Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sex, Chocolate, and the Muslim Woman

It's been said that for many women chocolate is better than sex. The reality of this is for each woman to judge for herself, but there is no doubt that the idea has been propagated well. Advertisers have appropriated this belief and used it to target their female, as well as male, population.

A great example of this chocolate/sex comparison is this chocolate ice cream bar commercial we came across via Ali Eteraz's blog. The commercial features Pakistani supermodel Neha Ahmed. The product - Magnum chocolate bar made by Magnum and associated with U.K.-based Walls Ice Cream company. Both owned by Unilever. This will be addressed in a moment.

In the commercial we see Neha, escaping from the bustle of life, slowly savouring a Magnum chocolate ice cream bar. "Savouring" being used in a vague sense. Specifically, we see Neha open the freezer, caress the chocolate bar, and pick it up, eyeing it desiringly, almost as if she is flirting with the chocolate. The lights are turned off, the wrapper of the bar is pulled off smoothly, like silk slipping off a body. She kicks off her shoes, lays down on the sofa, and writhes around while eating the chocolate bar. This includes tilting her head back, with her back slightly arched. Each time she takes a bite, we get a close up of her mouth slowly putting the bar inside, and occasionally licking a finger, too. Oh, and not to mention the cleavage shot.

Now commercials are meant to sell things. And, sex, we are often told, sells things. But if chocolate is better than sex, one would think the chocolate would be enough to sell itself. And for many women it is. Many women just need to hear the word "chocolate" and they're sold. So why the "chocolate sex?" The way in which Neha enjoys the chocolate bar parallels the way in which straight women supposedly enjoy men during sex. Or actually, how straight men want to be enjoyed. In fact, this commercial depicting a woman's chocolate exploits, appears to be targeting the male viewer's sexual fantasy rather than a female viewer's chocolate one. Notice the way in which the chocolate bar is made into a phallic symbol. Not to mention the name itself - Magnum - shares its name with a gun and condom. A very male-oriented name indeed.

The commercial, as with other Magnum ice cream products commercials such as this and this, use sexual innuendos left, right, and centre. This is not surprising, considering Magnum is owned by Unilever - owners also of the infamous Axe products and behind the disgustingly sexist and misogynistic Axe commercials. (I usually want to hurt a man every time I see these commercials.) But what all these commercials have in common is that they serve the male sexual ego, satisfying the hungry male gaze, providing them a few moments with a sexy female all too eager to please them, albeit via a TV screen.

In this commerical, the sexy female happens to be Muslim. Although I was not able to find out exactly where this commercial was airing, from the sounds of the singer (not Louis Armstrong but a South Asian imitation) and voiceover, it appears the commercial is meant for South Asian audiences, thus South Asian men. Chocolate is not native to South Asia and I wonder to what extent it is associated with sex in the subcontinent.

Watch the commercial for yourself.