Warning: this post includes feminism.

This week I saw an ad for a gi. It featured a woman wearing gi pants, a sports bra, and opening the top. Unlike the Kyra Gracie shots, most of the women grapplers I know, have responded well. I love it, Georgette said she’s going to buy one, GiFreak wrote a piece about it, and there is overall positive feedback from the women’s grappling community. I think it’s because the ad was sexy but not sexual. It was for the Desert Sun gi by CTRL Industries. Here is the photo and the accompanying text:

Their new Desert Sun gi

Their new Desert Sun gi

The ‘Desert Sun’ is Heavily Themed around the desert, and the southwest. For the photoshoot, we hit the desert in the heat of the late afternoon. We wanted to use a Navajo to model the gi because we used Navajo Style print on the interior. We did our best to capture what the gi is about. We hope you enjoy the photos. We will release the photos gradually this week, with a possible gi release this weekend.

Sexy Ads

This is a sexy BJJ ad. Sexy people showing their bodies is sexy! I think there is NOTHING wrong with sexy ads. To me, the model looks like she’s showing her body to show off the gi, rather than to show off her body – there’s nothing gratuitous about this ad. She’s got a neutral expression on her face, her clothes are not revealing cleavage. I wouldn’t tag this as NSFW, nor would I feel uncomfortable were my mom or nieces to see it on my Facebook feed.

Sexual Ads

While I have no problem with sexy BJJ ads, I have a big problem with sexual BJJ ads. I think it’s wrong to use women as objects in the ads. I think it’s wrong to sexualize our sport.

I believe BJJ should be defended as an asexual space. It’s just too far outside the norm of human physical interaction to start sprinkling sex in, not to mention a lot of people train to confront/defend against sexual trauma. […] – Megan from Tangled Triangle

One funny way to try to figure out if it’s sexual or not is to gender swap. The Desert Sun model is not in a hyper feminine pose: she’s not sticking out her chest or butt, cocking her head, looking demure, etc. If it would look ridiculous or funny, it’s very possible that it’s in the gray area  such as those Daniel Strauss/Kyra Gracie picturest or any of the Hawkeye Initiative photos, in which Hawkeye is put into many classic “female empowered” poses.

The Hawkeye Initiative, guaranteed to make you laugh, frustrated, and waste loads of time online

The Hawkeye Initiative, guaranteed to make youwaste loads of time online

Overt Differences

Let’s compare some obvious differences. CTRL vs Breakpoint. Both pictures below are designed to sell gis.

The CTRL model looks like she could do BJJ. She is wearing BJJ appropriate attire, including a high-cut sports bra. She is not a superfluous object added to be pretty, but rather a dynamic figure in the ad. They’re selling the gi to athletes by putting it on an athlete.

The Breakpoint model is obviously not wearing gear appropriate for a BJJ gym. Judging by her body piercings, she doesn’t do BJJ. Sternum piercings are surface piercings and would not stand up to doing jiu jitsu, since care includes: Try to avoid any activity that might injure your pierced spot. Breakpoint is selling sex; the woman is little more than a sexy gi rack, pun intended.

Can anyone identify the magazine?

Can anyone identify the magazine?

Subtle Differences

Let’s compare two pictures with more subtle differences: CTRL vs Kyra. Note that CTRL is definitely trying to sell a gi, vs Kyra most likely doing self-promo pics. Now, while I don’t think that Kyra’s picture is NEARLY at the level as the Breakpoint one, I think it exists in the sexy vs sexual VENN diagram overlap.

To me, the left reads sexy, while the right reads sexual. Perhaps it’s the cleavage or the difference in expressions. The Desert Sun model looks like she’s showing off a design, while Kyra looks like she’s mid stripping. While I’d feel comfortable showing the left picture on my Facebook wall, I’d feel uncomfortable with the picture on the right.

Do these look different to you?

Do these look different to you?

Because I believe BJJ ads should not be sexual, I think there is value in discussing the difference between sexy and sexual. The (too) easy conversation is the Breakpoint one, because it’s obvious and over the top. But the more subtle ones are the ones that create more polarizing conversations, with people being dismissed as “feminists” (hence the warning) or being mansplained why I’m making mountains out of molehills. That’s why these conversations are important – precisely because, while they may not be mountains, they most certainly are not molehills.

Again, I don’t think that showing bodies or midriffs is, by definition, sexual. Fit bodies are sexy and nice to look at, but if you’re going to have fit, sexy bodies showing skin in your ads, it’s important to consider how you’re showing them. It’s clear that CTRL Industries put thought into it.

JiuJiu’s Question: What do you see as the difference between sexy and sexual? Do you consider Kyra’s picture to be neutrally sexy or to be somewhat (or more) sexual? Do you think the Desert Sun ad is sexy or sexual? What’s the difference between the Kyra picture and the CTRL picture? Please share your thoughts. Reminder: differing opinions are absolutely welcome if you play nicely!