Voting = Giving Virginity? Obama’s Controversial Advertisement to Girls

 ‘Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy.’

What came into your mind when you heard the above sentence in an advertisement?

Believe or not, this statement comes from an advertisement released by the Barack Obama’s presidential campaign on October 25th. The new advertisement is featuring Lena Dunham, who is an American filmmaker and actress, famous for her performance in the HBO TV series GIRLS.

Here is the advertisement: Lena Dunham: Your First Tim

My First Impression

Do you enjoy the advertisement? Do you like such creativity? Can you imagine that a presidential campaign advertisement contains such implication of sex/virginity?

Frankly speaking, I was shocked by such creativity of the girl’s statement of analogizing her ‘first time’ voting to her virginity. Personally, I don’t like the advertisement very much.

First of all, Lena is comparing sex with voting, which makes the idea itself weird. What’s the relationship between politics and giving virginity?

‘It’s a fun game to say, who are you voting for? And they say, I don’t want to tell you. And you say, no, who are you voting for, and they go, guess.’

‘It was this line in the sand. Before, I was a girl. Now, I was a woman. I went to the polling station, I pulled back the curtain, I voted for Barack Obama.’

Secondly, peer pressure would be created as virgins are mocked to a certain extent in the video. Judging from Lena’s facial expression, you can see she did not agree with virgins who were not ready. Isn’t she bragging about having sex?

 ‘It’s super uncool to be out and about, and someone says, did you vote? No, I didn’t. I wasn’t ready.’

The Conservative Voices

No wonder that once this advertisement was released, it has stirred up a fair amount of controversy and outrange over its comparison of voting to giving virginity. Quite a few conservative people criticized her a lot and regarded the video as ‘disgusting’ or ‘stupid’.

RedState editor-in-chief and CNN contributor Erick Erickson wrote,

‘If you need any further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire, consider the number of people who have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting.’

Monica Crowley, a Fox News contributor and Washington Times conservative columnist,  called the advertisement ‘sick’ and ‘degrading’ on Twitter:

‘1 of the many sick things about this degrading Lena Dunham “lose your virginity to Barack” ad? The Left thinks it’s “empowering” to women.’

Benjamin Aaron Shapiro, an American conservative political commentator, wrote:

‘So she chose to do it for the first time with Barack Obama, since he “cares about and understands women.” In fact, he understands them so well that he exploits them for insane commercials comparing losing your virginity with voting. Obama has young daughters. But that didn’t stop him from releasing this commercial. Because this is what Obama thinks of your daughters. This is Obama’s official campaign ad. Paid for with his campaign money. Distributed by his campaign. If this ad were any more demeaning to women—who apparently care only about having sex, if you listen to Lena “You Want To Do It” Dunham—it would be produced by Bill Maher and star Bill Clinton.’

Like or Dislike the Ad?

To my surprise, the advertisement still gets supports from a lot of ordinary people. The original YouTube clip, which has more than 2.3 million views, has 14,418 likes and 18,615 dislikes so far.

A YouTube user judged the advertisement as:

‘Tacky, tasteless, low, dumb, shallow, foolish…um…drone? Government control of your doctor, 6 trillion debt, um….dumb.’ (cloudi9video 1 week ago, with 486 supports).

Although people who dislike the advertisement are more, I have to admit that as an advertisement targeting young girls, Lena’s advertisement does have impact on the young generation. Some viewers expressed their support to Lena and this advertisement. For example,

‘Why is this creepy? I mean really you guys are the ones who all seem to presume that “first time” means sex. What about first time walking or first time going out on a date or first time saying mama. Not all “first times” are of the sexual nature. I think it’s great. She made it so it was speaking to a certain audience. Young women who are just being able to vote. I love it.’ (Jacky Kay 1 week ago)

‘I’m a young woman I did not see anything wrong with this ad. It’s really centers on my age group and it’s fun and entertaining to watch. Not to mention that everything she said is true and it should really open up some women’s eyes when they see it. Seriously, why would you vote for someone who doesn’t care about your rights at all when you could vote for President Obama who looks at woman with respect they way we should be. I’m not voting for a guy who wants to take my rights away end of story.’ (5335rockstar 1 week ago)

Perhaps it is not appropriate to presume that ‘first time’ means sex, but it should be admitted that the advertisement is quite controversial. Agree? Or, did you also make such a presumption?

Lena Dunham: Your First Time PARODY

I also found the following four interesting parodies made by Youtube users.

1st. Lena Dunham: Your First Time PARODY  (Published on Oct 27, 2012 by TokenLibertarianGirl)

In this video, the girl expresses her view upon the idea of comparing voting to losing virginity in the Lena’s advertisement. She points out women are not only care about birth control and abortion but also concerned about economy and foreign policy. In addition, she lists a few facts that Obama didn’t perform well in the last 4 years. From her perspective, comparing voting to losing your virginity is NOT FUN and CUTE but GROSS and CREEPY.

2nd. My First Time: Lena Dunham “Your First Time” Parody  (Published on Oct 26, 2012 by TheDefineLiberty)

In this video, the girl criticizes the politicians of their lies and she expressed the feeling of not being respected. ‘It’s time to focus on ME! ’ She believes she deserves better and doesn’t want anybody to control her life. At last, she appeals to the viewers to vote nobody this year.

3rd. Your First Time Obama : Lena Dunham Response (Published on Oct 27, 2012 by Win4Romneyin2012)

The girl in this video voted and trusted Obama once. But she wishes she could take the vote back as the experience after her first time voting for Obama is not as good as expected. She was disappointed at the ‘lies’ Obama made and hopes others learn from her mistake. Different from the previous two parodies, the girl shows her distinctive position, ‘I am voting for Mitt Romney’. See? The advertisement does not work for her.

4th. Lena Dunham: Your First Time (PARODY) (Published on Oct 27, 2012 by JaclynGlenn)

This video is a ‘low’ one. In the video, the girl totally transformed the original idea of voting for the first time to having sex with Barack Obama. There are a lot of obvious implications of sex, dirty words in the video. I am not sure whether the girl is just acting fun or mocking the Lena’s advertisement in such an extreme way. Yet, it is certainly not what the Obama’s campaign was expecting.

My Second Thoughts

Lena Dunham is one of the many celebrities called on by the Obama campaign. It is said that the young people in US, whose record-breaking turnout on Election Day 4 years ago was playing a critical role in the Obama’s victory in 2008. This year, Obama is eager to have the same turnout among younger generation to win his second election. From this perspective, it is wise to appeal to young celebrities, such as Lena Dunham to get involved into the presidential campaign advertising.

However, from my point of view, Obama’s campaign chose a right person but not the right topic. The topic around ‘the first time’ may attract attention from or even resonate with girls. However, relating politics with personal intimate issues is weird and doesn’t make sense. In addition, it also leads to endless criticisms. How would other female response? How would mothers react to the advertisement? Personally, I don’t like the way Lena talks about how super uncool not to voting for the first time. Young women should not be peer-pressured into doing anything, including losing their virginity.

Similar to the idea of ‘asking younger generation to commit vote’, I prefer the actress Scarlett Johansson’s speech. From my perspective, when inviting celebrity to speak for the campaign, we don’t need to hear too many dramatic statements. Instead, small but true stories may resonate with more audience. Therefore, what need to be conveyed through the advertisement should be letting women or others realize how they are being empowered and make them vote voluntarily instead of peer-pressuring them into voting.

To sum up, having the great spokeperson, targeting the specific audience and using a creative BIG IDEA can not necessarily ensure the success of an advertising compaign. Ethical issues should also be taken into consideration. In other words, it is important to rule out any possibilities of leading to controversial issues before launching a compaign.

P.S.  Congratulation to Obama for winning 2012 presidential election today.

Hope you enjoy this blog. Feel free to express your opinions or disagreements.

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4 Responses to Voting = Giving Virginity? Obama’s Controversial Advertisement to Girls

  1. dkennard says:

    Wow, even though I am definitely a supporter of our president I can not believe he supported such a tasteless campaign. This is not the kind of campaign a president candidate should support in anyway. I think it is important that President Obama gets his views out about sex because they are different then his competitors and can provide an advantage for him, but doing it in this way was wrong. For a man with seemingly high morals as well as two daughters of his own I am just surprised to see him support such a message.

    With that said, I am really surprised everyone did not feel the same way I did. I can not believe 14,000 people actually approved of that message on youtube and I am surprised the republican party did not attack him more for this and bring it to more Americans attention. If they did I think it could have really worked against the president in the election.

    On another note, some of the parodies that went along with this campaign were hilarious and very entertaining but again not in a good way towards the presidency. I would love to hear what president Obama has to say in defense.

    • Ziwei Guo says:

      Thank you for your reply, Devon!
      I was also surprised at the number of people who were approved of this video when I first watched this video. But I guess, to a large extent, it might be resulted from the popularity Lena Dunham gained from her TV show before. As I mentioned, I think this young celebrity has her influence among young people in US, which is exactly the target audience for this campaign. But unfortunately, they chose a right person but not the right topic.

  2. mengying says:

    Thanks ziwei for giving us such an interesting information. Obama’s election strategy has been of heated discussion for a long time, but I have never noticed this vote promotion campaign. I think it’s quite thought provoking.

    As a woman I am extremely offended. The Obama administration has devolved women to nothing more than a set of reproductive organs with needy, government dependency. This ad is inappropriate because it is sexualizing the voting process. This isn’t an ad the average family would want their daughters to see.

    However, I think the Obama campaign must have known its creepy new ad targeting first-time voters and featuring actress Lena Dunham would generate a lot of buzz, and certainly some controversy. What they expect is how quickly conservatives would increase the public discussion. More important, I think what they want to deliver is the topic of ‘first time’ of anything besides for sexual issues. For instance, our first job as mentioned above.

  3. tumacder says:

    Thanks for the post. Although I myself was a bit offended when reading the ad, I did find your comments very interesting!

    Yes, the ad is very provocative and it definitely leads to a controversial debate. Like one of the commentators said, one’s “first time” doesn’t necessarily have to relate to sex, but you could obviously tell that the message was triggering people to depict the two subjects together. I’m not a feminist, but I do find the ad to be a bit disturbing, and it really does not set the example of what Obama’s position is.

    In some of the other posts, I wrote that companies/brands/people create campaigns to create buzz. Perhaps this was the whole objective of this particular ad? If it were, he did succeed since people did end up paying attention and reading what the ad had to say. But I still do not think this is a smart move for a person who is running for presidential elections. Not only would a large audience associate negative feelings and have demoralizing perceptions of the president, but his two daughters will also be associated with something like this as well. Like Devon said, it is really surprising how our president has opted to run a campaign like this. I just hope that people do not bring this topic up later on during his second presidential term!