The Naked Truth: Advertising’s Image of Women

Advertising is an over $250 billion a year industry.

We are each exposed to over 3000 ads a day. The ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. Sometimes they sell addictions.

Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally acclaimed media critic, author, and filmmaker, is known for her ability to present provocative topics in a way that unites rather than divides and that encourages dialogue. With expert knowledge, insight, humor, and commitment, she moves and empowers people to take action in their own and in society’s interest.

The award-winning films Killing Us SoftlySpin the Bottle, and Slim Hopesare based on her lectures. She has twice received the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities and was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular lecturers on college campuses. She is the author of Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture — advertising.We owe her a great debt.” – Susan Faludi, author of Backlash

Out of the banal and commonplace ads we absorb each day without believing ourselves influenced, Jean Kilbourne creates a politically sophisticated and frightening tapestry. Her presentation is fascinating, fast paced and extremely funny.” – Marge Piercy

Jean Kilbourne’s arguments are as focused and unassailable as those of a good prosecutor. Piece by piece she builds a case for an America deeply corrupted by advertisers.” — Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia

Session Info: 
Sex, Intimacy, and Consent for People with Dementia

A. Bianchi

In April 2015, 78-year-old Henry Rayhons was charged with sexual abuse after having sex with his wife in a nursing home. Although he and his wife shared a loving relationship, the staff did not believe that she was capable of consenting to sex because of her dementia. This case sparked significant controversy, highlighting the complexities of sex for people with dementia. Who can consent and who cannot? Is it ethically licit to have sex with people with dementia if they cannot consent?


This presentation aims to consider these questions at a time of increasing importance since approximately one million Canadians are expected to have dementia by the year 2030, and many of these people will be sexually active. Enabling intimate relationships for people with dementia is certainly important, but knowing how to balance the need for intimacy while at the same time protecting vulnerable populations who may be unable to consent presents complex challenges.


As a way of responding to these challenges, this presentation considers using a framework of precedent autonomy as a way for people to consent to sex on the basis of prior decisions. The principle of precedent autonomy says that a person with dementia’s prior autonomous decisions ought to be followed as a matter of respect for persons. If we apply a framework of precedent autonomy to the sexual domain, then someone with dementia can be regarded as consenting to sex if their present sexual desires reinforce the sexual values that they held in their non-demented state. So, if someone with dementia valued being in a monogamous relationship prior to their dementia diagnosis, then it would be ethically illicit for them to engage in sex with multiple people in their state of dementia.


Considering people with dementia are often prevented from engaging in sexual acts because of their inability to consent, implementing a framework of precedent autonomy may be a useful way for them to pursue sexual practices that were relevant in their non-demented state. However, there are certain limitations associated with this framework. One of these limitations is that it prevents persons with dementia from pursuing new sexual relationships if these new relations do not align with their prior sexual decisions and values.


This presentation will consider some of the benefits and challenges of using a framework of precedent autonomy for cases of sex and people with dementia. The topic of this presentation will be relevant to both academic and non-academic worlds.

Bi-Erasure in Media and Academia

L. Mutton

This research is broken into two distinct sections which attempt to take on the topic of bierasure in two different spheres: academia and the media. The first section includes a critical literature review of queer theory looking at the absence of bisexuality throughout the history of queer theory since Teresa De Lauretis coined the term in the 1990s. The research looks at the gaps left in queer theory through bisexuality’s exclusion and it is argued that while queer theory’s goal may be to destabilize traditional binaries around sexuality found in North American society a homosexual-heterosexual dichotomy is actually reinforced.


The second part of this research analyzes the representation of, and lack of, bisexuality within the media, focusing primarily on film and television representations. This is an attempt to show how the absence of bisexuality transcends fields from heavily theoretical academia to the mass media consumed by society. The research found that when bisexual characters were portrayed they were often not labeled as such or were seen as someone the protagonist could not always trust. The research also explores how negative representation of bisexuality in the media affects people who are bisexual, since studies have shown that these negative portrayals can have consequences for the mental health of people who are bisexual. Negative portrayals in the media have also been found to give non-bisexual people negative perceptions of those who do identify as bisexual. As well as the effects that negative representation in the media there is also a brief comparison of the representation of male and female bisexuality in the media, as the two often receive different negative treatments.


This research is important since the exclusion of bisexuality from academic studies and literature, as well as the media, contributes to the marginalization and erasure of people who are bisexual and as such they face greater systemic and personal challenges as a result of their marginalization. Because of this it is important to take a critical view of queer theory and the media as well as to support the spread of accurate information on bisexuality in order to combat the gaps as well as the negative stereotypes that are pervasive throughout academia and mass media.

What Some Women Want: A Qualitative Study on Women and Polyamory

A. Steffler

In Western society, monogamy has been the dominant romantic relationship form, with little social deviation until recently. A notable increase in the interest and practice of polyamory in North America has academic scholars seeking answers and media reporters publishing columns on this trend. This exploratory research study with five participants examines why cisgendered women, who were raised in a monogamous household, have chosen to practice polyamory and how they made that decision. Utilizing a qualitative methodology of semi-structured interviews lasting approximately two hours, this research was undertaken to better understand how and why polyamorous identities are cultivated.


The results of this study indicate that there were a number of common stages through which each of these women transitioned in a non-linear way. These stages included: non-monogamous beliefs and tendencies early in life, dissatisfaction with monogamy, absence of poly language, self-resistance to alternatives, unintentional polyamorous practice, self-acceptance, and disclosure. Their actions, directed by their beliefs and a need to be authentic, led them to uncover their polyamorous identity. This identity process is comparable to that experienced by gay and lesbian individuals; those belonging to the polyamorous community are members of a stigmatized group and the lack of legal recognition, due to the criminalization of polygamy, has directly impacted their freedom to fully engage with multiple partners (e.g. marriage, custody rights, employer benefits, etc.). This research examines how women develop polyamorous identities and the social maneuvering that is required in a predominately monogamous society.


This presentation will: provide insight into some of the common narratives and trajectories associated with a polyamorous self-identity, examine how contemporary society makes it difficult to engage in polyamory and develop a polyamorous identity, and focus on the diversity of people within polyamorous communities.

Parent Time Investment by Immigrants on Education and Caregiving Activities in Canada

A. Mascella

The time spent by parents on education and caregiving activities enriches the quality of the family environment. The quality of the family environment influences the process of child development and can predict productivity and academic achievement later in life. Success in intergenerational income and education mobility outcomes for second generation immigrants in Canada are documented to depend on parent’s birth place of origin. Besides health and work hours there is little work on time spent by immigrants and in particular, the time immigrant parents invest in their children.


In this paper we use the General Social Survey to construct measures of daily time-use in caregiving activities provided by parents for their children and in academic activities engaged in by students. We define a time-use category “education”, which is the time parents spend on activities like reading to children and helping with homework and a time-use category “total care”, which encompasses the time parents spend on activities like preparing meals and bathing children. From a sample of female parents surveyed during the school year whose youngest child in the house is no older than 14 years, we find that, female parents from Asia and South Central America spend more minutes per day devoted to education related activities with their children compared to native born Canadian female parents. This result is not apparent for the total care provided by parents, which suggests a unique parent region of origin effect on education related activities as a family time-use input.


For the analysis on the academic habits of students, we define a time-use category “homework” which is the total time spent by students in activities like completing assignments and exam studies and a time-use category “total school” which is the total time spent by students in activities like attending university classes and guest lectures. From a sample of students between the ages of 15-25 years, we find that students with Asian mothers or fathers are more likely to participate in homework activity and, conditional on participation, spend more minutes per day on homework activity compared to students with Canadian born mothers or fathers. The participation and intensity of time spent on homework activity by students from specific parent region of origin groups is not observed for total school activity. These results suggest that values and behaviours of an educational inclination are passed on in the home environment.

Cherishing the Parents during Transition to Parenthood

D. Wang

The transition to parenthood is a normal family process and one of the stressful life events over the life span. Research indicates that the quality of the couple relationship is a key contributor to the adjustment to parenthood, especially for first-time parents (e.g., Cowan & Cowan, 2000; Parfitt & Ayers, 2014).  The bond between a couple as romantic partners needs to expand and make room to include the child.  Becoming parents involves major adjustments, which can bring up attachment fears and insecurities, when partners have greater needs for connection and reassurance.


This presentation will share the findings of my PhD dissertation research on “Hold Me Tight ®: An Attachment-Informed Relationship Enhancement Program for Couples Becoming Parents” with 12 expectant couples. Participants will learn 1) How Hold Me Tight ® Program fosters first-time parents’ confidence in building healthy relationships for themselves and with their babies, even if they had no models of this growing up; 2) Through participants’ narratives, supported by quantitative data, the trend in participants’ EPDS depression scores (including the Anxiety Subscale), attachment tendencies, and attachment behaviours in men and women; 3) How the program has a positive impact on male partners’ reduced attachment avoidance and increased view of their partner’s A.R.E. (Accessibility, Responsiveness, Emotional Engagement) behaviours towards them.  Together we will explore ways to incorporate attachment-informed couple relationship education into prenatal education to help expectant couples build secure attachment for optimal mental health and family functioning, to aid a smoother transition in partnering and parenting.

Alaysia of Manosque: Adultery and Incest in Late Medieval Society

S. Hartman

In the Provançal town of Manosque in the year 1400, a man named Antoni Oliverii denounced his new wife for adultery before the local monastic court of St. John of Jerusalem.[1]  Alaysia, widow of Marius Barralerii, had given birth to a son only three months after her marriage to Antoni.  The jealous husband claimed that she had not only engaged in sexual intercourse and conceived a child outside of wedlock, but also that she had concealed the pregnancy while contracting her marriage to him.  Although it may surprise modern readers that a carnal offence committed prior to marriage would constitute adultery, church law acknowledged an extensive range of marital offences under this definition and the Manosquin court’s primary concern was promoting marital stability by limiting illicit sexual activity.[2]


When Alaysia testified in her own defense, she first claimed that she had been raped and impregnated by a knight (cavalcator); however, the court did not immediately accept her testimony and required further depositions to be taken from the accused.  After making several official statements, Alaysia decided to amend her story.  She indicated that during the time between her marriages she had often shared a bed with Marius’ first cousin Jehan, but strictly maintained that she had not known him carnally.  The court can hardly have accepted this odd revelation with much credulity.  The new information complicated matters because Alaysia had opened herself up to accusations of incest, ultimately confirmed during the course of the trial, while attempting to defend against a charge of adultery.


The late medieval definition of incest was much broader than that which currently prevails in Western societies.  Incest existed not only between persons with close blood ties, but also through affinity.[3]  Affinity represents a spiritual connection that is familial in nature such as that between an individual and their in-laws or their godparents.  In light of this understanding, a godparent would be obliged to treat their godchild as a child by blood and a widower would have to treat his sister in law as his own full sister.  Canon law proscribed marriage (and sexual activity by extension) between persons related by blood or affinity within seven degrees before 1215 when the Fourth Lateran Council reduced the prohibitive degrees to a more manageable four.[4]


Because the medieval Church recognised no distinction between incest by affinity or by blood, the court could indeed find a widow guilty of incest with her dead husband’s cousin, and yet Alaysia deliberately implied an incestuous relationship.  This case provides opportunities to explore late medieval perceptions of incest and of sexual transgression generally.  The accused’s willingness to hint at an incestuous affair combined with her hesitation to immediately disclose the full extent of the relationship also raises questions about law, society, and reception of Christian teaching.   This paper will utilize Alaysia’s story to demonstrate the successful dissemination of Church teaching, reveal social responses to Canon law, and to reflect upon the navigation of illicit sexual experience during the Middle Ages.


[1] The case of Alaysia the Adulteress is recorded in the Manosqe court rolls 56H 1005 beginning circa folio 73/74 (unfoliated) and has been treated in

[2] Steven Bednarski, “Curia: A Social History of a Provençal Criminal Court in the Fourteenth Century,” (Montellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2013) 89, note 3.

[3] Johnathan H. Turner and Alexandra Maryanski, Incest:  Origins of the Taboo, (Boulder:  Paradigm Publishers, 2005), 6-10.

[4] Norman Tanner and Sethina Watson, “Least of the Laity:  The Minimum Requirements for a Medieval Christian,” Journal of Medieval History 32 (2006): 411-2, doi:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2006.09.005.

“Dude, you gay?” Perceived Male Sexuality as a Function of Social Environments

H. Oakes

Homohysteria—the fear of being perceived as gay—holds powerful sway over many men. It thrives in cultures with high levels of homophobia and a perceived association between gender atypicality and being gay (Anderson, 2011). The result is a societal notion of masculinity that is linked to the performance of rigid gender roles and the espousal of homophobia. Despite the well-documented association between gender and perceived sexuality, homophobia in America has declined dramatically since the late 1990s. Anderson (2011) theorizes that the impact of this decline should be a weakened association between gender atypicality and perceived sexuality, but no research has formally tested this hypothesis.


Accordingly, I conducted five studies (N = 1459) to test Anderson’s (2011) hypothesis. I randomly assigned participants to read about a high school where homophobia among male students was highly prevalent or non-existent. All participants then read one of three profiles of ‘Steve’, a gender atypical male student from the school who explicitly states he is straight. After reading the high school description and Steve’s profile, participants rated their perceptions of Steve’s sexuality. Across all five studies, people were more likely to perceive Steve as straight and/or less likely as gay when he was situated in the non-homophobic (vs. homophobic) environment.


In two final studies (N = 1082) I used a mediation model to test whether features of the social environment accounted for my results. I found that people who read about a homophobic environment tended to perceive a greater likelihood of Steve’s peers questioning his sexuality should they learn about his gender atypicality, which in turn predicted their greater perceived motivation for Steve to conceal his gender atypicality.


This research establishes the robust effect that non-homophobic social environments weaken the association between gender atypicality and perceived homosexuality among men. It further suggests this association is weakened by people’s recognition that men have less motivation to conceal their gender atypicality in non-homophobic environments, partially because their sexuality is less likely to be questioned by their peers as a result of it.


I believe this research has important implications for all men, not just sexual minorities. Weaker associations between gender and perceived sexuality should translate into wider definitions of masculinity and more flexible gender roles. This greater flexibility has the potential to improve various domains of men’s lives, such as their friendships with other men, and ultimately improve their social and psychological well-being.

LGBTQ+ Experiences While Accessing Healthcare and Social Services

C. Wildman

As a Lesbian and Queer social justice activist, I have been working to address gaps in services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer + (LGBTQ+) communities for many years. With this research I have had the privilege of combining my passion with my academic pursuits.


This research aids in developing a community understanding of LGBTQ+ access to services in smaller communities. Much of the literature that exists has been in large cities where LGBTQ+ culture and services are more readily available.


This qualitative study was community based and guided by the principles of participatory action research, meaning that I worked closely with an LGBTQ+ social justice group, community members, and a Trans Research Assistant. Semi structured interviews and a focus group were used to document the experiences of 12 LGBTQ+ community members. The results of this study uncovered that participants did not feel safe about disclosing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with service providers, nor did they see themselves represented in these spaces. Being represented in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and counselling offices is not something most think about because the world is set up in a way that automatically represents heterosexuality and gender conformity. However, for those on the margins, assumptions force people into awkward or even dangerous situations of having to out themselves. Some participants described having healthcare providers refuse to work with them, while others felt worried that discrimination would prevent or pose a risk during serious medical procedures.


Participants overwhelmingly voiced that they do not always face physical violence but frequently experience violence through micro-aggressions. Although these experiences were not physical, they were damaging just the same. They told participants that they were not accepted or considered “normal”.


While participants expressed experiencing discrimination, they also articulated the solution. Virtually all of the participants described safer spaces as spaces that represent them through acknowledging their existence. Some of these ways were through not making assumptions but asking how people identify, having visible rainbow stickers or inclusive posters and reading materials. While a sticker does not automatically make a space safe, it does let LGBTQ+ people know that an effort to acknowledge and welcome them is being made.


This research pertains to relationships, family and human sexuality because negative experiences with services often prevented LGBTQ+ participants from accessing them at all, which may affect their overall health and well-being.

Identifying Positives within a Negative Self-Image: What Might Low Self-Esteem Individuals Bring to Romantic Relationships?

J. Edwards

In this project, I investigate the question of what individuals with low self-esteem might believe they contribute to their intimate relationships. Traditionally, research has focused on the downsides of having low self-esteem – for example, its correlations with mental illness and negative behaviours in relationships. However, there is some evidence that people with low self-esteem do not have entirely negative views of themselves. They may have a positive self-image in specific areas (e.g., musical talent, athleticism, intelligence), or their general self-views might be moderate rather than overtly negative. In addition, although many interventions to increase self-esteem appear to backfire, partners in romantic relationships might be able positively influence each other’s self-esteem through idealization and positive social feedback. Through a close review of previous research, I develop four hypotheses concerning what people with low self-esteem might like about themselves in the context of an intimate relationship. These hypotheses suggest that low self-esteem individuals might appreciate (a) their perceived attentiveness to relationship obstacles, (b) their self-perceived avoidance of conflict, (c) specific actions they perform that make them invaluable to their partners, and (d) the qualities that they share with their partners. I also provide some suggestions for empirically testing these hypotheses and identifying other perceived strengths.


Conducting research in this area is valuable as it represents a new way of looking at the “challenge” of low self-esteem. Identifying areas of perceived strength for people with low self-esteem might inform more effective interventions that target what they already like about themselves and build on pre-existing beliefs. In addition, low self-esteem is associated with poor relationship quality and destructive behaviours. Therefore, understanding what people with low self-esteem think they contribute to relationships might help us to improve the quality of relationships where one or both partners suffers from low self-esteem.

Dating without the binary: How non-binary people approach and navigate romantic and sexual relationships

T. Fleischauer

When dating and engaging in romantic and sexual relationships, there are certain scripts available in Western culture that provide people with an idea of what to expect, and what is expected of them in this context.  These scripts, emphasized in the media and reinforced by formal and informal education, are mostly heterosexual and extremely gendered.  Scripts that exist for men and women who are gay are becoming increasingly available; however, they are not culturally dominant.  But what about people who do not identify as men or women? How do they know how to date if they do not feel as though they fit into the scripts that are available?


There is very little research on the relationships of trans people, and even less on the relationships of non-binary trans people.  To better understand the romantic and sexual experiences of non-binary people, this study uses sexual script theory (Gagnon & Simon, 1973), and asks the following question: what scripts do young, non-binary people draw from and/or create when they approach and navigate romantic and sexual relationships?  Participants were asked six questions, providing qualitative data.  The questions asked about the relationship and dating information the participants have received: where or from whom it came from, what it was, and how it was or is planned on being used.  Also included were questions regarding relationship history, possible challenges in dating as a non-binary person, and additional information the participants felt were important for consideration.  The data were analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), and the themes found within the data will be presented.


This study provided an opportunity for the voices of non-binary people to be heard in a research area where they are underrepresented, but that is central to most people’s lives: romantic and sexual relationships. As an exploratory study, this research will create a basis for understanding this population as a group of romantic and sexual beings, and lay some groundwork for future sexuality and relationship research.  In the long-term, I would like to see that this population is represented in the research, and have this research inform more inclusive educational curricula and practices.

Pornography Use within Romantic Relationships: The Associations between Sexual Communication, Pornography Use and Relationship Outcomes

C. Gautreau

There has been a growing interest in understanding whether and how pornography use is associated with relationship quality and sexual satisfaction for individuals in long-term, committed relationships. Research examining this question is mixed.  Moreover, the methodological limitations of past work make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. We investigated four questions: (1) Using valid measures to assess pornography use, is there an association between pornography use and relationship outcomes; (2) Is pornography-related communication a stronger predictor of relationship outcomes, as compared to frequency of use; (3) Does the association between pornography-related communication and relationship outcomes remain significant after controlling for general relationship communication; and (4) How often do individuals avoid discussing pornography with their relationship partner?


Study 1 (N = 780) explored our first research question. Participants in long-term committed relationships reported on their own pornography use, their partners’ pornography use, and their sexual and relationship satisfaction. Women who estimated that their partners used pornography more frequently reported lower relationship satisfaction. Men who reported using pornography more frequently were less sexually satisfied and reported lower relationship satisfaction. Men who estimated that their partners used pornography more frequently were more sexually satisfied.


Study 2 (N=773) investigated research questions 1, 2 and 3. Individuals in long-term committed relationships completed the same measures used in Study 1, with the addition of measures of overall relationship communication quality and quality of pornography specific communication. We replicated the findings from Study 1. Moreover, the quality of overall communication and the quality of pornography-related communication were found to be important predictors of relationship outcomes, and attenuated many of the associations of participants’ perceptions of their partner’s pornography use with relationship outcomes. The quality of pornography-related communication was also positively associated with relationship quality for women and sexual satisfaction for women and men, over and above quality of overall relationship communication.


Study 3 (N = 191) examined our fourth research question. Participants in long-term committed relationships reported how often they avoided discussing various relationship topics with their partner, including pornography use. We found that men avoided discussing pornography use with their partner than women and men avoided discussing pornography use significantly more than several other topics.


Broadly, our findings show that it is important to shift the academic debate on whether pornography use is beneficial or hurtful to relationships to examining under what relationship contexts pornography use can exert a negative or positive influence on the relationship.



  • Picture of SMF staff and students
  • Dr. Jean Kilbourne with Prof.Katherine Bergman
  • SMF staff with Dr. Jean Kilbourne
  • Symposium speakers with staff
  • One of the speaker at symposium
  • Gifts
  • Picture of guest enjoying food
  • Picture of speaker answering gust's question
  • Picture of Dr. Jean Kilbourne with Dr. Debbie Wang