Selling Rum and Women’s Bodies

Guest post by Lisa Shoman and Deborah Mencias-McMillan

Sex sells…everything from body lotion to rum. We know that. But does that make it right?

The advertising budget for any alcohol product is significant. Rum producers sell rum by emphasizing their product’s distinctive qualities.

And using sex to sell rum is as old, as rum, and maybe sex. Using sexy women to sell rum is an unabashedly carnal business.

Women have pouted, poured sinuously, undulated around and writhed pleasurably for rum and spirits for eons.

But in the market place of today, women have as much purchasing power as men do. And we want to see ourselves as bosses. We want to be the power player buyer, not the object being bought.

The new Tiburon Rum ad firmly puts women in the pantheon of the purchased. The words of the ad and accompanying images leave no doubt as to who is doing the buying, and what is being bought. “Tiburon classy, Tiburon fly, Keeping it top class, the best you can buy.”

And in accompaniment to the breathy Barry White impression, she is writhing and undulating, her “fine” parts on display…sex selling rum. Or rum selling sex?

Belize is a country with a tier 3 classification for the last 2 years in respect of human trafficking. Belize is a destination, transit and origin country for trafficking of women and girls.

And this ad is symptomatic of the problem. Sex sells. Who buys? Men. Who is this ad aimed at?

The Belize Rum Producers Association is a member of WIRSPA, the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc. which is an ‘association of associations’ representing distillers associations.

WIRSPA has a “Code of Practice for Responsible Advertising & Marketing
of Spirit Drinks”. All its members are supposed to subscribe to this Code. The Code states that “All WIRSPA members and affiliated producers are committed to the principles and standards of the Code and to its effective implementation in the spirit, as well as the letter, of the code.”
You can find a copy of the Code here :…/WIRSPA…/WIRSPA-Code-of-Practice.pdf

And you know what else the Code says? It says that members shall “promote their alcoholic beverages in a socially responsible manner…”

The WIRSPA Code also says that members “5. Shall not link the consumption of alcohol to driving, prowess, bravado, violence, aggression, dangerous or anti-social behaviour, sexual success, illicit drugs, social success or popularity, enhanced mental or physical capabilities in the advertisement and marketing of alcoholic beverages.”

This Tiburon ad is clearly in violation of the WIRSPA Code.

Moreover, when we buy a rum, we want to buy it like a boss. We don’t want to buy it as a consumable. Shame on Tiburon.

As women, we must focus on fighting sexism wherever it exists and condemning whoever the perpetrator is. We have an obligation to convey a valuable message to our daughters and little sisters: We are not objects to be preyed on and sexualized. We will not sit by idly and watch and condone “the shark’s/el tiburon’s” assault on women. This is a sexist ad.

Join us to fight off this kind of abusive “Tiburon” and start using OUR purchasing power.

2 thoughts on “Selling Rum and Women’s Bodies

  1. Great post. This reminds me of something similar I wrote (although they’re very different!) about sexism in advertising carnival fetes in Saint Lucia. An important piece so thank you to the guest writers for considering this issue and to red for gender for posting it. 🙂


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