raw texts, real stories: calvin klein ad recognizes “the new normal”

For the first time in the history of the brand, designer Calvin Klein Jeans released an advertisement series that included same-sex couples. The title of the series, shot by New York City fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti, is “raw texts, real stories” and focuses on the use of hookup apps amongst twenty-somethings, including in queer communities.

For several obvious reasons, this is a big deal. It’s a major fashion designer recognizing the deep-rooted hookup culture for the modern youth, but even more significant is the acceptance and advertising of queer couples. This is one of the first times that a well-known fashion designer will have massive billboards, commercials, and photo adverts depicting same-sex “couples” (or sexual partners).

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Personally I can’t decide which I am most excited about: the depiction of hookup apps or of queer couples, because both are extremely significant and have been largely ignored by the mainstream media coverage. However, my answer is BOTH, I am most excited that CKJ is showing the public queer people being sexual active. I love how the video is so fluid; I feel like it accurately shows how fluid sexuality can be and how different kinds of people can intermingle. This is vastly different from the standard, nonsexual depiction of white gay men and women in popular media.

Melisa Goldie, chief marketing officer at Calvin Klein, Inc stated that

“Calvin Klein Jeans has a long history of combining sexual energy with cultural relevance. . . .Through this campaign, we’re creating an emotional connection with today’s technology driven generation, highlighting the new normal channel for modern meet-ups.”

I smiled when I read that. It made me proud of this world and the progress it is making. I am so happy that people have begun to recognize important trends and are working to make queer people and their sexuality more visible. What made me most happy about this quote was “the new normal.”

Just think about that for a second: “the new normal.” A major media icon is recognizing the queer community and its hookup culture officially as a regular part of modern society. For once, we are not being hidden or ignored. Instead, we are on a billboard.

Thank you, Calvin Klein Jeans, for doing something that needed to be done. I hope this ad series educates people, forces them to see something they would prefer to ignore, and spreads awareness about queer communities and sexuality in general.

I have to thank this ad series on a personal level. When I was growing up, Calvin Klein underwear ads made me question my sexuality for the first time. Staring at those sculpted men in sexy underwear was very overwhelming and sexually awakening for me. I printed out CK ads and hid them in my room. I felt that this was very wrong, and I was not supposed to feel this way, because in the ads, the beautiful men often posed with women (I didn’t print these ads out). I felt wrong for being attracted to the men in the ads, since the pictures made it clear they were attracted to women, just like I was supposed to be.

Once I became okay with myself and came out as gay, I still loved those Calvin Klein ads with the sexy guys in little black undies, but I was angry at the heteronormativity they were advertising, mad that these ads taught me to repress my sexuality.

At some point after coming out, my mom caught me on grindr. She was shocked I would be on an app and said it was only for “a certain kind of people” (euphemistic sex shaming).

If the current Calvin Klein Jeans ads were out when I was younger, everything would be different. I would have looked at them and said wow look at the billboard, those guys are gay, I guess it’s ok for me to be gay, too. I don’t have to feel bad for thinking about gay sex if it’s the Calvin Klein ad. My mom would have seen the ads, see the depiction of grindr-like apps in the media, and maybe she wouldn’t have considered it so evil or wrongly promiscuous.

So once again, thank you Calvin Klein. Thank you for calling this “the new normal.” You have made me proud.

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Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Queer Voices. He allows his often tongue-in-cheek style to entertain and inform his readers on a variety of topics from fashion and daily life to critical issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community.