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Lingerie Brand Sparks Controversy Over Ad That Some Claim 'Sexualizes' Female Athletes


Agent Provocateur’s ad campaign, ‘Play to Win,’ features four female athletes wearing the brand’s lingerie while competing in their respective fields as the song “Oh Yeah” by Yello plays.

The ad was directed by Sarah Shotton, and released in time for International Women’s Day.

Shotton said: “We wanted to hero the magnificence of their sports and body confidence and how wearing Agent Provocateur can make you feel great. The athletes for SS20 continues AP’s story of the celebration of women and the female form.”

However, some were not impressed with the ad.


In an Instagram post, Olympic runner Sage Watson wrote: “As a female athlete, that’s not what makes our bodies amazing. It’s our arms, legs, abs, backs and our mental strength.”

She stated that she had been sexually harassed after the 2016 Olympics because her “buns rode up after [her] hurdle race and the cameraman zoomed in for the world to see a close up of [her] butt.”

She added: “People didn’t care that I made my first Olympic semifinal, they just cared that my butt was shown on international television.”

She maintained that it was one of the “hardest things [she] ever went through.”

In the post, she stated that women did have the right to show off their bodies, but that the society needed to “get out of this idea that perfect breast and butts are what make women beautiful.”


She wrote: “Women’s sports need to move away from the direction of what we look like and more towards what we are doing in the sport. I am not trying to take anything away from the amazing women who were in the campaign or the message of female strength that was trying to be shown, I am just sharing my experience and hopefully this will help women and young girls realize you are so much more than what your body looks like.”

However, Harrison Claye, who was featured in the ad, told the New York Times that she had felt empowered while shooting the ad.

She said, “I was outside my comfort zone. I’ve never done hurdling in a bra like that, obviously. It was also really liberating.”

Alysha Newman, who is also in the ad, said: “As a woman and an athlete, I have been breaking barriers my entire life and this campaign ‘Play To Win’ allowed me to show another side of the beauty of being a woman.”

Forbes journalist Lela London called the ad “brilliant.”

She said, “In the first move of its kind, the iconic lingerie brand has tapped British gold-medal gymnast Georgia-Mae Fenton, Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman, American gold-medal hurdler Queen Harrison-Claye, and American rock climber Sasha DiGiulian to star in its latest campaign. And god, is it brilliant.”

Vanessa Friedman wondered whether the ad was a “step forward of a great leap back.”

“It is impossible to view the images and not wonder if it is really women taking charge of their own sexuality that people will see or, rather, very strong women being reduced to their sexuality,” she wrote.

Sources: America Now / Photo Credit: Agent Provocateur, Instagram/Sage Watson

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