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“Mind-Blowing, Toe-Curling Sex”: Coding sexualization and authority in advertising copy

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  1. Introduction
  2. Glamour magazine
  3. Conceptualization and operationalization
  4. Coding
  5. Conclusion
  6. The table of analysis
  7. References

The discipline of art history has altered its theoretical preoccupations over the past century to include popular or ?low? forms of artistic expression within its avenue of criticism. As such, advertising copy is viewed as a representation of cultural trends, and the fashion industry ? from haute couture to skin lotion ? has employed and produced some of the most spectacular graphic and visual design. To parody the distinction between ?high? and ?low? art, Andy Warhol's 1962 Campbell's Soup Cans announced the rise of popular and commercial artwork; that is, as opposed to a preoccupation with singular works involving a traditional medium (i.e., oil paint on canvas, sculpture, or a fresco), the work utilized a semi-mechanical silkscreen process which invoked the notion that art can be widely produced and consumed (like the soup) on a massive scale. For commercial advertising to achieve this distinction in art history it follows that sociology can also benefit from analyzing the cultural trends and indicators of popular graphic design; furthermore, that it is useful to explore dominant media inclinations toward specific topics such as gender, sexuality, and authority.

[...] Representations of sexuality are framed from the basis of this authority, whether in terms of psychoanalysis or criminality, and are transmitted to re-enforce cultural norms and pre-eminent values [Foucault, 1976]. While this form of social complicity is exercised through others' knowledge of individuals, Foucault (1976) maintains that the process is also internalized through individual self-knowledge: the views and norms established by sciences of sexuality are subjectively mimicked by the person in order to conform to their values. As such, authority over the individual is manifested as being controlled as objects of the sexual disciplines but also as self- conceptualized subjects. [...]

[...] In selecting print advertisements from its issues, the principle justification lies with the breadth in marketing ads; and the target-audience as a hypothetical ?everywoman? not restricted to special or marginal interest categories. While Glamour was chosen for its popular appeal, it must be acknowledged that this same ?universal? focus contains limitations on certain content as the magazine is not devoted to a special interest category, such as one with a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) interest; moreover, that its overwhelming female audience precludes a male-centered focus (such as achieved in Gentleman's Quarterly or Playboy). [...]

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