Tag Archives: sexualization

“A White Woman Dipped in Chocolate” Misogynoir and Cocoa Throughout History

When an aptly named German chocolate brand “Super Dickmann’s” posted this image of Meghan Markle, some people got upset while others laughed at their sensitivity.

The infamous tweet depicting mixed-race Meghan Markle as a chocolate-covered marshmallow

The German employee in charge of the corporate Facebook account was likely not aware that the comparison between African women and chocolate is imbued with historical misogynoir. Misogynoir, a term coined by black feminist Moya Bailey (Anyangwe, 2015), is double discrimination faced by black women where bias is both race and gender-based (Verve Team, 2018).

While women have long been seen as buyers, preparers and religious devotees of chocolate, the earliest depictions associated with chocolate were those of infants such as cupids or angels (Martin, 2020). Later, chocolate became associated with an idealized image of white womanhood, as society women became an important consumer demographic. An 1874 New York Times issue announced that wealthy women were the biggest purchasers of an “elaborate style of French candies.” New ads featured elegant white women and were meant to appeal to both the tastes of upper-class consumers and the aspirations of lower-class ones (Robertson, 2010).

Aspirational chocolate advertisements, such as this image from the 1970s, continued into the late 20th century

Such ads put white consumers at the forefront and minimized chocolate’s roots in West African agriculture. Romanticized images of white agricultural workers such as of this milkmaid carrying pails attempted to further erase chocolates’ African origins (Robertson, 2010).

Early 20th century Cadbury advertisement

These fictionalized images associated the labor required to produce chocolate with “wholesome whiteness” in the minds of consumers (Robertson, 2010). Notably, a 1930 Cadbury ad that does feature African women, shows them as faceless silhouettes balancing baskets brimming with cocoa pods on their heads (Robertson, 2010). While white women associated with chocolate were bestowed with good taste and wholesomeness, black women were dehumanized and fetishized through racist depictions.

In 1947 a new character “Honeybunch” was created to advertise Rowntree’s Cocoa (Robertson, 2010). Honeybunch looked infantile – barefoot and with bows in her hair. In this ad, she is dehumanized through the juxtaposition of her “imagined” character to “real” white people in the ad (Robertson, 2010).

Honeybunch and “real” white consumers

A 1950 ad goes further to depict Honeybunch as a spring bouncing out of tin of cocoa – an example of a common trope of Africans drawn as actual cocoa (Robertson, 2010) This association of a person with an edible object further solidifies the idea that black people are false commodities (Polanyi, 2001). According to Polanyi, labor is one of those fictitious commodities to which the market mechanisms should not apply (2001). According to Polanyi, not only labor but also the laborer can become commodities for sale if the commodity function of labor is prioritized (2001). Commodity function of labor is the low labor cost for the sake of lower prices, and in the case of chocolate, low labor costs help support higher remuneration for cocoa processors and chocolate producers instead of African workers. This problem persists into modernity: according to the Cocoa Barometer, cocoa farmer households earn merely 37% of living income in Côte d’Ivoire, the leader in cocoa bean production supplying 40% of world’s cocoa (2018).

Blackness is also objectified and commodified through the association between black skin and chocolate – a trope that still pervades today. Food-related descriptions have long been used to describe dark skin. While light foundation shades are often called “nude” or “fair,” darker shades are often named after commodities such as cocoa or coffee. This further solidifies the toxic idea that white womanhood is the default, and objectifies black womanhood through comparisons with edible objects.

A 2004 ice cream advertisement conceived in Brazil

Even black women of the same status as the white women in chocolate ads are not immune to dehumanizing fetishization. In 1976, a magazine editor described supermodel Iman as “a white woman dipped in chocolate,” (Oliver, 2015). The editor’s baffling comment is akin to Charlie’s question about whether the Oompa Loompas, which were distinctly African in the original book, are made out of chocolate (Robertson, 2010).

The fact that class cannot protect black women from misogynoir sheds critical light on “respectability politics,” an ideology that emphasizes the need for black people to gain respect and “uplift the race” by correcting ‘undesirable” characteristics and embodying desirable ones (Harris, 2014). Racist treatment of Iman despite her social prominence parallels the way companies such as Rowntree or Cadbury used depictions of black girls and women like Honeybunch for their “distinct difference” while dehumanizing them.

Pat McGrath, one of the most prominent makeup artists of the century, also had a cocoa related story that shed light on how designers who hire black models failed to provide them with equal supplies. McGrath often had to use cocoa powder on set because she wasn’t provided with darker makeup shades (Prinzivalli, 2019).

A group of black women has found a way to use the association between dark skin and chocolate for their benefit, creating a food-inspired makeup brand “Beauty Bakerie,” which counts cocoa-flavored powder among its products.

The “Beauty Bakerie” website

And what about Pat McGrath who had to use food instead of makeup? Her beauty empire is now worth almost a billion dollars – and her dark foundation colors are named Medium Deep and Deep instead of cocoa and chocolate (Mpinja, 2018).


Anyangwe, E. (2015, October 5). Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/05/what-is-misogynoir

Fountain, A and Friedel, H. (2018). Cocoa Barometer

Harris, F.C. (2014). The Rise of Respectability Politics. Dissent 61(1), 33-37. doi:10.1353/dss.2014.0010.

Mpinja, B. (2018, July 23). Why Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Is the Self-Made Beauty Billionaire We Need. Retrieved from https://www.allure.com/story/pat-mcgrath-self-made-billionaire-success

Phillip, N. (2018, October 23). My Very Personal Taste of Racism Abroad. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/travel/racism-travel-italy-study-abroad.html

Oliver, D. (2015, September 10). Iman Opens Up About Deeply Upsetting Career Moment. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/iman-racism-fashion-industry_n_55f02b31e4b002d5c0775000

Polanyi, karl. The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston: bEACON, 2001. Prin

Prinzivalli, L. (2019, May 21). Why Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Grew Up Using Cocoa Powder as Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.allure.com/story/pat-mcgrath-cocoa-powder-foundation-dark-skin-tone-shades

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Team, V. E. R. V. E. (2018, September 4). Feminist Facts: What is Misogynoir? Retrieved from https://medium.com/verve-up/feminist-facts-what-is-misogynoir-5392c29d6aab

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>.


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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 7.13.56 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 1.20.12 PM.png
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








Moments: Sexualized only for an Elite Few or to be Enjoyed by All?

Long a symbol of wealth, prestige, and power, in contemporary European (and now in North American cultures as well), chocolate is also associated with “romantic love, personal indulgence, and festive occasions.” (Leissle, 131)

This play on personal indulgence has led modern day marketers to not only continue to target the elite, but more specifically to women, sexualizing them by creating a narrative that they can be aroused and sinfully satisfied through the act of eating chocolate.

Many foods are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, including chocolate (e.g. asparagus, almonds, avocados, bananas, basil, arugula, garlic, eggs, figs, oysters, chili peppers, honey, wine, pomegranates). (Martin, “Chocolate expansion”)

Dove Chocolate, a subsidiary of MARS (https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutdove), has perpetuated this stereotype through a series of advertisements for their new chocolate with almonds. The message delivered through the campaign (print and video) is that only Dove can provide a chocolate so pure and silky.  Its visuals, taglines, and representation tell a story that focuses on sensations and indulgent “moments” where true joy seems to live, but only for the exclusive, privileged few.

Dove Commercial_Senses


Dove’s Original Print

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad

Dove’s original print invites the viewer to “nourish” one’s soul through the saturation of one’s senses.  This is shown as a guilty pleasure.  An attractive woman with flawless skin is seen up-close, enveloped in silky rich fabric.  Caught up in the bliss of her “moment,” she appears to be perfectly at ease, naked, a glow in her cheeks, bedroom eyes, hair blowing in an unseen breeze as she rests amid the silk with a secretive smile.  This smile seems to imply something intimate, nearly post-coital, as if the viewer has caught a glimpse of her in this luxurious moment; as if she is basking in the delight of a chocolate-induced orgasm.

Chocolate advertisements create these moments, selling the notion that, “women become irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate.” (Martin, “Race”)

Dove’s Revised Advertisement

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad_Revised

Dove’s revised advertisement also focuses on cherished, magical moments, but instead of the erotic or exclusive, they are moments, alone or shared, that celebrate life’s milestones – monumental or mundane.

The new print focuses on strength and challenging oneself (as seen in the woman rock climbing), unity (a family enjoying an afternoon outdoors), joy (friends jumping on the beach), support and teamwork (a game of wheelchair basketball), firsts (teaching a child to fish), celebration (a group of elderly friends dancing), romantic love (a couple holding a heart), and health (a family sitting down to share a balanced meal). Inspirational natural beauty is also included with the sun setting over a lake and then rising again. The new print encourages viewers to “nourish” their souls and “saturate” their senses through beautiful moments for all.

In sum, chocolate is not a sexualized joy or moment for an elite few, but a food and experience to be enjoyed by all.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate expansion.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 10 Feb. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 30 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. Class Reading.

http://carlyjaneproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/17.DoveAds_-Michael-Thompson.jpg; Carly Jane. 17 September 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://dovechocolate.com; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8&index=1&list=RDSwPwQ4S4op8&nohtml5=False; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016


Empowering Women in Advertisments

I wanted to open this blog post with a witty sentence introducing my topic, why the era of sexualizing women in advertisements needs to end, and googled ‘sex sells’ for inspiration. The second hit had the following description:

Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate it or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement (Ovsyannykov).

In lieu of this, here is my introduction, albeit angrier and less witty than I had originally intended:

Here is the cold hard truth, we live in a patriarchal society: women currently earn $0.79 to every dollar made by men and it will be another century before gender equality is achieved in top management positions if we continue at the current pace (Bloomberg). Hate it or love it, barriers and obstacles to gender parity are rampant in society, one of the most pervasive being the presentation of women in advertisement as sexual and trivial beings. “Sex sells,” it attracts the eye, capturing the attention of audiences, but it is not the only means of effective advertising. In fact, for products or services that have nothing to do with sex, sexual advertisements can be less effective than non-sexual advertisements (Lynn).

The chocolate industry is plagued by marketing campaigns that marginalize women, depicting them as sexual objects unable to resist the temptation of chocolate. By portraying women in this light, these advertisements are helping to maintain gender stereotypes and harming the mental health of young girls. The chocolate industry, particularly as a non-sexual industry, has a moral obligation to move away from using gendered stereotypes in advertisements.

Chocolate Advertisements: A Gendered Portrayal  

In “Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses the portrayal of women in the chocolate industry versus the reality of their position. She traces chocolate from the harvest of the cacao in Africa to production in factories to consumption, and offers that advertising “failed to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Rowntree and Cadbury products, and ultimately profits, were produced” (Robertson, 19). Women were fetishized as housewives and mothers, shown as irrational narcissistic consumers, and objective as “sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Robertson, 30). Prior to WWII, they were solely depicted in the workplace during wartime although they were responsible for the production of chocolate bars in factories during peace times.

For more examples of the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisements, check out this web page from Carla Martin’s “Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.”

The Sexualization of Women: Dramatic Effects

By depicting women in such a sexualized way, the chocolate industry is subliminally enforcing the antiquated stereotype that women are objects. This bolsters the current societal inequities and provides supporting evidence to stereotypes. This has a couple noteworthy implications for the workplace: it may make people less likely to inherently trust and support the rise of women in managerial positions, and also can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly bombarded by the idea that women are meant for the house not office, women can internalize this message and consequentially not try to rise the corporate ranks or stand up for themselves and demand an earned salary/position.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study that found that the sexualization of women in the media has negative effects on young girls who are exposed to it, effecting cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development (Zurbriggen). Research finds a strong linkage between sexualization and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, three of the most commonly diagnosed mental problems in girls and women (Zurbriggen). This means that the take away for young girls viewing the sexy chocolate ads described above is not the product advertised but the characteristics of the oftentimes female model.

 Changing the Dialogue: Our Kit Kat Advertisement

In hopes of changing the focus of chocolate advertisements, we chose to recreate a Nestlé Kit-Kat advertisement from the “One-minute break” campaign created by Zoopa, an Italian agency in 2008. Inspired by the “One-Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurum, this ad campaign features various professionals in silly positions with a Kit Kat bar. Unlike the featured men who are shown in appropriate workplace clothing, the woman is shown in a revealing skirt with a high front slit even though skirt suits generally have a small slit in the back for the sole purpose of allowing for greater leg mobility when walking. While the painter is shown with brushes and a ladder, the doctor with a stethoscope, and the businessman with a laptop, the woman is shown solely with a rolling chair, an object that does not increase productivity whatsoever, particularly as standing desks become more and more popular in the workplace.

Our advertisement (below on the right; the original advertisement is below on the left) is empowering: we clothed our model in a pantsuit just like the other members of the campaign. The laptop she carries and the added tagline, “Two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”, not only stress her professionalism but also the role of Kit-Kats as an enjoyable midday energy-booster. With her head turned, the focus is on the Kit-Kat bar, not the model, with the red packaging standing out starkly against the light backdrop. These changes keep the main intended message from the original advertisement intact, “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat,” while dramatically improving the subliminal message – that women can be powerful agents in the workplace.

Moving Forward: A Moral Obligation

The portrayal of women in advertisements has not naturally followed nor kept pace with the changing social roles of women, and it is time chocolate companies, particularly the Big 5, transform their marketing practices. To encourage change, governments should follow the European Union, who in 2008 passed a resolution urging Member States to honor the ‘European Pact for Gender Equality’ by tackling marketing and advertising (Van Hellemont and Van den Bulck). Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure:

“by appropriate means that marketing and advertising guarantee respect for human dignity and integrity of the person, are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory nor contain any incitement to hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”

Although enforcing this type of legislation can be difficult, it can create incentives for change. The resolution suggested Member States create public awards for companies and campaigns that create advertisements emphasizing gender equality. This incentivizes companies by providing them with the opportunity to gain free media attention across a large population. The legislation also starts a dialogue, and public pressure can be the strongest catalyst for change.

Work Cited

“Cadbury’s Flake – Bath (1992, UK)”.YouTube. 2016. Web.
Colby, Laura. “Women’s C-Suite Equality is Only 100 Years Away.” Bloomberg. 2015. Web.
Lynn, Ann Louise. “The effects of female sexual images on persuasion.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (1995). Web.
Martin, Carla. “Valentine’s Day: Women Being Seduced by Chocolate.” Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. 2012. Web.
Nestlé S.A. Kit Kat. Ads of the World. Zooppa, June 2008. Web.
Ovsyannykov, Igor. “Sex Sells, 50 Creative Sexual Advertisements.” Inspiration Feed (2011). Web.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press (2010). Print.
Van Hellemont, Corinne, and Hilde Van den Bulck. “Impacts of advertisements that are unfriendly to women and men.” International Journal of Advertising 31 (2012). Web.
Zurbriggen, Eileen L. et al. Report Of The APA Task Force On The Sexualization Of Girls. Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. Web.

The Nature of Women: The sexualization of women in chocolate advertising

“Do you know that when you get an urge to eat chocolate, you shouldn’t resist- there’s a deep physical reason for it?” “When you resist the urge to eat chocolate you are ignoring one of Nature’s most serious warnings” (Robertson 35). The following phrases are from 1930s Aero chocolate advertisements aimed at female consumers. 80 years later, a 2016 Dove’s Fruit and Nut advertisement appeals to customers with a remarkably similar message, portraying women in a highly sexualized manner in order to sell chocolate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1weV9ribio

Through the use of nature imagery, Dove implies that women naturally exhibit extreme sexual desire, but at the same time, expects women to control them, with the exception of consuming chocolate. This is similar to Rowntree’s ads in the early 20th century, where Emma Robertson’s analysis in Chocolate, Women and Empire deems chocolate a socially acceptable and “natural release” of such desires. (35) Dove’s modern advertisement speaks to the larger propensity to sexualize women, using their perceived exaggerated “natural” sexual desires as justification, while also condemning and shaming them for their sexuality. My advertisement, instead, aims to indicate that it is possible to appeal to what is considered natural without perpetuating problematic gendered views.

Chocolate has a long history as a supposed aphrodisiac, connected to sin, which the advertisement plays into by sexualizing a woman who is consuming chocolate. After consuming a piece of chocolate, the woman opens her eyes and we are allowed into her inner thoughts. In an alter ego form, she walks across a desert landscape, hitting a whip against the ground, while biting into the chocolate aggressively in the real world. And in this sexulization, the advertisement also objectifies her. At the beginning of the advertisement, the only shots of her include her eyes and mouth. She is reduced to these body parts- the mouth for consuming chocolate and the eyes to represent passage into her fantasy. We only see the rest of her through the lens of her sexuality. In the multiple scenes, she wears dresses of different colors- red and brown, corresponding to the fruit and nuts in the chocolate. In this way, she becomes almost conflated with the product. When chocolate pours slowly and sensuously over fruits and nuts, it almost becomes a proxy for her body. This is furthered by the fact that fruits collide and explode, splashing onto her skin.

The woman’s sophisticated clothing indicates this isn’t a depiction of day-to-day reality, but also speaks to the idea of chocolate being an indulgence, not just of money but also of desire. With a tagline like “revel in the pleasure,” the chocolate, along with sexual desire becomes a guilty pleasure. This indulgence is also represented in her body movements. She moves fluidly and several times appears to fall back. This can symbolize “letting go” in a sense- she no longer has control of her sexual desire. The use of natural imagery, like the desert and ocean, indicates that that she is guided instead by a natural tendency. While she floats in the water, the camera zooms out to show her floating in a crystal ball. In this way, she becomes someone else’s fantasy or object of desire. She becomes commodified. This external sexualizing of the woman seems to be justified in the advertisement due to her innate sexual nature.

The advertisement can also be analyzed from the perspective of race. The woman in the advertisement is white, and initially “normal” before she consumes chocolate, becoming aroused. Although vanilla is a complex spice, historically, a dichotomy has been set up between vanilla and chocolate, with vanilla being “bland” while chocolate “exotic.” As outlined in Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance, initially, when vanilla became widespread, it was as vanilla ice cream, which when eaten by itself, can be considered plain. Later, during the 1940s, vanilla was used to describe a simple airplane, console or circuit board. And later in the 1950s and 1960s, in fashion it was used to label a simple wardrobe before transitioning into its modern day usage as something standard (Rain 248-249). Additionally, vanilla has been used as a metaphor for whiteness and chocolate as a metaphor for blackness (Martin). In an interview in a NPR article, Harryette Mullen, poet and professor at UCLA, describes “the white versus colorful- “colored”- and the chocolate versus plain vanilla” metaphor, also saying “so it’s a way of reversing the kind of implied superiority of whiteness by saying that whiteness is the less interesting color… because it’s maintained as a norm. And we also having some ideas of how normal is desired but also boring” (Chow). The advertisement shows the white woman initially as “normal,” potentially bland before consuming chocolate and becoming sexualized. The depiction reifies these perceptions, which do not place evenly the shame of sexuality upon white and black women. In the advertisement, the white woman resorts back to normal life, without any negative perception in terms of her morality that is associated with eating chocolate and the implied sexual indulgence.

My advertisement is a response to this sexualization and objectification of women. In the current advertisement, Dove attempts to appeal to nature, linking chocolate as an aphrodisiac with an innate, natural desire in women. In many chocolate advertisements, chocolate is portrayed as a natural product, through a lens of sensuality (Robertson 1).

Chocolate advertisement

My advertisement seeks to maintain this appeal to nature without the problematic portrayal of women. In this case, the Dove product is bringing the element of nature to a supermarket aisle. In the advertisement, instead of the woman being placed in the natural context, and therefore becoming a proxy for the product in a sense, she remains external to the product, a consumer with authority. I chose to include color solely for the trees and the Dove product to differentiate it from the realm of everyday, supermarket shopping. In this way, the Dove product is presented as an alternative to the industrialization that is ubiquitous in our world (which would be represented by the lack of color and vibrancy). As this advertisement relates to the environment, potentially this would be a way to capture interest from those who are conscious about environmental sustainability. Another possibility could be to also include a man shopping in a similar fashion to push back on perceptions of women being the only consumers of chocolate. Since advertisements can often perpetuate problematic societal perceptions, creating positive images could help in altering those views.





Rain, Patricia. Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor And Fragrance. Penguin Group USA, 2008. Print.

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

Martin, Carla. Lecture 9, Slide 12

Chow, Kat. “When Vanilla Was Brown And How We Came To See It As White.” NPR. NPR. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/03/23/291525991/when-vanilla-was-brown-and-how-we-came-to-see-it-as-white&gt;.

Sexualization of Women in ads: Godiva’s Failed Attempt to Empower Female Consumers


Chocolate consumption was feminized early and many advertisements initially targeted women because they were responsible for household decisions and thus had purchasing power (Robinson 20). Chocolate companies however also soon recognized the potential relationship between female sensuality and luxurious chocolate and started targeting men through feminine advertisements. Today, advertisements for chocolate have become increasingly more sexualized and we see an alarming trend with ads that promote gender stereotypes. Women in contemporary ads are often depicted as irrational or excessively aroused due to chocolate (Martin). As the analysis of the campaign below suggests, there is an urgent need for advertisements that empower female consumers.

The GoDiva Campaign

In 2004, Godiva launched an advertising campaign, GoDiva, aimed at promoting an indulgent lifestyle to women between 25 and 30 and (Cho). Godiva’s efforts to appeal to a new consumer base, however, were not particularly successful because the campaign exploited women rather than empowering them.

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As seen in the advertisement above, which is part of the campaign, a scantly dressed woman is lying down, seductively gazing into the camera. She is clad in a sheer fabric that is seemingly falling off her shoulders. Her hair is tousled and she stares into the camera with desire. Interestingly, the Godiva chocolate truffle is sensually placed on the woman’s chest, bringing the viewer’s eyes to her cleavage. The woman’s right hand is placed on her chest while the left hand is sensually caressing the hair, further adding to her sultry look. All these attributes give the advertisement an erotic vibe, and could highlight that the woman has or is soon to engage in a sexually pleasurable act.

Moreover, the strange placement of the truffle seems to suggest that the truffle is not aimed for self-consumption, but rather to be consumed by someone else. Furthermore, her posture places her at the disposal of the implied chocolate consumer, reinforcing the notion that this woman is subordinate to her partner.

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These ads were part of Godiva’s campaign and feature women who seductively gaze into the camera.

The tagline of Godiva’s campaign, “Every Woman is One Part (Go)Diva” is catchy, but in connection to photos of submissive women, it fails to empower prospective female consumers. The other ads in the campaign similarly feature white women with seductive styling and submissive body postures. Moreover, the models are portrayed in dimly lit rooms that feature chandeliers and ornamented wallpapers. These factors imply that Godiva is primarily for upscale white consumers, thus highlighting issues related to race and class.

Lastly, it seems problematic that Godiva chooses to highlight the word diva in the campaign. Although Merriam Webster’s definition of the word diva suggest that it is “a usually glamorous and successful female performer or personality,” the word also carries a negative connotation and is often used to describe someone who is arrogant and high maintenance. The interaction between the campaign’s tagline and photos submissive women thus seem particularly problematic.

An Alternative Ad

In response to Godiva’s campaign, I am proposing a campaign that effectively empowers women. As highlighted, a major issue in Godiva’s campaign, and chocolate advertisements in general, is that the women are portrayed as submissive tools intended to satisfy someone else’s sexual desire. My campaign addresses issues of female exploitation and seeks to empower prospective female consumers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 11.30.55 PM
Rather than highlighting the word “diva,” which carries negative connotations, the ad will highlight the word “go” to further emphasize that the woman in the ad has agency.

In the proposed ad, a young woman is portrayed in an office setting. She is exiting a meeting room with a confident smile on her face. In stark contrast to Godiva’s Diva-campaign she is not staring into the camera, and is thus not consumed by the male gaze. The woman in the proposed ad has a lot of agency, and seeks a moment of “sweet escape” after a successful day at work. In contrast to the original ad, she is portrayed as strong and independent, and thus the chocolate is intended for self-consumption. The new ad highlights that the chocolate can be associated with luxury and gratification, without blunt references to sex. Moreover, the woman in the ad is appropriately dressed and shows very little skin, to refrain from exploiting the female body.

Lastly, one major issue with Godiva’s campaign is that it failed to promote diversity, and my campaign will cast a diverse group of women of different ethnicities. Moreover, the proposed campaign aims to promote a healthy body ideal, similar to the woman in the proposed ad above.

I truly believe that the proposed campaign will appeal to female consumers who need a break after a busy day at work. The campaign is also likely empower women, and will be extended to include females in other work settings, thus reaching a broader audience. The working woman is relatable, and the campaign successfully pushes back on gender stereotypes and female sexualization in chocolate advertisements.


Works Cited

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”.” Harvard University. Cambridge, MA. 30 March. 2016. Lecture.

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


Media Sources

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. 9 March. 2016




Godiva Chocolate. It speaks for itself.

Figure 1. This depicts how vast the global advertising industry really is.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary advertising is a form of business marketing used to promote a product. The purpose of advertising is to convince prospective customers that their services are superior to the competition. The issue with modern day advertising is that large corporations will do whatever it takes to turn a profit even at the expense of delivering honest messages about their products. According to Carat – a global media agency – the world spent an estimate of $592 billion dollars on advertising in 2015. What is concerning about the advertising industry is not this rapid growth but the increasing occurrence of manipulative exploitation of race, gender and class in order to turn a profit. Advertisements have become less focused on the products they are trying to sell and more about the consumers they are trying to attract even regardless of the messages the ads may convey. This essay will analyze an existing advertisement from the Godiva chocolate company and propose a counter to their current advertisement.

Figure 2. This Godiva advertisement depicts chocolate as a luxury good and uses sexual appeal to attract the eye of prospective customers. 

Godiva, “You can see it in her eyes”

The Godiva chocolate advertisement displayed above is a perfect depiction of the issues in modern day advertising. Godiva is a chocolate company trying to sell chocolate, however, at first glance it is almost impossible to see that. The focus of the advertisement is on a young, white women gazing into the ad in a very sexual manner with nice clothes and makeup on. The only semblance of chocolate is one small piece placed above her breasts. It is as if the chocolate is a decoration rather than a food. Furthermore, the company name Godiva is written at the bottom of the page, but the ‘GO’ is faded out so that you focus on the ‘DIVA’. Lastly, the slogan of the advertisement is “you can see it in her eyes”, which again places less emphasis on the chocolate product itself and more on the sexuality of the image. As Professor Martin says it is “discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of sex.” (Martin)This sexualization in chocolate advertisements is not a new phenomenon. In the book entitled Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, author Emma Robertson states that “chocolate marketing followed the cultural trends of the Second World War, in objectifying women as sexual objects to maintain male morale.” (Robertson, 31) Robertson goes on to say that, “the chocolate thus gains in value through association both with a dynamic adventure/romance narrative and with an imagined ideal of feminine beauty.” (Robertson, 32) This infatuation of sexualized advertisements in the chocolate industry is degrading to women but also takes away from the product and everything that goes into producing chocolate.

On that note, this advertisement romanticizes chocolate as a whole. The people who are cultivating cacao beans are making next to nothing and starving but we do not see them on the cover of the advertisement. We see chocolate as a luxurious good, suited for wealthy people in high classes of society. This marketing strategy much like the sexualization of chocolate is also not new. As Robertson mentions in her book, “Cadbury drew explicitly on upper-class stereotypes to distinguish their ‘cup’ brand of cocoa in the early 1930’s. Adverts featured well-dressed, educated and well-travelled consumers pouring themselves a delicate cup of cocoa from an ornamental jug.” (Robertson, 18) Appealing to separate social classes separated Cadbury much like it separates Godiva from its competition but it also appeals to a select portion of the population.

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Figure 3. Our proposed advertisement eliminates issues of sexualization and focuses solely on what is important, the chocolate.

Godiva, “It speaks for itself”

The Godiva advertisement that we created ‘lets the chocolate speak for itself’. A question that professor Martin brought up in class when analyzing advertisements is “who is included in the advertisement and why?” (Martin) Our idea was to remove everyone from the picture entirely so that the focus is purely on the chocolate and nothing else. In a time when ads are intricate and hard to follow, this advertisement is straight to the point and brings your attention directly to the product. The advertisement is merely a piece of chocolate in front of a blank white background. There is no deception or psychological manipulation, it is strictly the product. The other reason we chose this advertisement is that we believe it appeals to a wide array of people. One theme that is apparent in advertisements today is that they focus in on a select audience to sell to. Whether it be high class people, or white people or men it limits who the product appeals to. This advertisement is for everyone, there is no discrimination and no class, race or gender we exclude.


In an ideal world the advertisement for a product would include an unbiased, comprehensive analysis of the product. It would include who produces it, how it is produced and any relevant information a consumer would be interested in. The fact of the matter is that customers may not be looking for that much information at first glance but rather than deceive them through psychological manipulation we believe it is better to keep it simple and ‘let the chocolate speak for itself’.

Works Cited:

  1. Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
  2. Martin, Carla. (2016). Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class in Chocolate Advertisements. (Powerpoint Slides). Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing

The Sexualization of Chocolate Advertising

Emma Robertson said, “Chocolate has long-standing associations with female sexuality,” and discusses in depth the ramifications of this for African and 20th century British women in her book, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (pages 1-3). This history has naturally carried over into advertisements, the main way in which chocolate companies interact with chocolate consumers besides their actual products. Lately, these ads have become overtly sexual to an extreme nature, depicting women not so much as complex people, but instead as purely sexual beings, with chocolate as the object of their desire. By depicting men side by side with these women, we may observe the true female-specific sexualization of chocolate.

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In the above picture, for example, two people are eating a small chocolate ball. The focus of the actual advertisement (right) is on the all in the woman’s mouth and on her eyes. She seems to be looking straight out of the picture at the viewer, and communicating a message. The message itself, while perhaps unclear specifically, seems to indicate something sexual about the chocolate ball that the woman’s lips are seductively caressing. In fact, the woman isn’t even eating the chocolate! Instead, she has pressed it up against her teeth. The absurdity of that detail underscores the fact that this advertisement is not so much about the food itself, but about the way it wants its viewers to think about it. The companion picture attempts to achieve this same effect, but with a bearded man. He too looks straight at the viewer as he pushes a chocolate ball into his mouth. The sexual pose of a hand running through his hair further underscores his attempt at sexualizing the chocolate ball. Both images similarly construct a chocolate ball as not a means for sustenance, but that pleasure is sexual rather than gustatory.

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These ads can become more explicit, though. Whereas the topmost ad was merely sexual in the abstract, this advertisement (on the left) depicts an actual sexual act. The woman is wearing nothing but eye makeup and red lipstick, which underscores the contrast between her white skin, white teeth, red lips, and the dark chocolate bar. This picture may technically be about chocolate, but it is a rather heavy-handed attempt to make viewers think about something entirely different. The other image, of a man with a bar in a similar position, underscores the absurdity of the actual advertisement, which it plays off of. The outright phallic imagery of a chocolate bar in advertisements can at time be brazen.

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As the advertisement (on the left) shows, women can also be depicted as dominated by chocolate. In this picture, the woman is eating a bar that is bigger than her face and that surely she, nor any other single human, can finish. The chocolate bar is so expansive that it goes out of the frame, leaving the viewer to wonder where exactly it ends. Here, again, the personhood of the woman in question is denied, as she becomes a sexual being concerned only with the chocolate that threatens to envelop her. In this picture, the chocolate appears to be the dominant force in the relationship. The accompanying image may fail at capturing that particular effect because such enormous chocolate bars are hard to find, but it highlights and exaggerates the absurdity of depicting a person biting into a the corner of a giant chocolate bar.

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Finally, the most absurd of all the tropes of sexualizing women in chocolate advertisements may be the one that covers women in chocolate. The advertisement (on the right) and the accompanying image on the left are so divorced from the actual chocolate product that one may wonder why a chocolate company would even bother producing it. The bar present in both pictures gives the same sexualizing effects as in the above images, but the lathering of melted chocolate on the woman is first and foremost irrelevant, as no one would ever lather themselves in melted chocolate (except perhaps for this advertisement), but also further exacerbates the lack of agency and personhood of the model. She is enthralled in the throes of chocolate. Almost like a messy toddler, she seems unable to properly eat. The sexualization of her shoving the bar into her mouth, though, makes the image far more sinister. Not only is she deprived of her personhood by the absurdity of her costume, she is deprived of it by the sexualization of her pose. The attempt at duplication of this effect in the accompanying image, again, underscores the absurdity of this practice. On a man, it seems ludicrous. On a woman, it is business as usual.

In her book, Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising, Diane Barthel claims, “We are not passive recipients of goods, using them instead as a ‘cultural mode’ to express our own sense of identity” (page 30). In this light, the sexual ads become even more alarming. In practical terms, no one would use a tactic as an advertisement if it didn’t sell. The fact that there are scores of examples of the blatant sexualization of women in chocolate ads means that, as a society, this is what we want to see. This is what makes us want to buy chocolate. These ads, however, deprive their models of all agency and personhood, and depict them only as sexual objects, a trend that is perhaps illustrated best when images of men in similar positions are placed in conversation with them. Chocolate ads aren’t always about chocolate.


Works Cited:

Diane Barthel, Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988).

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History

Image 1:  http://img.fark.net/images/cache/850/B/B3/fark_B3Zr969HAWWIcFfL1xhRGaq7vNw.jpg?t=PbxrI1x7chLpvEoWgrJ1Gw&f=1460347200

Image 2: http://static5.depositphotos.com/1005008/520/i/950/depositphotos_5202180-Sexy-woman-eating-a-bar-of-chocolate—studio-shot.jpg

Image 3: http://i180.photobucket.com/albums/x83/jamesmargaret3rd/chocolate-12.jpg

Image 4: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/32/1b/46/321b46e5a353810d579556e0c6f05017.jpg


Lady Godiva, Naked


empowerment and objectification

For ninety years, Godiva Chocolatier has struggled to strike a balance between empowering women and objectifying them. Godiva was named after the legendary Lady Godiva, whose story, though set just after the turn of the 11th century, exemplifies the tension between female empowerment and objectification that we see in advertising in 2016.

Godiva Chocolatier Logo
[1] Even today, the image of Lady Godiva – eternally naked – appears on every box of Godiva chocolate.
Lady Godiva is generally remembered far better for her titillating nudity than for the circumstances that preceded her naked horseback ride. As the story goes, she argued with her husband (Lord Godiva, presumably) over his tax policy, which was hurting the people in their village. He agreed to change his policies if she rode naked through the village on horseback (French). According to the story, she took him at his word and rode naked through the town, and he changed his tax policy, and in theory everyone lived happily ever after (French).

Whether the story is true or not, it poses a difficult question regarding objectification. Lady Godiva took a bold action to stand up for the people of her village, but she was coerced into it by a male partner who did not take her opinions seriously. She chose her nudity, and yet it was not her choice at all. Is she an example of a woman taking her sexuality into her own hands, and using it to empower herself, or an example of a woman forced to expose herself as the lesser of two evils?

The question of female agency in sexualized media can be difficult to disentangle. Certainly female sexuality – and indeed nudity – in and of itself is not a problem. The problem arises when women are sexualized by others, for the benefit of others, and to the discomfort or even harm of the woman.

godiva ads, past and present

Godiva has historically produced advertisements that align with stereotypes, particularly the trope of the woman who is aroused by chocolate (Martin). Their recent DIVA advertising campaign features a series of women with dark eye makeup and lidded eyes, tousled hair, and clothing that appears to be slipping off. In the image below, the placement of the woman’s hands draw attention to her hair and her low neckline, and her horizontal position implies an arousal of something more than taste.


GoDIVA Joie de Diva
[2] The ‘woman aroused by chocolate’ appears frequently in chocolate advertising.

In an interview with AdWeek to herald Godiva’s 90th anniversary, head of marketing Michelle Chin offered that Godiva is looking to shift their target demographic to reach a younger consumer. “For us, what’s most important is pushing the emotional connection that consumers have with the brand,” Chin said. “Godiva means a lot of different things to people, but it really comes down to one thing—sparking joy and delight in consumers (Nudd)”. If their current marketing strategy can be successful at sparking joy and delight in that younger target demographic, they may be able to make this shift quite easily. If their advertisements are missing the mark, though, there may be more work for Godiva to do.

finally rewarded: a close read

The ad below is a still image of a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, leaning on a countertop, lifting a Godiva truffle from a gold box on the counter to her mouth. Behind her, out of focus, several men and at least one woman are standing or sitting, some drinking from glasses, with platters of food between them. This image does not immediately appear to be overly sexual; the woman’s shirt is high-necked, and she is leaning over the counter in a realistic, non-exhibitory pose. A gold panel at the right side of the image serves multiple functions: it reminds the viewer of the gold color of Godiva’s signature chocolate boxes, it generates an association between the ad and a marker of luxury, and it creates a space for text to be easily superimposed on the image.

[3] The advertisement in question.
Yet several aspects of her physical appearance match onto features that stereotypically mark a woman as a sex object: her lips are slightly parted; her eyes are closed, or at least heavily lidded; her hair is tousled and shiny; her skin looks smooth and golden. Her shirt folds in a way that draws attention to her chest and collarbones. In the language of print advertising, her body language is code for arousal – and in this ad, she is clearly being aroused by the chocolate. But this is fairly typical of chocolate ads.

A more interesting feature of her pose is her privacy from the rest of the party. The text accompanying the image indicates that she was the one to plan the party, yet she has withdrawn from it to eat this chocolate. She appears to be celebrating her successful party with a private reward: she is not being celebrated by anyone else, including and especially her male guests, blurry and silent at the back of the frame. The ad also doesn’t focus on any pleasure stemming from her successful party or from a feeling that the work she put into it was worthwhile. Her only pleasure comes from the chocolate.

The chocolate, then, is clearly a private pleasure. Women are frequently depicted in media eating chocolate “in various states of sensual arousal” and frequently alone, sneaking the chocolate “as a guilty pleasure or consolation prize” (Martin). Two things complicate this trope. First, the comparison of chocolate-eating pleasure to sexual orgasmic pleasure leaves the woman merely the object of some pleasuring force (chocolate). If the experience of eating chocolate is sensually arousing, then watching the woman in the advertisement eat chocolate is a form of accepted voyeurism, with all the problematic implications that brings.

Second, the concept of food being used in secret reward behavior is deeply connected to troubled eating patterns. Public schools have been trying to ban food as an in-school reward for good behavior for years; several studies have shown that teaching people that food is a reward means they crave it far more, and are at much higher risk for obesity (Healy). Women, in particular, are taught to conceal their eating habits from a young age, or told that men find it unattractive when women eat in public. The instinct to hide food and snacking behaviors, especially on unhealthy foods – like chocolate – can be an early indicator of eating disorders (Rainey). Encouraging the women who see this ad to mimic that behavior is likely to go poorly.

redesigning for a new demographic

Godiva’s head of marketing wants the main associations consumers make with Godiva to be joy and delight. The ad above primarily transmits a message of pleasure, and mostly sexual pleasure. To facilitate a shift toward less-sexual joy, and to broaden the ad campaign’s appeal to a wider audience, a redesign of the above print ad uses nearly the same framing and phrasing but incorporates a different woman and a different scene.


Finally Rewarded
A redesigned ad for Godiva’s new campaign.

In the redesigned ad, the phrase “Weeks AND WEEKS of planning” refers not to planning a party, but to Nicola Adams’ training and preparation for the 2012 London Olympics competition in boxing. Her preparation was presumably physically and emotionally taxing, and she is being rewarded with both a gold medal and a Godiva chocolate bar. This resolves several problematic aspects of the original ad.

Nicola is being rewarded not only with chocolate, but also with a gold medal. She is being celebrated for her success and performance, and her joy appears to stem from her abilities as well as from her chocolate-bar. The bright lights on her, compared to the dark background, also indicate that she is being lit or perhaps even photographed in front of a crowd of on-lookers. The public nature of the ad removes the problematic food-hiding behavior from the first ad.

From the Olympic medal around her neck, we are able to infer that she is being celebrated for her physical prowess. The gold stripe at the right side of the image is now more strongly associated with the gold medal – a symbol of overwhelming ability and success – than it is with luxury or classism.

Finally, the ad does not cast Nicola as a sex object. Her smile reaches her eyes; her hair is up, perhaps for comfort or ease of movement or perhaps just because she likes to wear it that way; she is wearing athletic clothing, and little or no makeup to accentuate her lips or darken her eyes.

suggestions for godiva

This redesigned advertisement is far from a solution to the stereotyped and sexualized images prevalent in chocolate advertisements and in all media today. By revising ad campaigns to erase stereotypes of sexism and classism and mental health (and we haven’t even discussed the racial undertones prevalent in chocolate imagery), Godiva can take a step toward reaching their target demographic with a message of delight and of joy.

works cited

French, Katherine. 1992. “The legend of Lady Godiva and the image of the female body.” Journal of Medieval History 18 (1): 3-19.

Healy, Melissa. 2014. “When food’s the reward, obese women’s judgment fails them.” Los Angeles Times, 17 July 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Women Alone with Chocolate in TV Commercials.” Bittersweet Notes. WordPress, 7 June 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Nudd, Tim. 2016. “At 90, Godiva Proudly Looks Back as It Charts a Path Forward: The Belgian chocolatier has a lauded history but needs to court younger buyers.” AdWeek. 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Puhl, R.M. and Schwartz, M.B. 2003. “If you are good you can have a cookie: How memories of childhood food rules link to adult eating behaviors.” Eating Behaviors 4 (3): 283-93.

Rainey, Sarah. 2015. “Ever hidden food, or secretly disposed of wrappers? Then you need to read this.” The Telegraph. 14 Jan 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godiva_Chocolatier#/media/File:Godiva_Chocolatier_Logo.svg

[2] https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/a0be6-govida_singer_2011_01.jpg

[3] http://www.adforum.com/creative-work/ad/player/31554/n-a/godiva-chocolatier

images used for redesigned ad

[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/boxing/olympics-2012-nicola-adams-wins-1244176

[5] https://community.imgur.com/t/favorite-chocolate-bars/8015