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Alms For The Love Of Ella

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This article belongs to Sex sells theme.


On the Myth that Sex Sells
For many people, sexual intercourse is simply masturbation by proxy. One of the most ridiculous, and degrading euphemisms in American usage is, "making love", a reference to doing the Hokey Pokey. In the words of the famous song, "What's love got to do with it?"

Yet, this casual thinking underlies a broad approach to the uncritical acceptance of jingoisms, including the "you know, they say" level of such myths as "Sex sells". Certainly, sexual imagery is used in advertizing. But why?

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The four most obvious sexually marketed products have been: Tobacco, liquor, automobiles, and women's underwear.
Let's take the ad for that new product you are not sure you need; the three speed reversible electric nose picker. Now, let's include an image of a winsome wench looking out at you demurely, perhaps curling herself about an enlarged image of the picker as if it has just replaced all the other buzzing toys in her nightstand. The message here is that, somehow a purchase of the product will bring you an encounter with those (typified by the wench) who value the product. Buy the product; get the value expressed toward it by some kind of magical transference. Sorry to disappoint, but Saturday nights will be as they always were, save a different buzzing.

The four most obvious sexually marketed products have been: Tobacco, liquor, automobiles, and women's underwear. Cigarette ads assured us that "It's what's up front that counts" and that they were "round, firm, and fully packed". And what pubescent boy did not spend time scrutinizing the hind quarter of a camel to discern the "naked woman in there"?

Liquor ads routinely feature women in alluring poses, just waiting for the buyer of the liquor to impair their judgement with a taste. Beer, of course, is for lightening up (an excellent example of cognitive dissonance). Remember the "Swedish Ski Team", not one of the bikini clad beauties being Swedish. Perhaps the surgical implements used to enhance their anatomies were Swedish. But this followed an era in which Americans were convinced that Swedes were sexually liberated.

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In the days of real sports cars, driving a Jaguar XKE, a four wheeled penis, was a statement against floundering potency, especially since most of the buyers were older men in need of demonstration. It was a sad example of claim coming before capability;


Women's underwear ads are really head turning, though perhaps not in the way intended. While advising women to "feel pretty" or "alluring" by wearing under items that are more intricately crafted than over items, what are they saying? A glimpse at the package will make a man pay for the contents?

Is it any wonder that children entering the dating scene begin to view sexual contact as an arena of barter? If a hamburger gets the bra, a steak must surely get the panties. Why not just give her the money and quit wasting time?

In the first seven of my 23 years with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention I worked in STD and HIV/AIDS epidemiology. Throughout those years I met, interviewed, and treated a very large number of prostitutes (from dumpster divas to film "actresses") and took part in national and international "sex worker" research studies.
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So, if Sex Sells, what is really being marketed? Access to power.
I also spent many nights in various nude club "dressing" rooms. I found a remarkable common denominator; most of these women claimed, on some level, that they hated men. Indeed, whether "talking with a John" (performing oral sex) or undulating on someone's lap, the primary goal was to get the desired reaction as quickly as possible. This was not a commercial tactic in the same way a waitress "turns a table" for the next tip paying customer. It was a statement of power over men in general, and it was more gratifying as the perceived power of the man was higher; quickly rendering the paper boy was not comparable to quickly rendering a Congressman.

So, if "sex sells", what is really being marketed? Access to power. Specifically, an increase in potential power over others. Whizz by in your 400hp vibrator and panties blow off down the block. Expose a bit of the underwear that would have Medieval catapult engineers scratching their heads and the corporate board room will spring to attention. But is that the ultimate product?

Somewhere inside this kaleidoscopic social matrix is a person seeking personal validity. The need to prove self worth to the self by demonstrating it through the reactions of others is the bottom line. This entire complex could be obviated by enabling young people to attain a satisfactory self realization, leading to a satisfactory self image.


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