Carl’s Jr., the hamburger joint known for its racy commercials filled with sexual innuendo, has released a new ad for its latest burger that is probably its most explicit yet. The recently released ad for the company’s new suggestively named bacon burger— the “3-Way” — has many people up in arms about its blatant pornographic references and unapologetic objectification of women. The ad has been playing on national TV for the past couple weeks, even on prime time television during the Rio Olympics, which has many speaking out if it should even be allowed on air at all.

The ad first appeared on YouTube in a so-called “Director’s Cut” version (even though that’s the only version available) which only further baits viewers into thinking that what they’re about to see is “unrated.” In the ad, three greased up women in white bikinis—one of which who is a Playboy model—feed each other bacon, rub “bacon jam” on themselves, almost kiss, and do many other sexually suggestive things we won’t mention. All of this happens while a song repeats the lyrics: “We havin’ us a threesome.”

We usually don’t speak out on things like this. We know that advertisers have been using sex to sell just about everything forever, and the result typically doesn’t fall under the category of the porn and sexual exploitation that our cause fights against. But the porn themes in Carl’s Jr.’s ads are impossible to ignore. This commercial is only the latest in a long list of porn-inspired commercials by Carl’s Jr. In 2012, the company’s Super Bowl commercial with supermodel Kate Upton that implied her basically having sex with a burger in the backseat of a car at a drive-in movie theater was ultimately banned from television. That explicit commercial was only surpassed in controversy by arguably the most infamous ad in television history: the Paris Hilton car wash commercial. The 2005 video showed the reality TV star “washing” a car with her body while occasionally taking bites of a burger. It crashed Carl’s Jr.’s website due to the uproar it caused, and was eventually banned on many stations after groups pressured the FCC into taking action. The ad was all part of the burger chain’s stated goal of making “sales go up” by creating controversy every time they release a new sandwich.

Marketing to Men

It’s not super surprising that companies selling burgers have resorted to using almost-naked women in sexual positions to get men’s attention. After all, that’s their target audience. It’s interesting to note that the porn industry does the same thing. It knows that men are porn’s main consumers, so they focus all their attention on selling sex to them.

The fact of the matter is that Carl’s Jr. may be the most noticeable company going completely overboard to sell their product, but they are not the only ones using sex (and porn culture) in their ads. If you’ve been on your phone, computer, or watching TV lately, you’ve had to have noticed that many companies seem to be trying to top one another with every new magazine cover and commercial. It’s no secret that ads are only getting more explicit. As a result, our generation is the first one where people can unexpectedly and casually see an almost-naked woman just by simply turning on the TV or scrolling on their phones.

Sex (And Objectification) Sells

Back in 2011 when Carl’s Jr. was getting a lot of flak for using sexy women as the focal point in its commercials, it said in a press release:

We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.” 

Stay classy, Carl’s Jr.

Well, at least they’re upfront about what they’re promoting. But by doing so, Carl’s Jr. is showing that the “sex sells” mantra doesn’t just rely on sex —it’s also about sampling from porn and promoting objectification. For example, in their last Super Bowl ad, the main model appears to be completely topless, with the camera cutting off at the lowest possible point. It’s not until 32 seconds into the 45 second ad that we find out that the commercial is actually about an all-natural hamburger. The first two-thirds of the ad is all about a (seemingly) topless woman talking seductively and reciting a bunch of sexual innuendos.

It’s obvious that the focus is not on what’s being sold, but creating a controversial ad. The actual product is hardly being talked about at all, instead these commercials just show almost-naked women the whole time and then throw in something about the product at the very end.

Do they really think we’re that mindless?

This should be concerning to everyone. Because if this type of porn-themed content is getting worse on the local TV channel or on your grocery store magazine rack, then what do you think the actual porn on the internet is going to be like? The further the line gets pushed, the more it will fuel the demand for harder and more extreme content across the board.

It’s become clear that these oversexualized ads are taking what is in porn and delivering a watered-down version that only meets the minimum requirements of what it takes to air on mainstream television for any man, woman, and child to see.

The Science of Sexualization

To give you an idea of how damaging these images are, a study by Princeton psychologists showed a group of men pictures of male and females, some barely clothed and some not. During the study, the psychologists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is involved in recognizing human faces and distinguishing one person from another. For the most part, the mPFC was activated with each picture. However, when the men viewed the pictures of sexually dressed women, it was not activated. Basically, the automatic reaction in the men’s brains suggests that they didn’t perceive the women as fully human. Just as a body.

(Related: Research Finds Watching Softcore Porn Leads To a Greater Acceptance of Rape Culture)

That’s what companies who exploit sex and promote porn culture don’t know. And while we understand that these models aren’t being forced into these photo shoots and advertisements, we think it’s sad that they are (knowingly or unknowingly) helping to perpetuate objectification and are becoming a type of gateway for porn.

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What YOU Can Do

If you agree that this type of porn-themed advertising in society has gotten out of hand, SHARE this article and spread the word about the harmful effects of porn culture.

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