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Gross: Belvedere Vodka Ad Jokes About Date Rape

Violent image shocks online communities

I'm used to sexist drivel from advertisers. Ads that liken women to objects, use the disembodied female figure to sell products to men or belittle women in order to sell them things they don't need are all too commonplace. They're still insulting, but they're a standard part of the commercial landscape. But the recent Belvedere Vodka ad that's stirring up a fuss on Tumblr and other parts of the internet? That's some next level sexism.

The ad depicts a smiling young man who's grabbing onto a terrified young woman from behind. She's got fear in her eyes and is clearly trying to get away from the dude who's got his arms around her. The text reads: "Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly."

In case you missed the ever-so-subtle double entendre, Smiley is trying to get a blowjob from his female companion. She doesn't seem to be thinking along the same lines. While he's grinning dopily and pawing at her, she's horrified and struggling to escape.

Belvedere is showing us sexual assault and asking us to laugh at it. If we're to read even further into the image, we might surmise that we're privy to a date rape situation; maybe the two people in the picture are friends or even in the beginning stages of a relationship. He asks her to "go down". He gets pushy when she refuses. When she realizes she may be forced to commit an act she has no interest in committing, she tries to get away. He smiles and holds on. Maybe he rapes her, maybe he doesn't. Either way, the scene as it stands is one of a power imbalance, one of serious tension, one where an act of sexual violence is being committed against a woman. 

Is this how we sell vodka in 2012? By first shaming the blowjob-averse (via the patronizing tone of the text) and then laughing at them when their partners attempt to force oral sex? Are we serious here? The ad is demeaning, triggering, and disgusting. It's almost as though, like certain politicians who have forgotten that women vote, too, Belvedere has failed to notice that women are consumers of alcohol just as much as men are. What are they trying to prove by alienating half of their potential customers with an image of sexual violence? What message are they trying to convey to men, exactly? They're not just proud of themselves for the "go down" wordplay. It would have been easy enough for them to show a picture of a woman looking annoyed at a request or walking out on an expectant man. But they chose to depict two people grappling in a moment of desperation. What's the takeaway message here? Drink Belvedere, feel uninhibited enough to rape women? What on earth is going on?