- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sneakers? Check. Morning TV show to pass 40 minutes on an elliptical machine? Check. Soft-core porn advertising for the commercial break? Check.

Who knew you could burn so many extra calories at the local gym just being humiliated by the content of an ad for designer watches? Thanks to Italian fashion icons Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, we can all cringe with embarrassment while three anorexic-looking twentysomethings engage in the latest TV and advertising fad: Sexual threesomes.

You are probably wondering how sexual perversion and timepieces go together in a television commercial. Me, too.

Apparently the target audience for the brand D&G; Time includes promiscuous young adults with upward of $650 to spend on a simple wristwatch. I guess when the watch is all you plan to have on at the end of the day, it had better be special.

According to their Web site, designers Dolce and Gabbana’s “creativity is the foundation of the new D&G; Time commercial. … A luxurious period apartment in Paris is the set for a malicious mademoiselle who abandons herself to provocative games, ending in an upper-class menage a trois.” There’s little left to the imagination as the shirtless young men ravage the woman on a settee until “the risque situation is interrupted by her rigorous mother, shocked at the sight of such an impudent display.”

She’s not the only one.

Impudent isn’t the word that came to mind when I was confronted with this unsavory vignette. Indecent is more like it. Incredulous, too. And also incensed.

This advertisement didn’t air after 10 p.m. or on an adult channel, as the Federal Communications Commission requires, but at 10 a.m. during morning chat shows.

According to Parents Television Council President Tim Winter, sexual threesomes now are the rage, in both advertisements and television programming. Earlier this year, PTC successfully campaigned to remove a New York City Calvin Klein billboard with such a depiction spanning the size of building, while the season premier of the teen drama “Gossip Girls” featured a two-episode theme around “three-ways.”

It seems our ability to be shocked now is so limited that advertisers and TV writers need to break through every last taboo in order to feel they’ve “pushed the envelope.” Not that they’ll get me to buy a stinking watch, but whatever.

We parents, who work hard to shelter our children from inappropriate media, often are dismayed that our efforts to protect our kids’ innocence are foiled by advertisers. Families watching wholesome shows or sporting events routinely are sabotaged by commercials such as D&G; Time’s, with extreme adult content and sexual situations. By comparison, the embarrassing ads for sexual dysfunction remedies now seem tame.

Why aren’t advertisers subject to the same decency standards as other television programming? Why aren’t there rules to prohibit people like Dolce and Gabbana from polluting our public airways with sexually explicit and inappropriate images targeted to young, impressionable viewers? In fact, the D&G; Time ad runs regularly on shows for teens such as the current Fox Broadcasting hit “Glee,” so obviously they’re trying to reach young people.

The answer is, advertisers are subject to those decency standards, but it’s up to the broadcasters - the folks who make money using our public airways - to enforce them by monitoring their advertisers and/or refusing to run offensive commercials. Once again, we need only to follow the money to realize that broadcasters have no incentive to refuse ads simply because they offend us, the viewing audience. They’ll run ads from anyone who will write them a check, and times being what they are, decency be damned.

“Broadcasters haven’t just lowered their standards, they’ve erased them,” Mr. Winter says.

• Visit Marybeth Hicks at www.marybeth hicks.com.

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