Fashion, Partying, and Sex: Out Ads Perpetuate Gay Stereotype

I came out to a friend about 10 years ago, who brusquely replied by saying, “Are you sure about this lifestyle?  Gay people only care about fashion, partying, and sex.”  As ignorant as that comment was, I sometimes find it hard to refute this assumption, and unfortunately, gay-targeted advertisements only tend to perpetuate the stereotype.

Last night I performed a highly unscientific study within the pages of the most recent edition of Out.  Out of curiosity I decided to categorize all the ads in the magazine by subject matter.  The results?  Not surprisingly, fashion/cologne ads occupied the most space with 10 total pages dedicated to these products, followed by travel-oriented ads with 8 1/3 pages.  Next were ads for HIV medication with a whopping 6 1/3 pages devoted to them.  HIV meds were followed closely by alcohol/cigarette ads with 5 total pages.  The only other subject with more than a single page of ad space were entertainment ads (movies, music, and television) with a total of 3 pages.

What do the results say about us?  They say that we like to travel the world drinking and smoking, listening to music, having unprotected sex, and all the while looking fabulous while doing it.

For the record, the full results of this impromptu study are below.  There wasn’t a single page of ad space devoted to automobiles, retirement planning, or household cleaners – the everyday types of products and services that are commonplace in straight-oriented publications.  To be fair it’s not Out’s fault, and I don’t blame the advertising community.  I’m sure it’s hard to rationalize targeting gays with an ad for Swiffer Sweepers, especially given the lack of market research that exists to justify the ad buy.  Rather, I think this mix of advertisements is more a reflection of what we, as a community will respond to.  Fashion, partying, and sex.  Maybe my friend was right.

Fashion/Cologne:  10 pages

Travel:  8 1/3 pages

HIV Medications:  6 1/3 pages

Alcohol/Cigarettes:  5 pages

Entertainment:  3 pages

Interior Design:  1 page

Insurance:  1 page

Bars/Clubs:  1 page

Lubrication:  1 page

Dating websites:  1 page

Business Conference:  1 page

Catering:  1 page

Deodorant:  1 page

Tires:  1 page

Cold Sore Medication:  1/3 page


4 responses to “Fashion, Partying, and Sex: Out Ads Perpetuate Gay Stereotype

  1. Perhaps you should also consider The Advocate in your survey. You may find the advertising placed there to be a little more contrastive.

    More over, consider the magazine itself, Out is a lifestyle publication, compare it to its counterparts. If you look at Details, GQ and Esquire and you may find (other than the HIV medication ads) your impromptu study to imply the same. That is, all lifestyle magazines gay or straight have a rhetoric that works in tandem with the pursuit of pleasure, luxury and vanity.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Darabzine, you make a great point. Out is a lifestyle magazine, and ads in lifestyle publications rarely depict the mundane, but rather tend to be aspirational in nature. You similarly won’t see ads for Swiffer Sweepers in Details, GQ, or Esquire. At the same time, I don’t recall ever having seen an ad for anal lube in the pages of those magazines either. I’ll take your recommendation to heart and survey these publications and the Advocate – look for the results in a follow-up post!

  3. Nice article, thanks much. It’s fascinating to me that advertisers — the so-called mainstream advertisers — in appealing to us inevitably feel they must punctuate the ad with gay stereotypes. As if we, as gay men, will never focus on an ad which doesn’t showcase what is perceived as “gay behavior”. Yes, I’m gay, yes, I’m out and open; but I’m so much more than an out and open gay man. I have the same wide range of interests as the straight man. I know I’m gay, I don’t need the ad to focus on this single aspect of who I am.

  4. Very good point though little is done to recognize this ofcourse i guess that’s how the Industry might see us. I do not read Out Magazine but the conent is clearly there. The stereotypes are clear as most people tend to believe that only gay people can get hiv and most people also tend to make us look as “the party people”. Sadly i have seen a lot of my gay friends buy into these stereotypes and actually start acting like so, with the excuse of “well it’s expected of me anyway”. I don’t think the industry might change this of course not any time soon

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