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Behind Closed Doors: AP’s Retro Sexist Fantasy World
Posted by Lingerie Talk | January 20, 2014

Feminists are going to have a field day with the new promotional campaign for Agent Provocateur‘s spring 2014 collection, which revives the classic 1950s fantasy of the foxy housewife who cleans house in her underwear.

You know the one — whether cooking, vacuuming or on her knees scrubbing the floor, she’s always in the kitchen, and always ready for sex.

AP’s Behind Closed Doors campaign is meant to be an ironic send-up of Mad Men-era revisionist glamour, but a lot of women won’t find this kind of cleverness very funny.


Photographer Miles Aldridge poses his Stepford Wife models suggestively holding a vacuum cleaner hose, a rolling pin, a mixing bowl and other household devices, all while fetchingly attired in AP’s latest slinky, kinky gear. The effect is to equate domestic servitude with sexual availability — the same template that drove so much chauvinistic advertising in the 50s and 60s, and provided so much fodder for the women’s rights movement.

Agent Provocateur routinely courts controversy in its advertising campaigns, generating a bonanza of unpaid advertising and press attention around the world. And, just as routinely, it gets accused of portraying women as mere sextoys — willing, erotic consumables.

The company’s usual rejoinder is that it’s trying to portray women as powerful, independent beings in control of their own sexual identity. That’s going to be a tough sell this time, though.


But the most questionable thing about this campaign isn’t that it’s regressive or intentionally provocative, it’s that it’s also really, really unoriginal.

The retro sexist fantasy of the hot housewife is almost a cliché in the advertising world, a dependable trope that triggers familiar associations. As you can see in the examples below, nothing excites the male libido like a picture of a semi-nude woman gripping a vacuum cleaner hose.

Elegantly Scant, SS2011
Fashion, 2012
Vanity Fair Italy, 2009

This kind of idea has been used widely in lingerie advertising and magazine editorials and, in fact, AP’s campaign is a transparent, if polished, knockoff of a similar shoot done three years ago by the small Australian label Elegantly Scant, which you can see here. Even one of AP’s closest UK competitors, the luxury label Damaris, offered a modern update on the housework-in-lingerie theme in their 2010 promo film, Chore (below).


Of course, the horny domestic servant is also a familiar fixture in porn videos, and that’s the association that Agent Provocateur is really trying to trigger here. No matter how humdrum your suburban workaday life, it seems to be saying, the fantasy realm of porn-quality sex is just a change of knickers away.

Yep, you’ve come a long way, baby.

Posted in Agent Provocateur

6 Responses to “Behind Closed Doors: AP’s Retro Sexist Fantasy World”

  1. Lisa R says:

    Retro, sure, interesting-naw! I have seen this before repeatedly and although it may be stirring memories in some and thoughts of that sexy woman in her bra and panties in others, doing housework? Really? This sexy lingerie is somewhat lost in the concept. My husband helps me do housework but we both agree there is no fantasy here. No romance, no appeal. The fact that there is no originality as well, is no surprise.

    • Nikita says:

      I on the other hand do clean in my lingerie at times, my husband does not mind this one bit – I do not judge you – wear whatever you want. Every one is different and you are entitled to your opinion.

  2. Thingy says:

    MY BF and I used to enjoy their products. I will not buy anything from them again. And I told my boyfriend to do the same.

  3. Tiah says:

    Assuming that everything in lingerie advertising is sourced from a male fantasy is more insulting and sexist than any tongue-in-cheek concept (if that were the case we’d just be dressed as schoolgirls every season). Do I legitimately clean the house in my lingerie? Yep. Is it because my husband finds it sexy? Nope. He couldn’t give a shit. Do these campaigns appeal to me because I think if I re-enact that scenario my husband will want to bang me and reinforce my male-gaze sourced sense of self esteem? No. They appeal to me because I’M the one that likes lingerie, because the idea of performing my menial everyday tasks looking like a pin-up in luxury bras and knickers is way more appealing TO ME than doing it in an ugly pair of old sweatpants. I don’t find brands like these and their campaign concepts insulting, I find critiques like these by writers that incorrectly assume I (and also these companies) make their choices based on male fantasies insulting. It also shows how little said writers really know about what men like rather than what they THINK men like.

    • Kate says:

      It is obvious that some people have less imagination (or confidence) than others! Or maybe they are just bored.

  4. james says:

    Been done before.

    Now we can just imagine what June Cleaver, Donna Reed, or many of the housewives of the 1960’s were wearing underneath!

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