NEW YORK – Sexy ads in the U.S. are starting to show everything but the family jewels -- and some magazines are revealing those too.
Art Forum, Index and Slot are a few of the avant-garde publications running ads for Yves San Laurent's new M7 fragrance, which feature a man wearing nothing but the hair on his skin, reclining with his legs spread.
Other, more mainstream magazines are beginning to show ads where the subjects are just as nude, yet contorted to conceal their unmentionables.
Experts say it's a trend. "There are more and more nearly nude people in American ads and on TV," said Alice Cunejo, San Francisco bureau chief for Advertising Age.
Yves Saint Laurent says the M7 ad is the first of its kind. But Cunejo said she doesn't think widespread full-frontal nudity is "right around the corner" in the U.S. (the M7 ad has been cropped for magazines like GQ and W). She does think, however, that showing "everything but" is becoming increasingly acceptable.
"Women have long been featured in all sorts of titillating positions, but now they're showing more skin," she said. "And there's a new move toward showing more male nudity, which in the past was sacrosanct."
Cunejo added that Victoria's Secret's ads and its racy fashion show, which was criticized by women's and family groups for airing on network TV during family viewing hours, are more proof that the U.S. is catching up with Europe's no-parts-barred attitude.
"You wouldn't have seen this 10 or 20 years ago," she said. "It's borderline soft-core porn."
However, marketers say their use of the human form is tasteful, artistic, even humorous. The ad for the new men's fragrance Lacoste Pour Homme, which features a bare-skinned man (positioned to conceal his genitals) relaxing in a club chair with a cup of tea, is meant to be "tongue in cheek," the company said.
"The nudity is meant to show an unconventional attitude that communicates style and confidence," said Brad Horowitz, VP of marketing at Clarins Fragrance Groups, which distributes the fragrance. "This man is a little daring but he's not taking himself that seriously. It's an amusing nakedness."
Horowitz said the Lacoste ad is very different from the full-frontal M7 ad.
"YSL's has more sexuality. It's more about shock value," Horowtiz said.
Yves Saint Laurent designer Tom Ford himself admitted that the M7 ad is intended to "remind people of how shocking and provocative the [design] house has always been."
He also defended the nudity. "Perfume is worn on the skin, so why try and hide the body?" Ford said in a statement. "The image for M7 is a really beautiful, classical male nude -- it's not intended to be sensational."
YSL also caused a controversy two years ago with its ad for its perfume Opium, which featured the model Sophie Dahl in all her splendor. The ad was banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority for being "too sexually suggestive."
Another campaign raising eyebrows and temperatures is that for Jennifer Lopez's fragrance Glow. Ads feature the diva standing by a shower with her all of her famous curves displayed -- and only her most intimate regions concealed.
Critics say companies are not thinking of children when they use nudity to sell their products.
"It is increasingly difficult for parents to shield their kids from stuff like this," said Family Research Council spokeswoman Heather Cirmo. "It should be up to parents -- not advertisers -- to decide when and how to talk to their kids about sex."
Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles also has concerns.
"Nudity sells, but it is degrading to women and men. The eye is an entrance to the soul, according to scripture. Every time we push the envelope and expand nudity we lower the jumping bar for our young people to engage in sexual behavior," he said.
Other reactions to the ads were more mixed. Upstate N.Y. resident Mary Kuntz, 18, said nudity "can be very beautiful and appealing when it is tastefully done."
She's also convinced that it sells products.
"I know that my 13-year-old sister is dying to have J-Lo's new perfume and I don't even think she has smelled it," Kuntz said.