A Close Reading of "She Wins" Skyy Vodka Advertisement

With her eyes closed, head tilted back and glossy, red lips parted, her perfect features and breathless beauty have "Hollywood" written all over them. Yet the name of a famous actress is not found anywhere on the page. Glass in hand, she lies sprawled across her unconscious and oblivious man, and finishes her martini in a sensuous moment of indulgence. Yet the headlines for an upcoming action/drama do not span the advertisement. Actress or not, it is clear to see that the woman in the advertisement is not a "damsel in distress;" rather, she dominates the scene. In addition, the positions of the couple on the floor, the erotic expression of the woman, and the empty martini glass all appear to be remnants of the sexual scene that came moments before. What remains in the scene is a sexually dominant female that has left her male companion incoherent or dead on the floor. Either way, it is clear to see that "she wins," which just happens to be the only words of significance in the advertisement besides "Skyy Vodka." Thus, the advertisement reverses the contemporary sexual roles for men and women, and associates itself with the image of the sexually dominant female. Moreover, the image of the sexually dominant female appeases women’s insecurity with their sexual subordination and dependence on men, while alluring men’s insatiable appetite for sex.

The advertisement for Skyy vodka appeals to women because its image of a female that is sexually dominant refutes the ideology of women as sexually subordinate to men. Poised above her blind, lifeless date, the woman in the advertisement establishes her dominance through the control she maintains in the situation. Having just drunk her boyfriend under the table, the woman proves that she has control over her alcohol. The ability to control your alcohol, as many men could attest, is only advantageous when it comes at expense of your date’s control. Thus, what is appealing to women is not that the female in the advertisement can get the man to have sex with her, which probably would have happened anyway, but that she is calling the shots. She got him drunk, and she took advantage of him, not the other way around. She even blindfolded him with his own tie, which has no real significance in the advertisement except to show that she has the ability to manipulate him in any way, no matter how trivial. So while the difference is subtle, and the end result is the same, the fact the woman is not sexually subordinate, but sexually dominant is crucial in the advertisement’s appeal to women.

While clearly portraying the female as sexually dominant, the advertisement appeals to women by suggesting that they don’t even need men for sexual satisfaction. In fact, the advertisement suggests that the woman is completely self-absorbed in her own indulgence. In the advertisement, her back is to her date, and she is clearly enjoying the last of her drink as she finishes off the olives. Nonetheless, her eyes are closed and her head is tilted back exposing her neck in a very erotic position. Thus, the woman completes the image of self-satisfaction. The idea of being self-absorbed appeals to women because it is inversely related to their dependence on men. While many women depend on men to some extent, very few like the label "boyfriend dependent." Nevertheless, sex, for females, is typically thought of as a means for satisfying men, so what could possibly appeal to women more than deciding to satisfy themselves once they already control the sex? Thus, the advertisement’s depiction of a sexually dominant woman that is completely capable of satisfying herself plays on the feminine resentment for dependence on men.

While the image of the sexually dominant female appeals to women’s emotional insecurities with their contemporary sexual roles, the image appeals to men on a much more physical level. In fact, not only is the notion of being sexually dominated non-threatening, it is sexually alluring to most men. To some extent, the man’s desire for sex follows the adage, "You can’t get too much of a good thing." The message portrayed in the advertisement suggests that with Skyy Vodka, however, it is possible to get "too much." From her blood-red lips to the testicle shaped olives that she devours from a toothpick aimed at the victim’s heart, sex is clearly paralleled with death. Having had a taste, a man becomes driven to take greater and greater risks until his desire to control the uncontrollable kills him. Likewise, the advertisement suggests that she gave it to him until it killed him, and now she is finishing him off. The prospects that such a women could satisfy a man’s every desire is so appealing to men, that the unfortunate fate of the man in the advertisement is not only overlooked, but is respected by other men. At the very least, a man would have to admit that, as far as dying is concerned, this would not be a bad way to go. Thus, it is the unfulfilled masculine desire for sex that is paradoxically associated with death, which makes the image of the sexually dominant female alluring to men.

While it breaks with the assumed sexual roles for men and women, the image of the sexually dominant woman in the advertisement appeals to both genders. Likewise, the advertisement plays upon women’s ill-contentment for being sexually subordinate and dependent upon the desires of men, while appealing to men’s unquenched desire for sexual fulfillment. In appealing to the sexual ideals of both men and women, Skyy Vodka betters its chance of continuing to be an integral, and unmistakable part of the sexual scene.



Works Cited

#18 "She Wins," Skyy Vodka advertisement. 1999 Skyy Spirits, Inc., San Francisco, CA.