Purpose This paper aims to shed new light on the consumer response toward sex appeal in advertising and investigates ad skepticism in a culturally diverse context. Design/methodology/approach By using the qualitative research methodology, the following study draws upon informant opinions regarding the extent of graphic nudity in print advertising is needed to avoid undesirable reactions from potential consumers and how religiosity influences their attitudes toward sexually appealing advertisements. The information was obtained through semi-structured in-depth interviews with 22 interviewees from four groups, namely, academia, advertising practitioners, religious figures and general consumers. Findings The remarkable findings to emerge from the interviews relate to the following: the role of religiosity vis-à-vis nudity and the “lowering of the gaze” concept in Islam, the objectification and stereotypical portrayals of women, the irrational depiction of sexuality and intimacy and factors that lead to contextual interpretation. Research limitations/implications The result provides further evidence that skepticism does not only exist on a cognitive basis but also on an emotional level as a response to the exaggeration, unrealistic and irritating claims made in some adverts. Practical implications This study suggests that advertisers should advance their cultural comprehension by taking into account the moral and social differences. Originality/value This has been the first study to investigate the skepticism toward sex appeal in advertising and integrate both cognitive and affective context of skepticism.