onto the European food scene, it was a new and exciting ingredient from Mesoamerica that served many uses. It began as an expensive superfluous supplement to the natural European diet, but after two centuries, sugar had become a staple to the English diet and essential to the rest of Europe (Prof. Martin Lecture). This kind of integration was not isolated to sugar. Chocolate made the journey from a fancy, elite delicacy to a common household item… or so it seems. As this article of fun facts reveals, Modern day “Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person” which is much more than the average for Europeans. I argue that although statistics show that the common person consumes great amounts of chocolate, it still retains its original status as a highbrow item despite its price. This is best showcased by the chocolate sections at CVS.

There are a couple of different places to find chocolate at CVS, each with their own chief marketing purpose. The first is in the candy aisle. Here you can find the label “bagged chocolate” and see an assortment of chocolate from big, well-known companies like Hershey, Reese’s, etc. They all have seemingly endless variations of dark, milk, and white chocolate, sometimes mixed with peanut butter, nuts, or other embellishments. As you walk into the aisle, the sheer amount of options is overwhelming. The range of your selection makes them all seem to blend together. It is even hard to read each label individually because your eye is constantly being drawn elsewhere by cartoon images and bright colors. Eventually, you just go with what you know. This is either a run-of-the-mill choice like plain milk chocolate or something slightly more niche like salted caramel dark chocolate. In the case of a more niche preference, you will likely already know its position in the aisle because it does not change. Never at eye-level, your bag of salted caramel dark chocolate is eternally juxtaposed to the bag of mint milk chocolate, both sold by the same company. At any given CVS, they will sometimes be on a high level but more often than not, they will be off to the side. This particular bag of chocolate will reside at shin-level so you have to bend down to pick it up. It never goes on sale. But your friend has a slightly different experience. You see, she is a big fan of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, no almonds or other extras. She needs two bags because finals are coming up and she stress eats when she feels bloated. She turns into the candy aisle, finds the sign indicating the chocolate, and walks right up to inspect her choices. She does not have to look for long. As she glances to the side, her eyes find the Hershey’s label and her brain immediately recognizes the color. She grabs two bags since there is a sale that applies to this type of chocolate (second bag is 50% off!) and you both head to the front of the store to pay.

Photo taken by me.

Now let’s say that you and your friend prefer the finer things in life. Pretend that there has been a tragic epidemic and every chocolatier in your immediate vicinity has been destroyed. This leaves CVS as your only option for buying chocolate. The two of you cannot eat “commoners chocolate,” whatever that means (you and your friend are chocolate-snobs) so you head to the “Premium Chocolates” stand that CVS has on display. There is a notable absence of plastic bags and cartoon labels, no bright colors that remind you of late Halloween nights. The characteristics of this section that stand out to you are the highbrow-looking packaging, lack of “Big Chocolate” name brands (or so you think), and the fact that the vast majority of the packaging features some sort of picture of smooth chocolate.

Photo taken by me.

Because you and your friend prefer everyone to know the percentage of cocoa that your chocolate is, you grab a package from eye-level that advertises “85% Cocoa” in big, bold letters beneath the word “Excellence” written in a super fancy script font. This chocolate is slightly pricier than the chocolate in other areas of CVS so you and your friend agree to split the bag. Then you both head to the counter to pay.

In both situations, you have to pass the “impulse buy” test. As you wait in line to pay, you are surrounded by shelves of mini-sized candy. It is a slue of small packaging, with candy, gum, donuts, and chocolate all mixed together. The gum is at the top because it is the easiest to justify in a situation where you need to freshen up your breath. Directly below the gum are four entire shelves of candy, mostly chocolate. This is a departure from the fancy marketing you saw earlier. It is a return to the “Big Chocolate” name brands like Hershey. In contrast to the chocolate aisle, this chocolate is being sold in much smaller quantities. Its small size and location in the store point to a popular marketing ploy that stores like to use, especially in America. In America, we are very susceptible to the “impulse buy.” It is very easy to justify buying a small chocolate candy bar on your way out of CVS than buying a whole bag. Even further, these candies are not at adult-eye level but they are positioned perfectly to draw the attention of any child who walks past them. You, however, are not a child. You wait your turn and pay for your chocolate at the cash register. Then you leave CVS, concluding your shopping experience.

Photo taken by me.

These elaborate scenarios showcase various ways that chocolate plays a part in our everyday lives. For instance, the way that companies choose to visually represent their chocolate speaks to how we perceive chocolate. The “Premium Chocolates” section is a perfect example of this. In “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”, Mary Norton discusses how sociologists and cultural historians “have eschewed biological or economic determinism and instead theorize taste as socially constructed” (Norton, 663). She uses Mintz’ work on sugar’s development “from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes” to complement his argument that “sugar ‘embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.’ He points to ‘sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.’” (Norton/Mintz). This seems antiquated to us in modern day but it really holds true to society’s perception of chocolate. If you take into account the countless ads like this one that present chocolate as a luxury item that should be desired, then it becomes easier to see why presenting their product as “Premium Chocolates” is an effective marketing tactic used by Lindt and Ghirardelli in CVS.

Looking at this commercial, the first thing to notice is the incredible CGI they have used to recreate Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and elegance. There is classic music playing in the background. Audrey Hepburn leaves the public transport bus and makes the transition into a handsome man’s car where he proceeds to act as her chauffeur as she eats chocolate in the backseat. This is a very clear way of associating chocolate with a certain lavish lifestyle that mirrors the purpose of the upscale display at CVS. This demonstrates how chocolate is still thought of as a luxury good despite its frequency.

Similarly, you can discern the intended audience from the location and price of the chocolate. In the chocolate aisle and the section right before the cash register, the position of the chocolate can reveal many things. If it is at eye-level for an adult, odds are that product is very popular. An example of this is the Hershey’s chocolate staple: plain dark chocolate. If the product is more particular, it is likely that it will be on a different shelf in order to make room for the standard products. One exception to this rule is when products are placed at the eye-level of children. Today, ads everywhere target kids because they want to create costumers for life. This has various ethical complications, not the least of which are explored in the article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. Their article describes the way sugar’s detrimental effects on public health were covered up by greedy corporations. Along the way, scientific research has found that “sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars” (Taubes). The ethical complications arise when the companies knowlingly advertised their product that contained unhealthy ingredients without making the public fully aware of their effects. There is also research that links the overconsumption of sucrose and HFCS to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which disproportionately affect young people. Ad campaigns like this one from Cadbury target young people in an effort to foster a relationship between the child and the brand so that as an adult, their potential purchasing power increases because of their trained loyalty to the specific company.

The ad works likes a commercial to kids for kids. The use of children and upbeat music to advertise chocolate is a convincing strategy to associate chocolate with fun. This targeting of children as consumers is demonstrated in stores like CVS where chocolate is placed in the perfect position for children to recognize them from ads on television and the internet.

Chocolate might seem like a normal treat that you indulge in after a difficult day, but if you look deeper into your own perception of chocolate, you will learn that it is integral to multiple societal structures. Not only can you see from the different placements of chocolate in CVS that it is associated with elitism and opulence, but it is also incredibly gendered. This post on reddit.com by user Te1221 establishes the subconscious connection between chocolate and women.

Reddit, posted by user Te1221 in 2014.

The caption is “CVS boosted chocolate sales this year” which implies that its location next to female hygienic products would help it sell more. The suggestion that women on their period are more likely to buy chocolate is widely spread idea. This is just a small example of how chocolate can really represent institutions within our society like gender (like power through its elitism).

Just from looking at chocolate placement in a CVS in Harvard Square, you can begin to understand its intrinsic nature. Chocolate is a symbol of delicacy, power, femininity, and sinfulness (both in relation to physical health and sexually). All you need to do is look.

Works Cited

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (New York, 1985), 140, 139, 153, 166–167.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Feb. 15, 2017.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec. 2012. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign&gt;.

Chocolate Demonization and the Growth of Sexualized Chocolate Marketing in the Western World

Chocolate has had romantic and sexual connotations essentially since its birth, or at least dating back to “the European conquest of Mexico,” which was dually a conquest of the Aztec Empire (Coe & Coe, 29). Even in ancient use, chocolate was seen as both an aphrodisiac and a necessary facet of marital ceremonies. Such an association has accompanied chocolate to the modern world, though not without undergoing transformations in its exact manifestation in social customs and thus marketing. These transformations are not unfounded; instead, they took place alongside and were the result of historical change. One such change, which substantiates the focus of this paper, is the demonization of obesity which consequently led to the demonization of chocolate. Chocolate entered the Western world as almost a healthy option, which doesn’t come as a surprise given that it was considered a medicine in both ancient and early European societies. This thought survived only until the 17th century, when William Harvey’s work advanced knowledge of the cardiovascular system which disproved the Galenic medical model in which chocolate was included. But even after that, chocolate was revered for its ability to sustain and give energy. Take, for example, its role as a “fighting food” in World War II.                    warman.pngChocolate enjoyed this favorable role until around the mid-twentieth century, when chocolate and candy were exposed for their role in weight gain during a post-WWII stigmatization of obesity. The unhealthy aspects of chocolate were brought to light, and public attitudes toward it were fundamentally changed. And although a focus on women had always been congenital to the marketing of chocolate, this shift brought with it a change in exactly how this focus was manipulated. Women in chocolate advertisements went from being depicted as wholly domestic and in charge of family matters to being depicted as overly sexual and out of control. This shift was made in order to overcome chocolate’s newly immoral image by equating it to sex, which is socially acceptable but also technically sinful. But since women remained central to chocolate marketing, this pairing exudes deeper implications about women in relation to chocolate and sex, which are ultimately unfounded and yet have profoundly impacted public sentiment.

I was brought to such a conclusion through an interview regarding chocolate that I conducted with a good female friend of mine at Harvard College. We sat down in a café and had the following conversation.

Q: What is your favorite kind of chocolate?

A: Mostly white chocolates, but I also love the Cadbury Curly Wurly and Reese’s in particular.

Q: What kind of chocolate do you consider high quality?

A: Dark chocolates, or I guess specific brands like Lindt, or Lindor truffles…definitely not Hershey’s or Snickers. Do you know Milka? I think that’s European and it’s different but I’d probably consider that nice. The kinds that people give as gifts are usually nice.

Q: To whom do you gift chocolate, if ever?

A: You! Haha. But also my little sisters and anyone I feel bad for. It’s a nice quick way to make someone feel better. It’s easy, convenient, and everyone likes chocolate.

Q: Do people ever give you chocolate?

A: My family at holidays, and sometimes guys.

Q: In what situations do you eat the most chocolate?

A: Holidays and if I feel bad or upset about something. Chocolate is nice because it makes you feel happy. I think there are studies on that, that it makes you feel happy because of the sugar. Some people are addicted to it I think.

Q: Understandable. Lastly, in what context do you see chocolate most often advertised?

A: Oh! Wait. This is something I can really go on about because it’s so weird to me, and so interesting. Advertisements use women and eating, and sexualize the women eating it, which makes it seem doubly attractive because of both the woman and the chocolate.  It makes you think of sex and like, sinning, because chocolate’s unhealthy and sex is associated with sin. Not that sex is something to be ashamed of, but they’re associated. If you’re writing a paper on this you should do it on that!

My friend’s influence on my topic is pretty evident from my last question, which excited her to the extent that she insisted I use the interview to highlight that correlation. But even her answers to other, non-explicitly gender-based questions contribute evidence to the sexualization of women in chocolate advertising, its exact form, and the misconceptions it generates even to someone so obviously aware of it. To elaborate, her responses demonstrate how higher quality chocolate in particular is gifted to women by men or by other woman, but rarely to men. Furthermore, she clearly buys into the indulgent role of chocolate, and its ability to make her feel better instantly. This thought, unbeknownst to her, is also partially the result of chocolate advertising. But the advertising does not function this way arbitrarily; it acts on associations which, despite having morphed over time, are in fact grounded in chocolate’s roots.

Chocolate’s ancient romance-based role as an aphrodisiac and a factor in betrothal may be the starting point of the focus on women in particular since these connotations include heteronormative and monogamous assumptions. Women are therefore necessarily involved. In Mayan culture, kings purportedly sent messengers equipped with beaten chocolate out to found them wives (Coe & Coe, 61). And at the ceremony itself, the bride and groom would give each other five grains of cacao (Coe & Coe, 61). The first instance clearly illustrates that chocolate would, in that case, be expected to woo such a bride. Thus, chocolate’s supposed love-inducing power on women is seen even here. This concept was somewhat exempt from some of the early to mid-twentieth century chocolate advertising campaigns, which had other intentions, but it resurfaces in the current environment.

The aforementioned campaigns, which took place in the first half of the twentieth century, lack this concept because they sought to situate women and chocolate in the domestic realm. They were particularly prolific following the First and Second World Wars, due to the fact that women had worked traditionally male jobs in place of men who had been drafted. Female empowerment and the beginnings of an understanding of equal ability regardless of sex had emerged, and a heady effort was made to re-establish gender roles and thus reduce any competition with women for jobs. One way of doing this was to trumpet the image of the “housewife,” generally in an overwhelmingly positive light, so that women understood that this was still their primary role. Naturally advertising campaigns are an efficient way of making public statements, and so it isn’t surprising that cocoa and chocolate ads in this era worked to this end. Instead of focusing on women in a sexual manner, they focused on them in their roles as “the main shopper of the family, or at least the coordinator of the all the family shopping” (Robertson 23). A Rowntree poster depicts a woman carrying cups of cocoa for her children while they play with her outfit, which is starkly reminiscent of a maid’s uniform. This design is purposeful, and is included to insinuate that the purpose of wives and mothers is directly comparable to that of a maid. And a 1937 Baker’s Chocolate ad shows happy children and, separately, a woman eating dessert with her husband with a description that exclaims, “Gee, Mother’s a parent with swell ideas! (She’s smart, too, to make her soufflé with Baker’s Chocolate.” Ultimately, this illustration of women gives them some kind of power, even if it comes from a distinct “feminine knowledge” which was gleaned through being relegated to full-time housewife status (Robertson 23). rowntreebakers.png

In the 1940s and 50s in America, however, nutritional health concerns suddenly became paramount and obesity was increasingly stigmatized. Although being overweight was viewed as unappealing in previous decades, “psychiatrically-oriented postwar medical thinking about obesity was more stigmatizing…newer biomedical theory linked fatness to the already stigmatized condition of addiction and authorized attribution of moral blame to the fat” (Rasmussen 880). This new psychiatric attitude also directly blamed mothers for the obesity of children. Hilde Bruch, a New York psychoanalyst claimed that the “key element of a family environment promoting obesity…was a domineering mother too invested in mothering…this overmothering involved overfeeding” (Rasmussen 883). Given this blame-oriented reaction to unhealthiness and fat, chocolate advertisements naturally needed to alter their methodology and move away from the idea that smart mothers feed their children large amounts of chocolate and cocoa. Because although chocolate served as a sustainer, in its most popular form it also contained large amounts of sugar and fat. But the question then became one of what the new appeal of chocolate would be. This was an especially difficult issue, for the reason that unhealthy foods like candy and chocolate were not only stigmatized…they were essentially demonized (Lecture note, 8. March 2017). This is largely due to timing and grouping— “addiction and fatness attracted widespread popular stigma at about the same time—and for the same set of reasons based in a Protestant morality strained by the abundance of industrial capitalism” (Rasmussen 881). Opiate and cocaine addiction came to the forefront of societal concerns at the beginning of the twentieth century, and addicts were gradually seen as incurable and even criminal (Rasmussen 881). And those involved in the temperance movement which was in full swing until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 continued to condemn alcohol consumption largely for the addiction it was so disposed to cause. Now that obesity was also thought to be the result of addiction, but to food, the overweight were similarly denounced and eating junk food was, through this parallel, equated to committing a sin.

The best way to conquer this new face of chocolate was ultimately to embrace this idea of sin by pairing it with sex and lust. This pairing made sinning out to be a good thing, grounded in the understanding that sex is technically a “sin,” or morally perverse, and yet people engage in it regardless and with pleasure. If chocolate had instead been paired with a sin that has virtually no nuance and which is inhumane as opposed to immoral for religious reasons which not all people agree with, such as murder or theft, such a method would plainly fail. Needless to say, no advertising agency would assume this position—the comparison seeks only to elucidate how the choice of lust is one of few ways to save a name which had been thrust into the realm of immorality. From the pairing of sex and chocolate, emerges a concept of dual indulgence in both. The thought is that although eating chocolate is wrong for health reasons, it is addictive and pleasurable and understandable in the eyes of modern society, as is sex. This manifested itself in commercials and posters of beautiful women eating chocolate in a notably seductive fashion, and acting as though the chocolate itself is as pleasurable as sex. Some advertisements even make a point of acting as though the women are so drawn to the chocolate that it makes them irrational and out-of-control. This idea is pervasively linked to romance, where women are also stereotypically (albeit unfairly) thought to be irrational when inextricably involved with men. And sex in particular is thought to be a cause of this irrationality. The other common form of chocolate advertising features men gifting chocolate to women with “implied meanings of gratitude and sexual submission” (Robertson 33). Random gifting takes on the insinuation of seduction, or of chocolate’s ability to literally seduce a woman both in its intrinsic role as an addictive delicacy and in its role as reasoning to be grateful to a man and therefore be willing to indulge him. And in another chocolate-gifting trope, chocolate is given to appease a woman who is angry with her significant other. In these scenarios, the woman “overcome[s] such faults as a bad temper…the man is never really bad and there is a reason for his moodiness” (Robertson 30). Therefore, here too is the idea that women are inherently irrational, and that they can be either “subdued by the gift of chocolate” or simply seduced by it (Robertson 32). Regardless, they are often portrayed as out of control through images of them being both driven crazy by and placated by chocolate. It is important to note that this type of advertising was originally restricted mostly to nice chocolates and chocolate assortments—Emma Robertson qualifies that “at least until the 1970s, the link between sex and chocolate had become circumscribed according to the type of chocolate being marketed” (30). Cocoa powder and chocolate geared toward children remained innocuous. This is still the case on some level, which is why my friend equated nice, dark chocolates with the kinds one would gift. But this is a qualifier mostly only when concerning gifting—modern advertisements such as those first described tend to link women and sexiness regardless of quality. The sexual connotation now comes across in most marketing of chocolate.


Clearly, even before the health revolution of the 1950s, women were a focus of advertising efforts. Marketing is often gendered—commercials for traditionally “masculine” commodities such as cars and razors and cologne focus conversely on men to promote a masculine association with their product. An example of this which ironically coincides with gendered chocolate marketing is this Axe commercial. While still primarily featuring a man, it insinuates that the passion women ostensibly have for chocolate and the passion they will have for men that wear Axe deodorant are equivocal. For this to be appealing to men, this passion is necessarily sexual.

Aside from highlighting the toxic masculinity that emerges in advertising from companies such as Axe, this campaign functions for our purposes on two levels. As previously touched upon, it proves that chocolate has been shaped into something that the public feels women are literally attracted to in a sexual manner. The man is happy because, in his role as a man made entirely of chocolate, he is a recipient of the sexual desire men crave. Secondly, the fashion in which women respond to him is intentionally almost animalistic, so crazed are they by chocolate. While this implicitly lends proof to the earlier idea that gifted chocolate is meant to elicit a sexual response, it also speaks to the broader theme of female irrationality and impulsiveness at the hands of both chocolate and sex.

This theme can be proven to be artificially manufactured, however, at least in terms of chocolate. Societal views on female irrationality regarding sex are more nuanced and deserve to be more deeply analyzed separately. The trajectory of chocolate and a lack of control began when chocolate and other junk foods, after being caught up in the wave of altered medical and psychiatric thought of the mid-twentieth century, were classified as addictive. But the chocolate industry clearly decided to use this to their benefit. By subsequently linking chocolate to sex, the addictive classification was exacerbated. Sex is also considered classically addictive—Jamal Fahim notes that we “typically associate addictive behavior with drugs, alcohol, or sexual behavior” (13). So the link to sex compounded the addictive label and implied that chocolate can elicit reactions similar to those elicited by drugs and alcohol—chemical and unnatural. This made chocolate into a necessary indulgence, which is one way of increasing sales. Advertising is therefore necessarily involved, since it is the realm in which the association grew. It is also interesting to note that, in an age where addictions to such substances were under heavy criticism, “tobacco and alcohol are socially deemed masculine luxuries” (Fahim 12). Thus, it appears that the addictions plaguing the public were largely those associated with masculinity. It is therefore convenient that a new addiction emerged which was almost concretely linked to women through the media. Though it cannot be stated with any certainty, it is possible that likening chocolate to an addiction and then placing it in the female realm redistributed blame for a societal problem which previously had more of a male affiliation. After all, women were also targeted in Hilde Burch’s aforementioned concept that the overfeeding mother is responsible for child obesity. Regardless, claims of the addictive properties of chocolate are for the most part unsubstantiated— “studies on chocolate have indicated that the amounts of these mood-enhancing chemicals, such as alkaloids or Phenethylamine, are at such a low level that it is unlikely that they are the reason behind the euphoria one feels when they consume chocolate” (Aaron and Bearden 2008:169, as qtd. in Fahim, 14). Yes, chocolate tastes good and the alkaloids that it contains (caffeine and theobromine) may have some positive effects on mood and stimulation, but it is not addictive in the same way that drugs and sex are. Research that portrays it in such a manner in order to “validate a deeper relationship to sex [is] so negligible and trivial that one must conclude that it is only chocolate marketing that perpetuates chocolate’s association with love and sex and its implied special relevance to women” (Fahim 15).

The lack of scientific evidence to back chocolate addiction theories doesn’t change the fact that the stereotypes crafted by the advertising world have genuinely imbedded themselves in society. This is evident in the interview with my friend. For example, the gender-based one-way gifting is validated by her anecdotal evidence, in that she recalls giving gifts to me and her sisters alone, while receiving them from men. She also has a little brother, and so it is significant that she didn’t mention him while describing giving chocolate to little siblings. The history of chocolate’s public image makes the gifting of chocolate to boys and men seem almost outlandish. She also touched upon her tendency to eat chocolate when she’s upset because it makes her feel happier, even adding that this is why some people are possibly addicted to it. This made me realize that misconceptions put forth by the marketing of chocolate have been widely accepted by the public, because her description of chocolate betrays a belief that chocolate has powers similar to that of a drug in enhancing mood. And this notion has been strongly influenced by advertising’s exaggerated depictions of the female reaction to chocolate.

There is, however, probably some validity to the natural mood-enhancing capabilities of chocolate. Recent years have yielded an abundance of literature heralding positive effects of chocolate on maladies such as depression, blood pressure, and inflammation. It is important to keep in mind that, in such research, “reported results are based upon dark rather than milk chocolate” (Coe & Coe, 30). But since entirely dark chocolate is not sweet like milk chocolate, it has not been incredibly popular with the public. Thus, even if such research is valid, it wouldn’t apply to the vast majority of the mainstream chocolate onto which the media projects its fabricated claims.

What is most interesting to me about the marketing of chocolate is its loyalty to a feminine focus. When the basis of the domesticity-based chocolate and cocoa campaigns was uprooted by the obsession with thinness and the stigmatization of obesity of the mid-twentieth century, marketers of chocolate turned to sex in connection with women in particular to make chocolate similarly alluring and deserving of indulgence. The link to sex also purposefully deepened chocolate’s addictive connotation, so that consumers would feel chocolate was a necessary purchase. But the new methodology didn’t fail to maintain the strong feminine association of the domestic campaign. Although men are implicit in the sexually-tinged gifting policies, it is women that appear in almost all advertisements and often alone with their chocolate, being seduced by it and also seducing the viewer. This propensity to preserve the pairing of women and chocolate, combined with what appears to be growing acknowledgement of dark chocolate and its health benefits, leads me to wonder what kind of marketing we can expect to see if chocolate’s image shifts again. One might think that the focal point of its advertising strategy would simply revert back to domestic life as in the early twentieth century and earlier, but I would argue that the economic equality of women, although not complete, has advanced to the extent that this would not be the new structure. Instead, I think it would be based on the modern focus on women and a societal expectation that they will maintain their health and their body image. For example, I can picture marketing similar to that of this Special K commercial, but trumpeting mental health or blood pressure as opposed to weight loss.

Because unfortunately, it appears that the marketing of chocolate is insistent on keeping a gendered focus. But we can at least hope that, if dark chocolate’s health benefits become fact and are widely understood by the public, chocolate consumption will lose the connection to immorality which likens it to sex, and that women in chocolate advertising will thus cease to be over-sexualized. Granted, this could be replaced by the gendered double standards of health maintenance, but I consider those to be the lesser of two evils. Lastly, needless to say, in the best case scenario the gendered focus of the advertising would be eradicated entirely—but given no guarantee of this, I aim only to predict a slightly better alternative.

                                                                        Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York:                    Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

“Chocolate Advertisements.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.                      <http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slideshows/double_x/doublex/2012/02/13/chocolate-advertisements/jcr%3Acontent/slideshow/6/images%252Fslides%252FChocolate_7.jpg >.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester and New York: Manchester U Press, 2009. Print. Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Elsey, Brian. Retro Image, Rowntree’s Chocolates and Cocoa. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://www.historyworld.co.uk/retroimage.php?opt=retro&pic=123&gt;.

Rudolph, Janet. “Dying for Chocolate.” Thanksgiving Weekend: Baker’s Vintage 1937 Ad & Recipes. N.p., 27 Nov. 2011. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com/2011/11/thanksgiving-weekend-bakers-vintage.html&gt;.

Rasmussen, Nicolas. “Weight stigma, addiction, science, and the medication of fatness in mid-twentieth century America.” Sociology of Health & Illness 34.6 (2012): 880-95. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Lecture Notes: information recorded in class, provided by Professor Carla D. Martin.

Bmt27. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2006. Web. 01 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcbhHOZZXnI&gt;.

Elliott, Stuart. “Godiva Rides in a New Direction.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2009. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/business/media/16adnewsletter1.html&gt;.

“BLACK MAGIC CHOCOLATE ADVERTISEMENT 1939.” Flickr. Ed. Star1950. Yahoo!, 17 July 2008. Web. 01 May 2017. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/castlekay/2678319672&gt;.

Matheuscp. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 02 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZK7HS9J46Y>.

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

Johnklin. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 04 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPJpkgqLQ_M&gt;.




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








Valentine’s Day Chocolate as a Commentary on Society

The History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with love, red hearts, bouquets of roses and a box of chocolates. In fact, the first celebrations of Valentine’s day, which date all the way back to Roman times, were not linked to romance at all (Butler). The initial appearance of gift-exchange occurred during the Medieval Period, when knights would lavish roses upon maidens to express their “courtly love” (Butler). This gift giving practice continued to grow in the following centuries (Henderson). However, the exchange of chocolate and candies was not yet in practice since sugar was still regarded as a highly precious commodity (Butler, Henderson). By the Victorian Era, commercialization of the holiday had begun (Henderson), and the practice of exchanging elaborate and highly decorated gifts had become routine (Butler) .

Richard Cadbury and the Heart-Shaped Box

Richard Cadbury was one of the first entrepreneurs to fully take advantage of the love-crazed commercialized frenzy (Butler). Through industrialization and technological advancements, Cadbury had discovered a cheaper way to produce what was referred to as “eating chocolate” (Butler). Cadbury, being the commercial genius that he was, began to design elaborate heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates to distribute during Valentine’s Day (Henderson). The boxes were extremely successful that even to this day, Victorian Era Cadbury boxes, such as the one featured below, still exist, are wildly popular, and “are treasured family heirlooms and valuable items prized by collectors” (Butler).

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.31.45 PM
Wilson, Laurnie

Valentine’s Day is compelling in the ways it reflects changes in Western society regarding the introduction of exchanging sugar and chocolates and a movement towards industrialization and commercialization. Currently, however, it is also most indicative of the ways in which society hasn’t changed, according to the continued gender-biased and heteronormative nature of the holiday.

Advertisements Across Time

Looking among different chocolate advertisements celebrating Valentine’s Day, common themes emerge based on assumed gender roles and heteronormativity that remain constant throughout time and across companies.


Since Cadbury is the founder of the heart-shaped box of chocolates, I thought it only appropriate to look at the content of their advertisements over time.

Cadbury Vintage Style Ad

This vintage Cadbury advertisement really speaks to the roots of heteronormativity associated with Valentine’s Day. The ad is centered around the simple fact that she loves him, he loves her. The assumptions of heteronormativity are all too clear.

This Cadbury Valentine’s Day Commercial  from 2017 shares many of the same sentiments as the vintage ad. He loves her. She loves him. And they both love Cadbury chocolate.  Although only hands are featured in this commercial, the hands are clearly gender specific. The woman’s hand is feminine, with pink painted nails and of course, hers is the hand that is receiving the chocolate. While there is some playful teasing and banter throughout the commercial, at the very end it is made clear that it is the man who is giving the chocolates by his hand signing the card with a simple “be mine”.


Cadbury, however, is not the only company that has perpetuated gender stereotypes and promoted heteronormativity. The comparison between these two ads from 1943 and 2013 shows that while some aspects of their marketing technique have been updated, fundamental concepts surrounding gender roles and heteronormativity remain the same.

Block, Tara


This Whitman’s ad is from 1943 and demonstrates the evident gender biases of that time. The ad implies that all women care very much about being recognized on Valentine’s Day and that men are expected to actually forget Valentine’s Day because they care so little about this particular holiday and receiving a gift. There is also the reoccurring theme that a man is able to win over a woman’s affections by giving her chocolate. In my opinion, this concept somewhat objectifies a woman and implies that her love may be bought with a simple box of chocolates.

This 2013 Whitman’s Valentine’s Day Commercial does not really show many differences from the printed ad from the 1940s. The language may be updated and the message appeals to a more modern man, who is interested in sports (football), but in the end, the message remains relatively the same that, “men, don’t be the forgetful, careless tough guys that you usually are; go out and buy your caring, sensitive ladies some chocolate… that’s all they truly want on Valentines Day”. Not only is this an extremely gender-biased message, it is also a message of heteronormativity. The ad directly addresses men and directs them to buy something for their special woman.

Many other chocolate brands, including Godiva and Ferrara Rocher, have released recent Valentine’s Day ads that continue to reveal how gender bias and heteronormativity are still very much ingrained into American society.

There are some advertisements, like this Dove commercial, that actually change up the narrative a little bit. However, while it does not subscribe to heteronormativity, it also does not actively combat it. Furthermore, while the ad dispenses of some of the assumed gender roles, such as the man always being the giver of chocolate, it still plays into others. It was particularly notable to me that the recipients of the chocolate were all still women. While commercials like this do perhaps show more progress, I do not believe they are up to standards with the claim to dispense of gender stereotypes and support LGBTQ communities. I struggled to find advertisements that included gay couples or advertisements in which a female romantically and earnestly gave a box of chocolates to a man, who is ready to decadently indulge. I really think that this lack of representation on Valentine’s Day may speak to a larger problem that we, as a society, may not be as progressive as we think we are.

Realities of Valentine’s Day Chocolate Exchange

These issues of perpetuated gender stereotypes and heteronormativity are not just depicted in the advertisements we see, but are also being played out in real life through the Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange. In 2006, an article entitled “pulse point’ revealed that “while 75 percent of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days and minutes before Valentine’s Day, 75 percent of the chocolate purchases are made by men. Over $ I billion of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day” (p. 9). Furthermore, a study conducted by Otnes, Cele, Ruth and Milbourne revealed that men are not necessarily buying these chocolates because they want to. Many men expressed an intense pressure to buy chocolates for their significant other and actually stated that on average, they experience much more pleasure from gift-receiving than gift giving. The practices of modern day chocolate exchange during Valentine’s Day still reinforce gender roles that men must be the givers and women must be the receivers and gender bias that women care much more about the gift giving than men. Furthermore Otnes, Cele Ruth and Milbourne discuss the novelty of their study, in that it looks at the opinions and attitudes of men on Valentine’s Day rather than women, who historically and stereotypically claim the holiday; however, I could find no study on LGBTQ groups and their opinions and attitudes towards the holiday. Throughout this exploration, it has become very evident to me that the LGBTQ groups are vastly underrepresented during this holiday. While it is concerning that Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange does not seem to represent the progressive and open-minded society we feel we are a part of, perhaps the holiday is actually an indication that our society as a whole is not as updated and progressive as we ought to be.


Works Cited

Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Food and, Retail E. “FEATURE/Valentine’s Day – Celebrating America’s Love Affair with Chocolate More than 35 Million Heart-Shaped Boxes Will be Sold.” Business Wire, Jan 26, 2001, pp. 1, Business Premium Collection, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/446497881?accountid=11311.

Otnes, Cele, Julie A. Ruth, and Constance C. Milbourne. “The pleasure and pain of being close: men’s mixed feelings about participation in Valentine’s Day gift exchange.” NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21 (1994).

“Pulse Points.” Journal of Property Management, vol. 71, no. 1, jan/feb2006, p. 9. EBSCOhost, ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19533678&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Images Cited

Block, Tara. “Valentine’s Day.” POPSUGAR Love & Sex. N.p., 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.popsugar.com/love/photo-gallery/21966615/image/21966645/Valentine-Day

“Cadburys Chocolate Vintage Style A4 Poster Print Retro Advert VALENTINES DAY.” EBay. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Cadburys-Chocolate-Vintage-Style-A4-Poster-Print-Retro-Advert-VALENTINES-DAY-/232259253864.

Wilson, Laurie. “Candy Favorites – Wholesale Candy & Bulk Candy Suppliers Since 1927.” Richard Cadbury & the Heart-Shaped Chocolate Box – Candy Favorites. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.candyfavorites.com/heart-shaped-chocolate-box-valentines-day

The Happiest Chocolate on Earth: Exploring Chocolate and its uses at the Disneyland Resort


Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort is found in nearly every retail and food location in and around the resort with it primarily being portrayed with the same innocence surrounding the founding of Disneyland and its characters (Marciodisney, 2011): yet the marketing of the chocolate that primarily uses Disney characters and images to sell its products while delightful is tainted because a theme of secrecy, sex, and exclusivity exist in and around the resort where chocolate is concerned.


Chocolate and products that contain chocolate surround most of us in our daily lives as consumers (Allen, 2010). As I contemplated what to write about in my final post on chocolate for this class I could not think of another place that I desired to explore how chocolate is used, influences, and motivates behavior than at the Disneyland Resort, a place that holds a special place in my heart. In order to fully explore the relationship between chocolate and Disneyland I traveled to California and spent two days “researching” how chocolate is used, where Disney sources the chocolate they use, and the role that marketing plays in the production and sale of chocolate at Disneyland. What I found was that chocolate, like many other foods and products at the Disneyland Resort is influenced by many factors both positive and negative. Several of the factors used to motivate and guide consumer behavior to purchase chocolate in Disneyland are enjoyment, food, and it is an outlet for consumers to entertain themselves, however it appears that some of the motivation is driven under the often subtle guise of providing a source of supplemental income for the resort at the cost of violations of morals and stereotypes that fuel and drive consumer behavior.

History of Products in Disneyland

Nestled in Anaheim California, Disneyland is advertised as the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, 2014), but is more than a tourist destination, it is a beacon American capitalism generating more than 3 million dollars per day in revenue (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012). When Disneyland opened in 1955 Walt Disney proclaimed that “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America” (Disneydreamer, n.d.), with no hard facts more true that those of capitalism and marketing. Since the beginning Disneyland has incorporated products and businesses into its operational structure to offset costs and guide consumer behavior, a strategy that is still used today as evidenced through my exploration of how chocolate is used and sold in the park and how the success of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop


Image Source, personal photo, May 7, 2016

continues the trend of outsourcing products and brands for profit. In addition to bringing in the popular chocolate brand Ghirardelli to the resort (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012), Disneyland sells several products that capitalize on the characters and animations that they have developed and created often using these in seductive and sexually enticing ways, ways that are often copied by other companies as they attempt to capitalize on the success of Disneyland (Coe & Coe, 2013).

Exploring the Chocolate Selection at the Disneyland Resort

Throughout the Disneyland Resort several shops sell a variety of chocolate items that are both prepackaged and “made” at the resort. The items that are available include chocolate bars, prepackaged chocolate items such as nuts and non-perils, items hand created out of chocolate including dipped apples, a variety of desserts at restaurants, and other chocolate items where chocolate is used not as a main ingredient but as a decorative and supplemental additive such as when it is drizzled on fruit and used as a tool to write a message on a plate. Several products are available throughout the resort and most of the stores that sell them all have similar if not an identical selection available no matter where I shopped for chocolate.

As I was shopping throughout the resort for chocolate I noticed a striking similarity, in addition to all of the products being similar and identical in every store all of them, including the products sold exclusively at the Ghirardelli Soda and Chocolate Shop, shared the common characteristic of not being sourced as to where the chocolate originated. Additionally, the packaging on both the prepackaged and in-house packaged chocolate items (see figure 1) IMG_0925

Figure 1, source personal photo, May 7, 2016

made no representation as to where the chocolate originated nor where it was processed aside from where the final product was made (see figure 2). IMG_0843

Figure 2, source personal photo, May 7, 2016

Even upon further investigation and asking employees where the chocolate originated I was left unfulfilled in my quest to find out the source of the chocolate that the use in their products. At one register I inquired if the cashier knew where the chocolate came from and she stated that it “came from the chefs in the back” of which I asked her where the chefs get it and she said it was all made at the resort (A. Cast member, personal communication, May 7, 2016), something that I knew was not accurate because I believe that they would advertise if Disneyland was a bean to bar operation, therefore I believe that they are operating a type of chocolatier making and selling items originally and repackaged.



Disney cast members making chocolate items, source personal photos, May 6, 2016

Exploring the Originally Produced Items

A large variety of items are offered for sale throughout the resort that are produced by hand and not mass produced. Many of these items are quite unique and include a variety of chocolate covered apples, various items dipped in chocolate including nuts, peanut butter, fruit, marshmallows, and candy (see figure 3 & 4). IMG_0828


Various items available for sale in Disneyland, Figures 3 & 4, source personal photos, May 6, 2016

While these items were unique and quite tasty with a desirable aroma, good color, and a flavor characterization that merged into one another in a seamless manner (Presilla, 2009) based on empirical observations conducted using several taste samples, all of the chocolate products shared similar characteristics. The similarities that existed centered around three common themes, the first was chocolate items that represented Disney cartoon characters and other fictional characters such as Darth Vader and Tigger (see figure 5 & 6).


Figures 5 & 6, source personal photos, May 7, 2016

The second theme was several products were created to represent and celebrate the 60th anniversary celebration that is underway at the Disneyland Resort (see figure 7).


Figure 7, source personal photo, May 6, 2016

The third theme that was observed throughout my shopping adventures was that traditional items that are not associated with any Disney specific character or event itself were also available for purchase. In addition to the in-house made chocolate items available for sale several already packaged items were offered for sale as well that included chocolate bars, nuts, and other items all packaged and sold as products that depicted either a Disney character or promoted the Disneyland Resort itself (see figure 8)


Figure 8, source personal photo, May 7, 2016

Exploring the Prepackaged Items

The prepackaged items that were available for sale fell into two categories, those that were formal and directed toward any audience and those that attempted to use humor by portraying Disney characters or Disney quotes in an attempt to grab the consumers interest and motivate them to buy. Within the products that attempted to use humor some were funny, some were silly, and some were offensive and portrayed women in sexual ways that I thought were inappropriate. Some examples of the items that I found to be funny was a chocolate bar that portrayed Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer Mickey with the title “And now I will make this chocolate disappear”(see figure 10). A chocolate item that I thought was silly was a milk chocolate caramel item that was titled “Mood Chocolate” and stated “If you’re feeling Grumpy, it can make you Happy. But don’t be Dopey and eat too much… or you’ll have to see the Doc!” using a portrayal of the Dwarfs from Snow White (see figure 9)



Figures 9 & 10, source personal photos, May 7, 2016

 The chocolate bar that I was offended by featured a picture of Jessica Rabbit from Roger Rabbit wearing a low cut dress and showing a great deal of her animated breasts with the caption “I’m not bad I’m just drawn to chocolate” (see figure 11).


Figure 11, Source http://www.IMNOTBAD.com, retrieved May 11, 2016

This chocolate item in particular is one that Disney is crossing the barrier from cute to sexism because they are using sex to sell chocolate. Despite the overarching theme of innocence in most Disney characters, having this chocolate bar puts Disney into the same category as many other chocolate manufacturers who use sex and sexual innuendo to sell products by reinforcing the dominate ideologies that classify women as sexual objects (Robertson, 2009). While the marketing is at times distasteful and offensive one cannot argue its success with the lines at the chocolate shops often stretching a dozen or more people at any given time of the day or night which not only promotes marketing of this type it reinforces it as well financially.

In addition to the creative and sometimes distasteful marketing that exists surrounding the chocolate for sale at the Disneyland Resort many other concerns exist regarding the price point of the products for sale. Because the Disneyland Resort only sells their own chocolate with the exception of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop they are free to set whatever price point they desire for their products. Because many consumers who visit plan to spend disposable income on food and beverage purchases a market of willing consumers pays for the privilege to buy the chocolate offered for sale with no possibility of free market competition to help regulate the price market demanded for some of their items. Because this situation exists several chocolate items are priced well above traditional pricing normally found for similar items sold outside the gates of the resort. An example of this can be found when looking at the chocolate covered apples available that are priced between $10.99 and $13.99 apiece (see figure 12).



Figure 12 & 13, source personal photos, May 6, 2016

These prices coupled with 16 ounce box of assorted chocolates being sold for over $23 and a variety of items at Ghirardelli offered for sale over $30 makes buying chocolate at the Disneyland Resort a potentially pricey scenario, all for chocolate that is not sourced, described, or explained outside of its affiliation with the Disney marketing on the packages and the availability to only purchase many of the items inside of the Disneyland Resort after admission is paid which varies but averages $100 per person per day (Disneyland, 2016).

Summary of Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort

During my two-day chocolate consuming adventure, I learned several things including the chocolate at Disneyland is geared toward an American pallet using a formula and process that is very similar to chocolate commonly found produced by mass American chocolate companies (Coe & Coe, 2013). The second thing I learned was that despite the commonality of the chocolate, where the source is kept secretly hidden and the “nothing unique” thoughts I had about its taste, I loved the presentation and the creativity that is put into the manufacturing of the items. Disney does a great job of having their employees visible to the general public as they are producing and packaging many of the chocolate items that they sell. As a consumer I found this to be delightful because I could see for myself how many of the items I purchased were being made. This added a great deal to the experience and motivated me to spend even more of purchasing items to see what they tasted like as I had just seen them being made and was curious.

Aside from the unique items produced in-house at the Disneyland Resort I found many of the prepackaged items to have a similar taste as the in-house made items despite them being produced in a factory. Overall the quality of these items was good and the only drawback that would dissuade me from purchasing more of these items would be the price. In addition to the items available for purchase in the store the restaurant original items that were themed and created were wonderful and would be a motivation for me to return to the park again with friends because the flavors that Disney used created a chocolate taste that mixed fruit, nuts, and cake to make unique flavor combinations that would be perfect to share as a way to bond and come together as we consume items that perhaps may not be the best for us nutritionally but would fill social needs (Mintz, 1985). Even though the price was high for most items, the marketing was somewhat offensive on one item, and the variety between and among brands was lacking I would still recommend sampling items available at the Disneyland Resort because it is one of the most unique chocolate adventures and tastings one will ever have.


Source personal photo, May 7, 2016


Allen, L. L. (2010). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Disney dreamer. (n.d.). Walt Disney Opening Day Speech Disneyland. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from http://www.disneydreamer.com/DLOpen.htm

Disneyland (2016). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from https://disneyland.disney.go.com/tickets/

Disneyland Resort Public Affairs (2012). The Happiest Place on Earth Just Got Happier  https://publicaffairs.disneyland.com/the-happiest-place-on-earth-just-got-happier/

Marciodisney. (2011). 1955 Disneyland Opening Day [Complete ABC Broadcast]. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuzrZET-3Ew

Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York, NY: Viking.

Presilla, M. E. (2001). The new taste of chocolate: A cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP.


Cacao, Cocao, Cocoa: The Deification of Chocolate in an American Household

Chocolate has fallen from its archaic divinity; as industrial chocolate manufactures, such as Hershey, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Mars, L.A. Burdick and the multitudes of other small and large confectionary manufactures have strategically subverted religion and evaded the creation of a static definition of what can be classified as health food (Off, 2008). This has been done on a global scale (Allen, 2010). Yet, for all of the exploitation of natural and human labor resources in the mad capitalist race to net exponentially larger profits, methods of chocolate consumption have changed. Chocolate has invaded every home in America and continues to spread into even the most remote regions of the world were chocolate is merely grown as a exported market good (and the farmers have never tasted the finished product) (Leissle, 2012) (Martin 2016) (Stuckey, 2012). Modern chocolate consumption has continuously increased and transformed from a relished delicacy into an addiction, one that has fostered a cultic fanaticism in its omnipresence in American culture (Martin, 2016). Chocolate addiction has been fostered by dynamic consumption practices, various health benefits, ideals of beauty, sexualization of female chocolate consumption, and the reframing of sales advertisements to secularize and/or create holidays revolving around chocolate consumption (Leissle, 2012) (Howe, 2012) (Robertson, 2009) (Martin, 2016). Addiction is an all encompassing cultural mindset which has gone further in the continued liminal state of chocolate’s meaning to contemporary American society (Benton, 2004) (Robertson, 2009). Average American households often are not aware that their chocolate consumption is irrevocably linked to the various external methods of ideological implantation of chocolate as a religious iconographic good. A brief ethnographic analysis of an average New England household, comprising of my future in-laws, engenders a radical deviation from chocolate as a coveted, addictive necessity and furthers chocolate’s ideological transformation by coming full circle to again reify chocolate’s worship as a physical manifestation of divinity.

Cacao, or Kakawa, is a substance similar to maize, corn, in its purveyance in Mesoamerican culture and religious iconography (Coe & Coe, 2013). Cacao is also shown in Mayan iconography to have been conflated with the Maize god, this has rendered archaeological interpretations of cacao as the food of the gods (Coe & Coe, 2013). Ancient associations of cacao with the food of divinity has not been lost in modern methods of advertisement (Leissle, 2012). Even analyses of chocolate advertisements can be interpreted to illustrate that chocolate and divinity are intrinsically linked. Capitalism has not so subtlety transformed and secularized religious holidays by constructing the consumption of chocolate as a ritualized activity, in which participants (consumers) will be glorified and feel euphoria through acts the giving and receiving chocolates (Martin, 2016) (Robertson, 2009). Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even the forty days of Lent have all become associated with chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). Lent is the most indicative of chocolate’s association with divinity, through its construction as a vice (particularly for women) which should be avoided so as to liken oneself to the divinity of Christ’s fast and then temptation by Lucifer in the desert. My fiancée’s (F) family is traditionally Irish-Catholic, like much of the greater Boston area, and has their roots firmly set in the nomenclature of religious etiquette. However, like many religious followers, they merely retain a religiously linked ethnic identity. This is not to say that they do not follow a set of religious rituals that underpin their daily lives, but the god (chocolate) to which they devote both cognitive and subconscious worship, is revealed through the family’s vocalization and ritualization of chocolate consumption. Through almost a year of total emersion into their household I have observed both passively and actively their emphasis on the  importance of ritual chocolate consumption. By cooking, and baking, with the father (FD); observing F’s sister’s food habits (FS); and through consensual approval to inquire about their chocolate habits during informally structured interviews, I have captured a snapshot of the ethnographic phenomenon by which chocolate has been re-deified.

Anonymity Disclaimer: all proper names are changed to protect anonymity and personal privacy.

This is a clear over exaggeration, but illustrates the extent chocolate is incorporated into their diet.

The demographic biological sex ratio in my fiancée’s family, including myself, is three females to two males. I entered their household in June 2015, as it was the most convenient way to save up money for our wedding and attend school. My fiancée and her sister both have severe cases of mental illnesses, and have self-proclaimed themselves vegetarians, which has inhibited their ability to consume a wide variety of food products. Prior to my debut, F’s family cooked for and brought FS any food that FS desired, while FS was unable to leave her bedroom due to severe agoraphobia. During this period and into the first several months of living with the F-in-laws, the father (FD) and mother (FM) brought FS mass quantities of sweets (per her request)- the vast majority of which contained chocolate in some form. These sweets were then incorporated into FS’s daily diet through both home cooked treats and purchased delicacies. So pervasive was chocolate into the kitchen and pantry, I could not open the refrigerator without stumbling upon 8 out of 10 items containing chocolate. Even F considered pancakes unsatisfying is they did not contain chocolate chips, accompanied by chocolate milk, and chocolate croissants, from FD’s crafting or purchased from the local French bakery. Upon my alien perspective into this near total emersion of chocolate into every aspect of nutrition, as I prefer recipe purity without the forced inclusion of chocolate, F’s mother (FM) made it quite clear that the extant to which chocolate was considered medicinal. Even long-standing family recipes, such as their grandmother’s scone recipe, that originally contained fruit changed to substitute chocolate chips; this was celebrated not only by F’s immediate family but the extended relatives as well. F, FD, and FM prefer dark chocolate; FS prefers milk chocolate. Methods of dietary consumption are among the easiest to witness, but also the amount to which F’s family purchases or crafts feminine hygiene products known to contain cocoa butter, and the amount of objects, utensils, and other paraphernalia used in the consumption, production, promotion, or distribution of chocolate.

Saying that their mass consumption of all things chocolate is a product of the historical engendering of chocolate as healthy for dietary consumption limits the extent to which FM’s concept of medicinal use resonates with the subjectivity of healthy consumption (Albritton, 2012) (Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FS suffered tremendous weight gain from overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars (Albritton, 2012), most in the form of chocolate pastries and confections, but FM continued to supply these “medicinal” chocolates. In accordance with popular conceptions of the medicinal use of chocolate, it historically has been linked to a healthy state of mind and postulated to aid the treatment of mental illnesses such as “hypochondriac melancholy“(Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FM’s utilization of chocolate as a medical ritual to expedite the healing of FS’s mental faculties echoes: the Mesoamerican use of cacao as a restorative of the deities, the early European adoption of cacao as a similar but secularized restorative devoid of divine embodiment, and contemporary literature on chocolate’s ability to illicit pleasure responses from the brain. Contemporary concepts of chocolate’s medicinal use illuminate the chocolate industry’s persistent norms of advertisement and the increase of processed sugar consumption and sugar additives into nearly all forms of processed foodstuffs. Yet FM’s use goes beyond these analyses and parallels the sentiments that “‘chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea, and universal medicine'” (Coe & Coe, 2013: 206). While FM’s use may be a product of the historical connections of chocolate and sugar with pleasure and medicine, through the incorporation of chocolate into the entirety of the family’s diet, chocolate has been ritualized and elevated beyond the simple medicinal binary to that of a religious deity, with whom daily worship will foster inner-peace, health, and happiness in its followers. FM’s deification of chocolate retains striking parallels to the Christian description of a personal daily relationship with God, as advertised by the Bible.

A example of the cultural stigma concerning chocolate as addicitive.

F’s family’s ritual utilization of chocolate’s medicinal benefits are the product of historical polemics concerning the increase of sugar consumption, the socio-economic shift of chocolate from Mesoamerican stable to European luxury to plebian stable, and subliminally engendering advertisements (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar has been directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and increasing addictive behaviors, akin to drug addiction, through it’s association with pleasurable reinforcement as a reward (Benton, 2004)(Mintz, 1985). The historical shift in utilizing sugar as a preservative (Goody, 2013) directly led to the chocolate industry’s use of sugar as a stabilizing agent which also happened to increase sweetness aka. desirability, and thus “unintentionally” producing a method of engendering consumer addiction for chocolates at a early stage of industrialization (Brenner, 1999) (D’Antonio, 2006: 107) (Mintz, 1985). By keeping in context the link between sugar and addiction, the increase of sugar in chocolate opened new possibilities of advertising. Not only was chocolate now sweet, it also had been historically constructed as medicinal; it could now be produced in vast quantities previously unavailable until the industrial revolution (Brenner, 1999) (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate could now be produced cheaply, containing adulterated products and sweeteners, masking the purity of the roasted cacao bean’s savory nature, and enabled new advertising strategies, informed by chocolate’s newly found socio-economic versatility (Stuckey, 2012) (Allen, 2010). These advertising campaigns have been able to pander to chocolate’s versatility in its ability to render multiple positive responses from consumers. F’s family utilization of chocolate as a restorative “cure-all” is the product of sugar’s addictive qualities, but their daily, weekly, monthly consumption of chocolate as a dietary necessity (only in the manner to which it produces a mental release of endorphins via the sugar and the Pavlovian association of chocolate with sugar) goes beyond this sweet binary to echo the mental and physical rejuvenation that religious ritual produces (Benton, 2004).

Chocolate cookies meant to imitate those taken during communion, as well as to celebrate the taking of communion. This reinforces the rewards gained upon participating in religious rituals.

Mars’ Snickers campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, Snickers Satisfies” illustrates the multi-faceted approach that the Mars company takes in its marketing (Brenner, 1999). Mars’ advertisements embody the concept of satisfaction through one of it’s original marketing strategies to simply make a larger candy bar cost the same as the competition’s small one, through the incorporation of peanuts, caramel, and nougat (the primary ingredient of two of these is sugar)(Brenner, 1999). The campaign simultaneously engenders the concept that the Snickers’ bar will satisfy the physical manifestation of hunger and that the consumption of the candy will elevate the psyche back to normalcy (Benton, 2004). This engenders the ritualization of chocolate consumption as a divine facilitator of both inner (mental) and outer (physical hunger) peace; thus similarly paralleling the act of taking communion at Catholic Mass, this advertisement reifies a foodstuff to miraculously facilitate the divine restoration of the mortal self. F’s family reflects this theological embodiment of chocolate consumption as a canonized ritual, yet this advertisement does not alone explain why the three women are so captivated by chocolate’s allure.

cacao tree maize god
The Maize god is here depicted as apart of a cacao tree (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39).

Hershey’s Dove chocolate campaign (above) has a clear agenda engendering a gender stereotype of women being the primary consumers of chocolate (Robertson, 2009). F’s family represents this as the three women (F, FS, and FM) are the primary consumers of chocolate, while FD is the primary facilitator of consumption through his production of meals and snacks that prominently incorporate chocolate. This stereotype of women as chocoholics is rooted in historical contexts and has long been debunked as an “[addiction not] to chocolate but to sugar” (Robertson, 2009) (Coe & Coe, 2013: 260) (Benton, 2004). However, no matter the scientific or psychological realities of sugar addicts (Benton, 2004), this advertisement embodies chocolate’s reconstructed relationship with divinity by directly linking the consumption of Dove chocolate with the Mesoamerican concept of deification of oneself through the consumption of divine foodstuffs: particularly in their artistic conflation of the Maize god with cacao trees (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39), and through Mayan recipes mixing maize and cacao (Tokovinine, 2015). The Maya considered all objects to be of divine embodiment (Tokovinine, 2015), particularly those containing maize, which they believed was the physical embodiment of their physical selves as they were created from sacred Maize, stated in their sacred origin text the Popul Vuh, and were also divinely given the sacred crops of maize and cacao for consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). By conflating the Maize god with a cacao pod the Mayans set a ritual precedent for the divine consumption of chocolate as enabling humanity to transcend into a divine state of epiphany. The Dove advertisement then conflates this ancient cultic practice with the more modern concept of women as the primary consumers of chocolate. Women, constructed in the advertisement as the downtrodden and oppressed gender (Bourdieu, 2001), can escape this existence through consuming chocolate and experiencing their own “moment” or existential epiphany outside of this oppression (Robertson, 2009). F’s family’s near unilaterally gender-stratified consumption of chocolate represents the religious epiphany of transcendental existence, which also reinforces the earlier discourse concerning chocolate as a parallel of Communion. Chocolate consumption now enables modern humanity to embody divinity.

Hershey furthers this gender binary of chocolate consumption through Dove’s “Only Human” advertisement campaign, which in chocolate consumption provides and escape from being female (Benton, 2004). The women are shown to be weak and “Only Human,” but Dove chocolate then provides a “real” comfort from the harsh realities of femininity (Benton, 2004). Going beyond this advertisement’s sexist engenderment, chocolate can now be associated with another of religion’s coveted abilities: the offerance of sanctuary. Chocolate makes the difficulties of human existence tolerable by offering brief sanctuaries, at the ‘moment’ of consumption, meta-physically separated from the human experience. The sanctuary that chocolate provides in these ‘moments’ parallels the sanctuary offered to praticioners of prayer, which provide a ‘moment’ with divinity meant to rejuvenate and make right the pain of a human existence. F’s family’s incorporation of chocolate into nearly all foodstuffs is now clearly representative of ritual prayers for protection from the evils and difficulties of a modern human, explicitly female, existence.

Other modes of ritual chocolate consumption are woven throughout the family’s daily lives: that of hygienic products. It has been well documented that cocoa butter, made from hydraulically pressing cacao liquor (Coe & Coe, 2013: 255), is highly effective in the treatment and prevention of various skin, and hair ailments. Placement of cocoa butter into hygienic products echoes both Baptism and the Catholic ritual of the Anointment of the Sick. Both of these religious rituals engage in a ritual purification of the body and soul. Chocolate can be religiously vindicated through the purification of the human existence, and divinely heal the physical manifestations of the human condition. Dissenters, who would disagree with this statement, are to be reminded of the Christian Science movement, whose belief in the healing power of prayer is thought to heal all physical ailments (thought to be sins’ physical manifestations), and scientific medical treatments are spurred as sinful disregard of God’s will (Norton, 1899). Thus a conflated argument to be made is that the consumption of chocolate is equal to prayer, regardless of the science behind cocoa butter’s ability to remedy topical ailments of the skin and hair. Even through dissent, contemporary chocolate consumption has reified itself as divine through F’s family’s hygienic self anointment with sacred cocoa butter.

LA Burdick
The exact type of ceramic serveware that F has at home.

Ritual can be identified easily through archaeological interpretation of material culture- that is to say, the artifacts by which rituals are carried out with. Chocolate manufacturing has built megalithic structures dedicated to the continual production of chocolate, such that entire communities sprung into existence to support its cultic fanatical production. Milton Hershey’s factory communes illustrate this quite succinctly (Brenner, 1999)(D’Antonio, 2006). Even the consumption of chocolate has ritual implements, such as: stylized porcline serveware, chocolatière, and the appropriated Mesoamerican molinillo (Martin, 2016). F’s family does not have all such ritual implements as modern technology’s updated versions of the chocolatière and molinillo (serving kettle and whisks), but they do have stylized ceramic ware for the sole consumption of chocolate, indicated by the imprinted logo of L.A. Burdick (a chocolatier company). F’s house has designated chocolate cabinets for the storage of preserved “instant” chocolate beverages, edible chocolates, and hygenic cocoa products; while this cabinet space is shared with similar items for drink, eating, and hygeine, the totality of chocolate’s combination with these other products merely increases the variety by which chocolate’s ritual artifacts are incorporated into daily life.

Chocolate’s transtitional state speaks to the originial liminal state by which the Mayans contextualized their existence around divinity. Chocolate has come full circle in the historical utilizations and perperonderances by which chocolate consumption has been stereotyped, redefined, and ritualized. Through the analysis of F and her family’s cultic ritual habits of chocolate, they are revealed to be the ultimate by-product of a centuries-long polemic that has created a new world religion focused on the ritualized production and consumption, based on an engendered, constructed faith that chocolate is divinely able to elevate the human condition out of the mire of oppression, through psychological and physical restoration of peace, harmony, happiness, and self-satisfaction.



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Power. The ultimate aphrodisiac. It is intangible, yet felt, immeasurable, but detectible. We yearn for it, crave it, dream of it; it arouses us without hesitation. Each and every day we strive to empower ourselves, whether it be through education, exercise, style or socialization. From how we dress and walk, to what we eat and with whom we talk, all of our actions are rooted in an inherent desire to become more influential. As history has progressed, this universal appetite for power has been reflected in the societal standards of both the past and present. Consequently, we venerate the wealthy, distinguish those of status, and yearn for the sexual. Few possessions in the world display wealth, status, and sexuality more poignantly than chocolate. From its inauguration, chocolate has influenced the social issues that are both etched in our textbooks and echoed from our TV screens. Classism. Sexism. Racism. Capable of being both the “food of the gods” in one era and the “food of the masses” the next, chocolate has both widened and bridged the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the elite and the forgotten, and the pristine and the sexualized. Therefore, chocolate—both as an exotic luxury and a ubiquitous treat—exemplifies American society’s ongoing struggle between equality and empowerment.

Dating back as early as the Mesoamerican period, chocolate has played an integral part in the both construction and preservation of social classes. In fact, our understanding of the Mayan use of cacao is predominantly found etched upon elegant vessels unearthed in the tombs of the elite (Coe & Coe, 2013). Furthermore, some of these excavated vases contain chemical traces of alkaloids found in cacao, suggesting that their contents once were liquid (Coe & Coe, 2013). Thus, from both glyphs and painted scenes on these Mayan vessels, it is evident that chocolate was drunk both by kings and nobles (Presilla, 2009). However, evidence from concurrent excavations suggests that chocolate was used across all classes, particularly during rites of passage. Nevertheless, only the elite used and buried themselves with drinking vessels resistant to decay, symbolizing the dignifying effect of chocolate (Presilla, 2009). In addition, apart from regal furnishing in burial chambers, chocolate was a crucial element of opulent feasts amongst the elite; hosts of these feasts were obliged to present their guests with the finest vases they could afford to consume chocolate (Presilla, 2009). Cacao also was linked with many sacred Mayan traditions, such as fertility rites, marriage rituals, banquets, baptism, and rites of death (Martin, 2016). For example, during marriage negotiations in Mayan society, cacao drinks were essential during royal marriage and cacao seeds were often used as legal currency for marriage dowry (Martin, 2016). Furthermore, in Mayan warfare, cacao—due to the stimulating effects of theobromine—caused warriors to feel energized, stronger, even invincible. Therefore, for the Mayans, chocolate served as a medium of communicating power, distinguishing the common man from the noble through wealth and status in both life and death.

The exchange of cacao between Mesoamerican gods highlights its divinity.

Similarly, the Aztecs also use chocolate to illuminate the power of the elite. Instead of being accessible to all people, chocolate was reserved only for nobility, lords, royalty, and the warrior class (Coe & Coe, 2013). For example, in Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana, the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún describes the significance of cacao as unmistakably an elite food, recounting that it was proverbially called “heart and blood,” to be drunk by those of wealth and status (Martin, 2016). Additionally, cacao served as a cure to the skin eruptions, seizures and fevers, as well as illness that often were attributed to the Aztec gods; a number of botanical remedies included cacao in their recipes. Thus, cacao was viewed as a divine gift, a tangible, measureable embodiment of power. Such a treasured substance was the birthright of the distinguished; if one of the common people drank it without sanction from their superiors, it would cost them their life (Presilla, 2009). Thus, cacao was also referred to as yolloti eztli: the price of blood and heart. The severity of the crime for simply consuming cacao as a commoner exemplifies the conflict between equality and power observed hundreds of years before and after; for equality to exist, the elite must give up their divine gift, an unfathomable option. Consequently, those who dared to bridge the gap between the elite and the forgotten by—in this case—consuming cacao were met with indiscriminate punishment.

Thus, due to its immense value in Aztec society, cacao evolved from prestigious commodity and divine medication to a form of currency. Ranking amongst gold and precious gems, cacao reached the rooftops of imperial storehouses due to its usage in tributary offerings (Presilla, 2009). For instance, Motecuhzoma II (reigned 1502-1520) reportedly banked 40,000 xiquipilli or 960,000,000 cacao beans. Everything from avocados to full-grown turkeys could be priced by cacao (Martin, 2016). In effect, to simply drink cacao exhibited immense wealth and proved to be the ultimate display of power during the 16th century.

This marriage of wealth, divinity, and status through cacao subsequently was embraced by European nations. Arriving in the New World during the zenith of Mesoamerican chocolate culture, the Spanish deeply embraced the history of cacao consumption dating back to the Mayans. As a result, the central aspects of chocolate use in ancient Mesoamerica were preserved and disseminated throughout many of the Latin American colonies and as far as the Philippines (Presilla, 2009). Recognizing the power inherent to cacao, the Spanish conquistador Cortés wrote to the emperor Charles V requesting a grant of land for a Pacific Coast plantation containing two thousand cacao trees (Presilla, 2009). Not only did the farm prove immensely profitable, but it also catalyzed cacao’s entrance into Europe; both chocolate and cacao quickly became pillars of the Spanish economy. Naturally, people in Spain adopted the custom of drinking chocolate. However, just as in Mesoamerica, the relationship of the elite and the consumption of chocolate remained inseparable; arriving as an exotic luxury, chocolate was experienced first by the powerful (Presilla, 2009).

A painting of Spanish aristocrats enjoying chocolate, showcasing its association with the elite.

Requiring special pains, paraphernalia, and acutely roasted beans, chocolate consumption amongst the Spaniards was an elite privilege. However, as the production of cacao grew extensively amongst every rank of colonial society, chocolate closed the gap the elite and common man. Eventually, by the 18th century, chocolate drinking became routine from the top to the bottom of society (Presilla, 2009).

However, this ubiquitous consumption of chocolate that is observed today did not occur naturally. Rather, the growth in cacao production was largely the result of the African slavery and forced labor. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the cacao growing regions of the New World in order to substantially increase cacao production (Martin, 2016). However, although the repercussions of African slavery included racism, racial characteristics did not factor into the decision of Europeans to use African slaves (Martin, 2016). Rather, due to geographical proximity to European nations seeking cheap labor, Africans and their descendants were condemned to enforced labor. Working painstakingly in 18-hour shifts, African slaves were forced to not only cultivate cacao, but also cotton, tobacco, rice and sugar (Martin, 2016). The labor that produced these commodity crops funded the development of capitalism in European society, poignantly illustrating the dichotomy between equality and power; unwilling to relinquish their newfound accumulation of wealth, the Europeans preserved slavery for centuries. As the widespread consumption of commodity goods, such as chocolate, bridged the gap between the lower-middle class and the elite, slavery readily became standardized (Martin, 2016). Subsequently, as chocolate lost its luxury status, European classism gradually diminished while racism rapidly took its place. Once European consumers tasted the power that had been locked behind the doors of being born into an elite family, abandoning slavery was a laughable proposition. Therefore, as Eric Williams, author of Slavery & Capitalism, states, no country thought of abolishing the slave trade until its economic value declined considerably (Martin, 2016). Ultimately, as Mintz (1986) elaborates, the power of chocolate led to it “being supplied to so many, in such stunningly large quantities, and at so terrible a cost in life and suffering.”

The greatest cost that slavery deferred to society was racism. Following slavery’s abolishment in the 19th century and the rise of big chocolate production on a global scale in the 20th century, the chocolate industry perpetuated the inequality across race and class observed a century before. Most notably, in order to display the power of both the company and their white consumers, many chocolate companies during the mid-20th century created ads that reinforced the 2nd class status of African Americans (Robertson, 2010). For example, in 1947, York-based chocolate company introduced a marketing character named “Honeybunch.” A caricature of Africans, Honeybunch’s broken dialect is drawn from stereotypes of black speech, turning her into a minstrel character.

Honeybunch reinforced the idea of supremacy and power of the English.

This cartoon, as shown to the left, is juxtaposed with real images of a white mother and her children who speak perfect English. Thus, the use of imperfect language by a black character is intended to amuse the white audience; the advertisement reinforces the idea of the supremacy and power of the English language, and more broadly of whiteness (Robertson, 2010). Conversely, Honeybunch’s depiction emphasizes ignorance and the lack of power in blackness. Nevertheless, following the progressive steps towards equality during the Civil Rights Movement, chocolate advertisers began to adjust the tone of their racist beliefs, specifically through sexuality (Robertson, 2010). As Oscar Wilde states, “everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Hence, drawing upon the exotic origins of cacao, and thus of Africans, chocolate companies pushed forward the idea that vanilla and chocolate serve as cultural metaphors for both race and sex (Martin, 2016). Accordingly, chocolate is to blackness as vanilla is to whiteness. More specifically, whiteness exemplifies power in the old-sense: regality, purity, and wealth. However, in order to appeal to a more diversified and less discriminatory consumer base, advertisers began to promote sexuality, the most modern form of power. Hence, blackness embodies desire, impurity, and craving.

As a result, sexual depictions of black men and all women have been used both to sell chocolate products and maintain both the inequality of races and disempowerment of women in America. As detailed by Robertson (2010), the stereotypical depictions of black men and women of all races in the advertisements are not novel. Throughout the history of chocolate consumption and production, femininity and blackness have been used to create spectacles of the exotic and erotic for profit.

The sexualization of chocolate both empowers and belittles its audience.

This blatant objectification and simplification of black men and women not only mocks the consumers of chocolate, but also its producers; many African men and women invest their lives in the cacao production process (Kawash, 2016). Thus, the constant juxtaposition of beautiful women and chocolate along with the belittling of black men as exotic, physical specimens illustrates society’s ongoing struggle between equality and empowerment. Since the chocolate industry has forced fed the idea that sex and empowerment are two sides of the same coin, the inherent sexism and racism of these advertisements is largely disregarded. Although there has been public outcry in response to the most extreme versions of these advertisements, such as Honeybunch, those of the modern era profit by constructing a relationship between race and sex that masks racism and sexism through the power of beauty. Therefore, just like the Aztec elites and the proletariat of 19th century Europe, modern American society has chosen the allure of power over the altruism of equality.

Ultimately, chocolate is one of the most powerful commodities in the last millennia. Due to its divinity, luxury, and sheer necessity, chocolate has played a significant role in shaping the socioeconomic atmosphere of multiple continents. Due to its divinity, chocolate immortalized the Mesoamerican elite in death; due to its luxury, chocolate granted immense wealth to Conquistadors; due to its necessity, chocolate closed the gap between the European elite and middle class. At the same, chocolate left in its wake classism that ravaged the Mesoamericans, racism that enslaved over 10 million Africans, and sexism that objectified men and women across the globe. Consequently, due to its ability to empower, chocolate has seduced generations into embracing social norms that perpetuate inequality across race, class and gender.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. Web. 08 April 2016

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Web. 26 April 2016.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 2: Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’.” Web. 26 April 2016.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 3: Chocolate Expansion.” Web. 26 April 2016.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” Web. 26 April 2016.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women, and empire: a social and cultural history. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. 124-125. Print.

Multimedia Sources/Links

Godiva Appeals to Women with “Diva” Campaign. Digital Image. http://media260chocolate.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2014/03/03/godiva-appeals-to-women-with-diva-campaign/. Web. 4 May. 2016

Mayan Gods Exchanging Chocolate. Digital image. University of Oregon. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://blogs.uoregon.edu/mesoinstitute/files/2013/11/Chocolate-2-1az3lcd.jpeg&gt;.

Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” OAH Magazine of History 18.3 (2004): 14–17.JSTOR. Web. 4 May. 2016. Accessed at: http://www.jstor.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/stable/25163677

Rowntree Cocoa: Screenshot from Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.












The Over Sexualization of Chocolate Marketing

Sex sells. It is a phrase, a method, and/or  a motto that is used to advertise certain products. From cars, to Carl Jr.’s burgers, to chocolate, there is always a sex appeal to advertisements for their products. I can remember when I was little girl that I would usually see these advertisements between commercials of my favorite TV shows and/or in magazines. Since I was young, I was also naïve and not really aware of what was going on. I would mostly look at the chocolate rather than the actress in the advertisement. While watching Univision, a channel that’s in Spanish, with my mother advertising it but then my mom would say sometimes like “okay, that’s ridiculous”. The next time I would see the commercial,I would try to pay more attention the actress in the commercial.

Figure 1.


In Figure 1, you see a woman relaxing on a white couch, planning to eat an entire box of chocolates alone and she looks like she’s taking immense pleasure of eating chocolate. In my opinion this picture looks silly. First of all, I would never eat chocolate on the couch that way. That just seems like you’re asking a chocolate accident to happen. But this picture does have context and is relatable from its original source. This picture came from an article by Mirror UK, stating the 10 reasons why chocolate is good for you.
They state, “ One theory why we love chocolate so much is that a brain-active chemical called phenylethylamine in cocoa allegedly stimulates the same reaction that we experience when we’re falling in love”.

The model in the photo does seem to be in love with her chocolate. Maybe that’s what the marketing team was going for when they were trying to find a picture to match this article.

Figure 2.


In Figure 2, This is an ad for Godiva chocolate that was found in a magazine. This displays a beautiful woman laying down somewhere in a not so casual pose but emphasizing the piece of chocolate that is among her chest. Why is she not eating it? Godiva Chocolate is really good it shouldn’t just be on your chest is someone else going to eat it? Is that what they’re trying to sell? That there can be a lucky person looking at the magazine can find a beautiful woman with a piece of chocolate on her chest that they can eat from?

Figure 3.

Figure 3 is a very different kind of advertisement compared to the others. A lot of what these advertisements show the slogan that sex sells. We are seeing  woman experiencing some sexual euphoria when she eats or is around chocolate. We don’t learn exactly where this chocolate came from, where it came to be,  and where was the Cacao from. There should be more marketing telling us more about the process of chocolate and its history. Figure 3 is an advertisement for Divine Chocolate. They have a more campaign ads similar to the one I selected  that represent more about chocolate where it came from and who’s producing it.


Figure 4.

In figure 4, I chose to recreate an ad  to something simple, an image of what eating chocolate is really like without the ludicrous sex appeal. Chocolate can be a dessert or a snack that can be either consumed alone or with friends but I am not completely consumed by the thought of eating chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate alone and relish in immense pleasure from it. I eat while I’m doing my homework or writing papers or blog posts. Chocolate can take form in memories.  Some of my memories of eating chocolate is sharing it up the movie theaters with friends, or growing up with my mom making Abuelita hot chocolate from Nestle.New memories of chocolate include taking this chocolate class.

Figure 1. – http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/10-reasons-why-chocolate-is-good-for-you-1369798

Figure 2. – http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/godiva-dark-chocolate-6481905/

Figure 3. – http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/livia-firth/2011/01/18/livia-firth-divine-chocolate-competition

Figure 4. – Provided by me.