How Axe Convinces Teen Boys Women are the Second Sex

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Axe makes cologne, which is hard to “spice up.” In an attempt to make their product more attractive, Axe put out an advertisement that essentially says, ‘Use our product if you want to be manly and have sex with girls.’ In order to achieve the message, they use women as props. Women, as a group, are portrayed as weak sex objects whose sole purpose is sleeping with men. The whole message is problematic, showing only one kind of woman (white, skinny, and scantily clad) and saying men should stop being friends with women to just sleep with them instead. The ad may be portraying men who do not sleep with women (and use Axe) negatively, but the overall portrayal of women is the most offensive aspect of this advertisement. Axe uses a hypersexual stereotype of women, technical codes surrounding these women, and an idealized setting of a sleepover to enforce the reward manly men get. The ad uses women’s bodies as a tool to enforce their scare tactic: ‘You are weak if you do not use Axe. If you use Axe you will get to have sex.’

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Consumers’ eyes are drawn to the nearly naked models in a girl’s bedroom. These women are digitally enhanced, with shadows cast down the center of their chests, impossibly flat stomachs, and glowing skin. The intention here is to get susceptible teenage boys thinking that men who don’t use this product need to escape the ‘friend zone’ and use the product, so these models, who are the epitome of perfection according to societal expectations, will sleep with them. All the women look extremely similar, like Barbie doll archetypal clones of one another. They are all wearing low-cut tight shirts and underwear, creating a fantasy scenario for hormonal teenage boys. The problem is that the majority of women are not stick-thin and white like these ones are. What ads like this do is perpetuate the cultural perception that women look perfect and exist to serve men, and therefore men have the right to dismiss women who do not look like this or even be violent towards women for not existing only to please them. What is being said here is that manly men who use Axe will be the ones who get pleased by these women, rather than have a platonic relationship like the weak non-Axe-user with braids.

The braids are just one example of all the technical codes used here to get the point across. The braids are a metaphor, symbolizing femininity as something unwanted, which is a problem in and of itself. There are also some lighting cues and prop placements to really help consumers subconsciously understand the intended message. The color scheme is pink – which is perceived culturally as a very feminine color. The lighting is almost foreboding – as if the scene of a boy who is just a friend is something dreadful. There are quite a few very ‘feminine’ props, most noticeably a sports team pennant that says “chicas” – a term for women. This further enforces the archetype of the girl this bedroom set belongs to: she could never like real sports because girls are just dumb, weak “chicas.” There is also a telephone shaped like a shiny red pair of plump lips parallel to the boy in the middle, implicating another very sexual tone. Last, the teddy bears could be interpreted as appealing to a younger audience. The boy in the center is noticeably younger than the sexualized women, likely so Axe can advertise to middle school or even elementary school-aged boys who cannot even realize how much of a fantasy this scene is as they likely have not been in a flirty teenage girl’s bedroom.

The technical codes in the bedroom supporting this ‘perfect’ and sexy expectation of women. There are even biblical elements to these women – making them more of an unattainable goal. They are surrounding the boy, lounging, with pearly white smiles. Their figures are perfectly proportioned and the woman adjusting her bra in the lit-up mirror even has light cast over her in an angelic manner. This setting choice, again, plays into pubescent boys’ uninformed fantasies and makes them associate Axe with access to the ‘holy grail’ – sexy women. The bedsheets are another discordant visual cue here. They are covered in flowers, which have historically represented a woman’s sexuality. One more fantasy piece tying everything together is the braids that are out of place on the boy. The braids are not part of the idealistic heavenly fantasy, rather a dark counterpart. They look like a foreign body placed on the boy – and he is uncomfortable with it. Axe is yet again implying that their Ex-Friend cologne will be what makes the girls stop seeing him as a female friend.

This advertisement for Axe’s Ex-Friend cologne really says it all in the name: they are trying to convince young boys that the cologne will get them out of the friend-zone and into the bed of three hot, perfect women. Axe uses women as just another prop in the setting of this young man’s fantasy. Surrounding these women-turned-sex-objects are various technical codes that the public may not even realize are signaling to them what exactly this cologne can do for the boys who choose to buy it. These hypersexualized women are put into an angelic light, and this subsequently causes the young, impressionable boys seeing this not only to think that Axe will help them get the girl, but also sets an unrealistic expectation of those girls. The belief of these young boys that women look and behave like this, and that women around them exist only for their pleasure, can easily snowball into more serious issues like sexual harassment, sexism, and rape culture. While cologne ads promising sex with perfect women are not the sole perpetrator of society’s degrading view of women, this advertisement is definitely not helping the increasingly common view of women as nothing more than sex objects.

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How Axe Convinces Teen Boys Women Are the Second Sex. (2022, Oct 01). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
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