For decades, suggestive and sexualised images have saturated fashion campaigns as designer companies compete to produce new and arresting advertisements. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between ads and pornography.

During the 90s, the FBI investigated potential child pornography charges when Calvin Klein produced a commercial which was designed to resemble a low-budget porno. The video traced a collection of adolescent models as they entered an empty room and were asked provocative questions by an older man’s voice off-screen. Employing images of a sexual nature was nothing new, even in the 90s, but this advert verged on paedophilia, combining sex with fashion in a more sinister vein.

Additionally, in 2009 Calvin Klein’s spring/summer advertising campaign was banned across the United States for its sexual content. The commercial featured eight semi-naked models participating in group sex to a menacing soundtrack.

Calvin Klein’s 2013 fashion commercial has recently been banned for similar reasons. In the latest contested video, a young couple arrive at a motel where the sheepish girl is coerced by the boyfriend figure into taking off her clothes. When she finally does, another man appears from nowhere to join in the fun. Problematically, the girl experiences an uncomfortable conflict between vulnerability and eroticism. Despite her unleashed sexuality, she never appears to be in control and repeatedly shoots worried glances at the camera.

Despite recent censorship, we are confronted with “designer rape sequences” with alarming frequency. Images where women are “beaten, bound and abducted, but immaculately turned out and artistically photographed” are often employed in magazines ads.

In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf defines media images which explicitly conflate fashion and sex as “beauty pornography”. Her book traces the trajectory of female sexuality in the media, describing how the 1960s provided sexual liberation for women, permitting them to enter political and public discourse like never before.

The backlash which ensued after the sexual revolution in the 60s allowed “beauty pornography and beauty sadomasochism to put the guilt, shame, and pain back into women’s experience of sex”. Paradoxically, as western culture permits women sexual freedom, they are increasingly sexualised and subordinated. Is it possible that images which objectify and degrade women have emerged in response to women’s 21st century self-assertion?

Indeed, Jimmy Choo’s 2006 spring advertisement was not banned or challenged, despite its degrading and objectifying content. Disturbingly, the ad illustrates a murdered woman lying in the boot of a car whilst a man digs a hole in the desert beside her.

Similarly, both Dolce and Gabbana and Calvin Klein produced magazine adverts which Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau deemed to depict violence and gang rape. The ads were banned in Italy, Spain and Australia, but never in the UK or US.

Arguably, through porn and fashion campaigns alike, the female body has become inextricably linked with sexual pleasure.  Surrounded by these sexualised images, women learn from a young age that to be beautiful, one must also be erotic, submissive and dominated. Under obscenity laws, advertising campaigns which feature erect penises, lesbian images, or sexual situations where the woman is seen to be in control, are almost always banned. Society perceives female sexual curiosity and control as obscene, while sexual violence towards women is acceptable if the model is clad in designer clothes.

Both pornography and advertising campaigns for fashionable designer brands can be seen to glamorise violence and abuse while objectifying the erotic female body.

“Buy this cologne,” the advert says, “and you will be surrounded by orgasming women”. “Buy this shampoo, and your sexual desires will be unleashed during your morning shower.” Because of these advertising campaigns, we have become consumers, not only of fashion, but of sexual desire