Gay Ads in Straight Places

Jeff Harrell points to the an image from Apple Computers’ new ad campaign:

Apple Computer Gay Ad Photo

He and I have the same immediate reaction: Two gay guys holding hands. He reads some age issues into it that wouldn’t otherwise have occured to me. His friend in the advertising industry thinks he’s reading too much into it.

I don’t much care, in that I’m not in the market for a new computer, let alone a Mac. I do, however, wonder why advertisers would employ gay themes when designing ads not specifically targetted to gay audiences.

For example, I subscribe to and read GQ and Esquire. I’m sure that they have some substantial gay and “metrosexual” readership but would presume that the vast majority consists of straight men. So why is Dolce&Gabbana placing ads like this?

Dolce & Gabbana GQ Ad Photo 4Dolce & Gabbana GQ Ad Photo 3Dolce & Gabbana GQ Ad Photo 2Dolce & Gabbana GQ Ad Photo 1

Granting that the designers are themselves openly homosexual, why would they want to create that association with their brand? Wouldn’t “these clothes will make you attractive” (to which one could naturally fill in “hot chicks” or “other guys”) be a more effective marketing strategy than, well, whatever the hell their marketing strategy is?

LaMont Jones of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests that this is just the natural evolution of the “sex sells” philosophy of advertising.

Then there is the homoeroticism of Dolce & Gabbana four-page ad series in recent issues of popular men’s magazine GQ. In February, men in suits stare at an apparently naked man lying on the floor while a fellow nearby fiddles with his pants zipper. In the March series, the clothes fade into the background as men pose bare-chested, pants down, hands inside underwear, hands on the crotch.


These images are bolder than similar but more subtle homoerotic images of female models in ads by Emporio Armani, BCBG Max Azria and Gucci. And they’re being noticed and talked about.

“Not even Freud could decipher this hallucination,” blogger David K. wrote about some of the Dolce & Gabbana ads, which he posted on Commenting on the image featuring the apparently nude guy, the blogger asked: “Is this what male fashion has come to?”

Evan J. Schapiro, a GQ spokesperson, acknowledged that the ads are “very provocative.” Supporters “appreciate the artistic value” while some criticized the ads as “over the line.” “We take notice of all the ads that appear in our magazine. In this particular instance, we decided that our readers could come to their own conclusions. We have received both positive and negative responses via mail from our readers. Advertisers advertise in GQ because we have a vocal and loyal readership.”

The difference between these and other sexually provocative ads, though, is that they do not seem to align with the sexual fantasies of the target audience. While the association of silicone-enhanced, scantily clad women and beer is exploitative, the implied message (“Chicks dig guys who drink Miller Lite!”) is at least one whose appeal is nearly universal to the target demographic. “Wanna see my bulge?” Not so much.

Update: Joe, who describes himself as “a gay New Yorker living in the rural south,” has a thoughtful response to this post. He notes, as many have, that the Apple ad is not gay themed when viewed in its entirety. I would agree; I was reacting only to the still image from Harrell’s post.

As to the G&B ads, Joe responds, “these ads do not represent me or my lifestyle and do a disservice to gay people [emphasis his].”

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Gender Issues, LGBTQ Issues, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. cirby says:

    Watch the rest of the ad.

    The guy on the right is bi, at least.

  2. Christopher says:

    OMG! That stuff is horribly gross!

    I don’t agree with the gay lifestyle at all (yes I am a conservative) but I could care less if some guy is banging another guy, its none of my business.

    But do I have to see that stuff all over the TV and in advertisements? SICK!

  3. Javier says:

    This trend reflects a real social evolution that heralding a more open, enlightened, and progressive society. Apple is a brand with particular appeal to trendy, hip, young liberals, who tend to be very, very pro-gay, if not just plain bisexual, heteroflexible and gay today. The gay, bisexual, and gay-friendly market is huge and growing, particularly amongst the young and well-educated. All over the world, including Latin America, same-sex couples and homoeroticism is being used more and more in mainstream advertising, and attracting kudos and more business for the products.
    Further, the ads reflect the growing trend of heteroflexible and bisexual identity amongst young men. The bisexual chic that started with women is now happening amongst men, again particularly amongst the urban, well-educated, and affluent. Guys who identify as heterosexual are now openly admitting same-sex crushes, same-sex experiences, and more and more are greeting male friends with hugs and even kisses. In trendy urban and college-town clubs, even frat guys are dancing with each other now.
    And to the above Chris, I think your opinions are extremely “gross,” primitive, and unenlightened. You have the right to be a Dark Age Neanderthal, but don’t flaunt it so openly.

  4. James Joyner says:


    Have you any studies indicating that people are becoming more “heteroflexible”?

    We’ve been told for decades that homosexuality is a predisposition rather than a lifestyle choice. That’s my sense of the matter as well. It would be hard to conceive, then, of people becoming suddenly more homosexual, let alone on a regional/economic basis.

  5. Bhoe says:

    It’s bad enough that we are forced to read the gay activist, Plato, in Philosophy class–now, to see these commercials, the horror!

  6. legion says:

    I hadn’t heard the term ‘heteroflexible’ before.. that’s a new one on me! But it’s not that more people are ‘becoming’ homosexual; it’s about such impulses becoming more socially acceptable. As Kinsey noted, few people are 100% straight or 100% gay – they often have at least some impulse or curiosity in the other direction. In the past decade or two, it’s become less of a social (or literal) death sentence to question one’s own sexuality, and that, I believe, is why it seems like ‘teh gays’ are poppin’ out all over…

  7. NJ voter says:


    I’m not trying to be funny, but it means something when someone sees gay images all over the place.

    Like “beauty”, “gay” is also in the eye of the beholder.

    Do I hear a closet door opening????

  8. James Joyner says:

    NJ Voter: In American culture, men seldom walk around holding hands. And, certainly, the D&G ads are an appeal to gay culture.

  9. NJ voter says:


    I respectfully point out that we seldom see talking geccos, or exploding bottles of beer either. Sometimes a hand-shake is just a handshake…except when it isn’t…of course.

  10. legion says:

    Why James, are you suggesting that the President is “gettin’ it on” with the Saudi Royal family? 🙂

  11. Christopher says:

    Oh, Legion! You are so witty! Witty witty witty! Please go suck an egg.

  12. Malcolm says:

    Actually, many studies have noted an upswing in not only people identifying as gay or bisexual, but more people are reporting same-sex experiences and relationships, both in the US and in other Western nations. Scientists and experts affirm that this not because more gays or bisexuals are being made, but simply because growing societal acceptance of homosexuality has made people more open with their innate sexual orientation and more likely to fulfill their sexual orientation through actions.

    As for heteroflexibility, UrbanDictionary offers these definitions:

    1. heteroflexible

    A person who identifies themselves as primarily heterosexual but can find the same sex sexually appealing.

    Most girls I know are heteroflexible.
    Apr 1, 2003

    2. Heteroflexible

    A person who identifies as heterosexual except when they have their mouth on the genitalia of a member of the same sex.

    His true sexual attraction is to women but on occasion, when he finds a co*k in his mouth, he’s heteroflexible.

    Aug 7, 2003

    3. Heteroflexible

    A primarily heterosexual person who’s not opposed to occasional same-sex trysts when circumstances permit.

    “Jake swears that most of his fraternity brothers are heteroflexible once they’ve chilled with a few beers.”

    tags cf. yestrosexual, hasbien, metrosexual, hoyay, and flexitarian
    Jan 17, 2006

    In the February 6, 2006 edition of New York magazine an article entitled “Love and the Ambisexual, Heteroflexible Teen” exposed the growing number of youth and young adults who have predominantly heterosexual identities but are very open to same-sex experiences and relationships. The article noted that young males are now benefiting the bisexual openness that only young women had last decade. “Go to the schools, talk to the kids, and you’ll see that somewhere along the line this generation has started to conceive of sexuality differently,” the article noted.
    As someone who frequents Myspace, Facethejury, and other popular young adult sites, I can say that openness to same-sex relationships is prevalent amongst the young, particularly college or college-bound students. The old term “Bisexual til Graduation” has never been more true.

  13. Malcolm says:

    A recent study in the prestigious Journal of Sex Research reveals a surprising upsurge in homosexual activity.

    According to the study, the percentage of U.S. women who say they recently had gay sex has increased 15 times from 1988 to 1998, with rates among American men doubling over the same ten-year period.

    Positive media images of gay life, like hit TV shows “Ellen” and “Will and Grace,” may be helping to spur the increase, according to a March 14th press release from Reuters Health.

    Researcher Amy C. Butler of the University of Iowa examined 1988-1998 data from the General Social Survey, a poll of adult Americans conducted every two years by the National Opinion Research Center.

    Butler suggests that positive images of gay people in the media “may have made it easier for people to recognize their same-gender sexual interest and to act on it.” She noted that some of the increase is likely due to heterosexuals who are experimenting with homosexuality.

    Butler suggests another reason for the upsurge in lesbian sexuality: “Equalizing the earning potential of men and women may enable women to consider family structures and sexual partnerships that do not include men.” More than 90% of women said their sexual relationships were exclusively heterosexual in 1988, Butler notes, compared with 86% of women ten years later.

    Yet more than half of Americans believe that gay sex is “always wrong,” according to another study quoted in the Journal of Sex Research.

    SOURCES: Reuters Health (Mar. 14)
    Journal of Sex Research ;37:333-343.

  14. jpe says:

    But do I have to see that stuff all over the TV and in advertisements? SICK!

    Wow. You’re a total spaz.

    I didn’t read the ad as gay at all. It was classic Odd Couple.

  15. jpe says:

    In American culture, men seldom walk around holding hands.

    Other things we don’t see: talking squirrels, rugged SUVs climbing mountains, and people getting tackled in offices.

    Ads don’t reproduce reality: they foreground certain things by wild hyperbole or fantastic affect.

  16. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Those that advocate sodomy should be forced to engage in it. That will not offend homosexuals. There is no purpose in same gender sex. Society has the right to decide what behavior is acceptable and what is not, else we should legalize all behavior.

  17. Christopher says:


    I’m a spaz? LOL! What are you, 4?

    And what does “foreground certain things” mean? Is this gayspeak?

  18. floyd says:

    javier; open? yes, enlightened? no

  19. JAMAL says:

    This is a really great trend I have noticed all over the place. Guys who wear Dolce and Gabanna, buy Apple computers, wear 2xist underwear, and read Details magazine tend to be young and very gay-friendly. Not a lot of ignorant homophobic hicks buy these products, so there is little risk of a backlash. Also, since gay people have had to tolerate all the heterosexual images in our society, it is only fair that heterosexuals have to tolerate the same from their gay brethren. Intelligent people have no problem with this and don’t act all upset over simple affection between human beings.
    I’m really glad that for the most part, young people today are very comfortable and accepting of same-sex relationships, which is marketed difference from previous generations. For a generation that watches popular shows on MTV, cable, and moviea that feature much more explicit same-sex intimacy than these ads show, this is no big deal.

  20. Javier says:

    “Society has the right to decide what behavior is acceptable and what is not, else we should legalize all behavior.”

    And today the overwhelming chorus of modern Western nations now say homosexuality is acceptable, homophobia is not. Homosexuality is not illegal in any western country today, bias against homosexuals is illegal in almost all of them. In fact, a large and growing number of Western nations recognize gay marriage or unions, including the majority of EU nations. That’s the 21st century’s verdict on what’s acceptable and what is not.

  21. Tal says:

    “There is no purpose in same gender sex.”

    There’s no purpose in blowjobs, either, but I don’t see millions of guys bitching about their “immoral” girlfriends polishing their knobs.

  22. Drake says:

    The purpose of same-sex action is that is emotionally and physically pleasing, just like opposite sex stuff. This is not the fifteenth century, when sex had to be legitimized by its possibility of reproduction. And as someone who has his share of sexual activity with both men and women, I can affirm that men really know how to give a man a hot blow better than women.

  23. just me says:

    GQ and similar are hardly “family” oriented magazines, and they have long pushed the edge in advertizing.

    The images don’t bother me, I don’t purchase or read them, and to be honest I haven’t got a clue who the designers are, but then I am not the type to care much about who designed the clothes I buy-most of them are out of my price range anyway.

    I do agree that knowing your market is important, but then I also am an advertisers worst nightmare, I rarely remember who made what commercials, other than the very freaky Burger King commercials, which bother me a heck of a lot more than these ads do.

  24. Jeff says:

    The ad is very much aimed at its target audience – forward thinking computer buyers who are looking for computers that have complex integrated multimedia features

    This ad is not aimed at dinosaurs looking for a way to forward e-mail jokes.

  25. For what it’s worth, I saw two Apple commercials on tv last night featuring the dudes pictured above and they were quite clever and, for what it’s worth, not gay at all.

    The one with PC (the dude in the tie) getting viruses and crashing, whilst Mac was immune was quite effective, I thought.

    I only stopped the TiVo fast-forward to watch them because I had seen this post yesterday.

  26. Julian says:

    I personally don’t care what adults do as long as it’s not with children (especially mine). In the end, they’ll be judged on their own merits. However, I myself and MOST of my friends find homosexuality to be immoral, repulsive and abhorrent. And myself and MOST of my friends are highly educated, intelligent, and respected in our communities.

  27. jerry says:

    Is this a parody blog?

  28. floyd says:

    javier; if all six billion people in the world decided homosexuality was acceptable, that would not change the fact that it is a perversion. it would just be a socially acceptable perversion.

  29. Drake says:

    Floyd, you are entitled to be ignorant. Julian, then you’re even more tragic than the average homophobe. Your formal “education” has done nonething to eradicate your ignorance and prejudice. In that regard, you are exceptionally wedded to your personal bigotry and ignorance.

  30. Malcom says:

    I don’t think Apple cares about the type of people that have a problem with homosexuality since those type of people aren’t exactly the target audience for Apple products. Apple is about hipness, modernity, cutting edge, youth, which is consistent with being very gay-friendly.

  31. Tarheelpoder says:

    “Granting that the designers are themselves openly homosexual, why would they want to create that association with their brand?”

    Is the writer serious? Gay and Bisexual Chic is what sells very trendy clothing. It’s popular because it sells and gets the product noticed. It’s nothing new. It has been selling popular high end clothing for over a decade now, and getting more prevalent today as homosexuality has become mainstream. In Europe and Canada, ads featuring same-sex couples and blatant homoeroticism are everywhere, and no one even dares to bat an eye. Some people need to get over their antiquated hangups.

  32. floyd says:

    drake; thanks for the entitlement, maybe i’ll try it sometime. when i get the notion i’ll call for your help. BTW. formal education should be used for the purpose of gaining an education, not an indoctrination. [as in “gee i’ve had my brain washed and i can’t do a thing with it”]

  33. Dave says:

    Why are you so threatened by ads that show the kind of people the world is made up of? Advertisers now use black people in ads that will be seen by white people. There are even ads that show women in the workplace or couples in which both people are not of the same race. Gay and lesbian couples live in the world. If that makes you uncomfortable, maybe you need to get out more.

  34. Tarheelpoder says:

    Bisexual and gay people deserve to see their love lives and relationships depicted in society the same as heterosexuals do. AFTER ALL, gays have to tolerate heterosexuals flaunting their relationships in public and in media all the time. It’s time for Dark Age minds to get over their ridiculous hangups; it certainly makes them look socially retarded.

  35. tinabina says:

    A study at the University of Georgia showed that “straight” men who reported feelings of “violence and revulsion” toward gay men had high rates of arousal when shown gay porn. Much higher rates of arousal than the men that participated in the study who identified themselves as gay.

  36. Malcolm says:

    The same social Cavemen that have no problem with two people expressing affection tend to be the same people who never object to violence in media or the warmongering ways of the current administration. Homophobes are indeed people filled with anti-human rage about the love and affection of others. It is insanely arrogant to tell another human being who they should love and partner with. These wacked busybodies need to check themselves because they have some very ugly attitudes in their unevolved hearts and minds.

  37. Malcolm says:

    I meant: The same social Cavemen that have A problem with two people expressing affection tend to be the same people who never object to violence in media or the warmongering ways of the current administration.

  38. Jim says:

    Finally we use logic and reason as a guide to action, not faith fiction and myth as a reaon to negate the existence and prevelance of homosexuality throughout nature.

    Religion and the myths serounding have led only to separation, division, death and destruction, nice to see the human race finally wake up.