Home / Agent Provocateur’s Disturbing ‘Muse’: Retro Romance or Rape Fantasy?

If you’ve ever done any modeling, here’s a scenario that probably sounds familiar: you’re at a fashion shoot in a remote location, nervously trying to hold your pose, when the fotog suddenly swoops in to make some adjustments to your hair and outfit. Next thing you know, without a word, he starts undoing your blouse and sliding his hand between your thighs …

That’s the storyline of ‘The Muse‘, the newest video from lingerie brand Agent Provocateur and filmmaker Jordan Scott — except the whole thing is given the vintage treatment by depicting a painter and his model wearing billowy nightshirts in an old mansion, rather than a sleazy lensman and his prey in a brightly-lit modern studio.

It’s all very atmospheric and suggestive, but it begs the question: are we looking at a seduction or a rape?

Neither character speaks a word and the model sits there passively while her employer peels off her clothes. There is no indication that the ensuing romp is consensual until the final frame, when the model offers a knowing smile as the painter envelops her in his arms. Perhaps she’s thinking: “This should get me lots of work in the future.”

The Muse is the second of three promotional films from Agent Provocateur that mimic the R-rated soft-focus erotic films that kept censors hopping and all-night cable TV stations in business during the 1970s. AP says the film is meant to show “a softer, more romantic type of erotica … a feminine sensuality rather than unabashed sexuality.”

But that’s hogwash. Typically, AP’s cutting-edge marketing videos present a liberal (and liberating) new paradigm for erotic exploration — one in which women take the lead in their amorous encounters, and have the license to push boundaries and play outside their comfort zones.

The Muse, however, lurches in the opposite direction. And in their fond nostalgia for soft-core retro porn, the company has forgotten that this is the sort of thing that really pissed off feminists back in the 1970s: rape fantasies dressed up as romance, and silent surrender seen as an equivalent to consent.



There’s a kind of caveman-era chauvinism in The Muse, which seems to revive these ancient wisdoms:

  • that men are overcome by passion when confronted by an irresistible object of desire;
  • that this is secretly (and silently) what women want;
  • and that anyone who dresses like that (the model wore Agent Provocateur undies to a sitting, for pete’s sake!) is not only asking for trouble, but probably hoping for it too.

The last point is the most troubling, since it undermines the powerful message voiced by millions of women around the world during last year’s SlutWalk protests that wearing sexy clothing is not an invitation to molestation.

It’s also the antithesis of the female-empowerment messages that AP and so many other fashion-forward lingerie labels have been promoting for the past two decades.

In fact, Agent Provocateur may be the first lingerie label to use sexual harassment as a selling point. If you wear our lingerie, they seem to be saying, you should expect to be pawed — and be grateful for it. And sometimes, girls, it’s okay to just be taken.

Posted in Agent Provocateur

One Response to “Agent Provocateur’s Disturbing ‘Muse’: Retro Romance or Rape Fantasy?”

  1. Avigayil says:

    I totally agree with what you’re saying… really, all of it.
    I wish to note that I don’t think the woman should have to ‘take control’ be in control… etc. I prefer the whole give and take… mutual interest… maybe even just permission.

    I would have preferred an ad where the woman can relinquish control without (a) the man being seen as a controlling ass and (b) the women being portrayed as an object.

    For some women (ahem… like me) relinquishing control is a fantasy.. it is just one poorly played out in lingerie ads.

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