Imagine this: While perusing the morning paper over a cup of coffee, you spot an advertisement that features a photo of you, in which you're scantily clad. The ad is for an extramarital affair website. And your body is being referred to as scary.
That nightmarish scenario recently became a reality for a woman who spotted her photo in an ad for Ashley Madison, a dating site that facilitates affairs. In the photo, the size 32 woman is lying on her stomach, wearing black and pink lingerie. The text reads: "Did your wife scare you last night?"
The woman – who identifies herself as "Jacqueline" – wrote to the website Jezebel to share her side of the story. A plus-sized model who runs a website tailored to those who like heavier-set women, Jacqueline says she was unaware that the photo would be used in the ad, which was recently published in New York's Metro newspaper.
Jacqueline says she posed for the photos years earlier, with a photographer who she believed would sell the photos to people wanting them for their personal use. "I had no idea that the photographer would endeavour to sell the photos to corporations and/or stock photo companies, who would then go on, repeatedly, to use them in rude and mocking ways."
On Tuesday, Ashley Madison published a second ad using Jacqueline's image. In the new ad, a slender woman dressed in a similar outfit is featured above Jacqueline. Next to her, a green checkmark. Next to Jacqueline, a red X. The ad reads: "We call it as we see it."
After Jezebel published Jacqueline's letter, the website received a response from Ashley Madison chief executive officer Noel Bide man. "The best thing that could've happened to this woman is that we used her in our ad," he writes. "Despite what she may want you to think, she is reaping the press for her own pornography website."
Jacqueline says that for her, the issue lies with the mocking tone of the ad and the nature of Ashley Madison's business. "I am mortified that my image and likeness would be used as advertisement for two things I am so vehemently against: namely cheating and … body shaming," she says.
"A size 2 woman who sees this ad sees the message: 'If I don't stay small, he will cheat.' A size 12 woman might see this ad and think 'If I don't lose 30 pounds, he will cheat.' "
Do you think these Ashley Madison ads have crossed a line?