This Is Not Satire


The above photo was not intended to be humorous. Nor was the advertising copy accompanying it, though both appear to have been lifted from a Saturday Night Live skit or an Onion article. Both photo and text are part of an earnest promotion for a product called… (wait for it)… Thunderware. It’s a handy little item designed to give you a real sense of security by packing heat in your meat. The text reads in part:

The weapon is worn in the front, on the centerline. This way it will not interfere with normal or rigorous activity. When you sit down, the weapon fits down comfortably between your legs. “Sensitive” body parts are behind the bulk of the weapon. … Be as active as you want. You’ll never have to adjust your holster.

I know what you’re thinking. But I assure you, it only sounds like it was written by Tina Fey.

It’s the perfect gift for the guy who has everything, and wants to protect it. Or the guy who wants to pretend he has more than he does. Or, as the photo suggests, the gal who wishes she had something to pretend with too.  Or, as the photo also suggests, the guy who wants to impress the gals who wish they did.

Gun fanatics often bristle at the suggestion that their attachment to their hardware has phallic connotations of one kind or another. And then they turn around and market a product called Thunderware with ads like this. With a perfectly straight face.


  1. I actually own a similar holster called the Smart Carry. It works when you don’t want to (or can’t) wear a belt. Just like you wear different shoes for different occasions, if you are committed to the idea of carrying a defensive weapon, then you need different holsters for different occasions. The holster is just as safe as any other, in that the gun is held in place through fabric tension, and the trigger is covered.

    Consider objectively some of the activities you engage in as your alter ego. If you were inclined to carry a defensive weapon, the average holster might not be the best choice for you.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Bob. Your comment, notwithstanding its lecturing tone, does make an important point that I myself have made several times: some gun owners are sane, responsible individuals who do not deserve to be lumped with the “gun nuts”. Still, that does not obviate the real point of this post: that the gun culture is often oblivious to consequences and implications. And this goes far beyond the unintended humor and sexism in an ad for a holster.It is often manifest in the egocentric “Coconut Grove” mentality, the tendency to take care of (what is imagined to be) one’s own interests without regard to repercussions that ultimately may have a negative impact not only on other people, but on oneself too. It really may be in the best interests of SOME individuals to carry guns next to their underwear or elsewhere; but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for society as a whole if large numbers of people do so.

  2. For certain, sexual innuendos are established parts of the advertising industry, whether they seem absurd or not. And even though the gun industry may deny any allusion to phallic symbolism, such ploys are hardly out of the question for any advertising agency that wants to use sex as a means to sell their products. But this does not forgo the fact that when advertising guns, such references are particularly absurd and can frequently be upsetting.

    I am reminded of how the gun industry falsely claims that the term “assault rifles,” of “automatic weapons,” are misnomers when it comes to the types of weapons used in mass shootings. They claim the liberal press first erroneously supplied the term “assault weapons,” when actually referring to “semi-automatic” weapons. And although it is justifiable to criticise the inaccurate use of the term “assault weapons,” to imply that “fully automatic” weapons are easily acquired by the psycho down the block, many early issues of Gun enthusiast magazines affirm that the gun industry did indeed, refer to the term “assault weapons,” in the early 1980’s in their advertisements—before anyone else did, and,before the press ever popularized the term. The industry also vehemently rejects the fact that marketing techniques involved projecting impressive images of macho commandos and weapons used by the military, many years before the present controversy about weapons ever became front and center in the news. But despite this denial, the actual physical appearances of semi-automatics, are designed to be very similar in appearance to military assault rifles—so for what reason other than marketing, would such “semi-automatic,” weapons be made to look like near cookie-cutter images of real military assault weapons in the first place?

    In my opinion, if the gun industry wants to prevent semi-automatics from being confused with fully automatic assault weapons, their weapons should be manufactured with some conspicuously discernable features which denote that they are merely semi-automatics instead. The industry should either put up or shut up, concerning its attempts to pass the buck for public confusion, onto members of the press, or on liberal politicians who are easy targets for such falsely attributed blame.

    Of course advertisers might feature beautiful women sucking on gun barrels if they decide such images are money makers, but the least they can do is own up to the fact that they are fully complicit when using sex as an advertising gimmick and as an appeal to clients who respond to such ploys.

    Openly satirical advertisements are sometimes used in humorous ways to simultaneously poke fun at their own intentions, while also appealing to buyers who are impressed by sexual references. Images of a scantily clad Paris Hilton, biting into a huge cheeseburger, while washing a car, and covered with soapy water, is one such attempt that immediately comes to mind. Yet using sex to advertise guns, or the Marlboro man to make cigarettes look cool and appealing, represent a class of irresponsible advertising all their own, and ought to be subject to socially relevant criticisms, just as they have been! Any product that can cause the death of others, or be misused by an uninformed public, should be fully subjected to government oversight as well as factual critiques about its negative consequences.

    • The most troubling thing about this photo to me is that it appeals to a desire to commit sexual violation.

      • Yes, and what better symbol to use than a gun when trying exploit an appeal to violence? And the fact that said gun, is designed to be carried in the genital area, means this particular symbolism is not something expressed subtly .

        Perhaps since guns are used only to cause injury or to take lives, (and perhaps to keep one capable of injuring or taking lives continuously), with regular visits to the target practice range—using guns to imply that a companies products are sexy, is even worse than other forms of sexual symbolism. Paris Hilton’s commercial was rather quickly removed from the tube, but it remains to be seen, if the photo you introduce this new post with, will be removed or prohibited swiftly? Personally I’d prefer that my kids associate hamburgers with sex, rather than various semi-automatic weapons. But for advertisers, sexual appeal can mean a potential gold mine either way.

      • In my first response, I read your follow up comment to be about the photo’s allusion to sexual “violence,” rather than sexual “violation.” But obviously the two go hand and hand when an instrument of violence is pictured in such a way to imply sexual violation. My hopes are that the image will eventually receive such bad press that it will be removed–but that, very possibly, may not happen.

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