It's been said that as human beings, we have a lizard or reptilian brain that responds to certain primal urges. Food is one. Sex and reproduction is definitely another.
This underlying, preprogramed disposition to respond to sexual imagery is so strong, it has been used for over 100 years in advertising. And the industry, while abusing it more and more, would be foolish to ignore the draw of sexual and erotic messaging.
Back in 1885, W.Duke and Sons, a manufacturer of facial soap, included trading cards in the soap's packaging that included erotic images of the day's most popular female stars. The link between soap and sex is slim at best, but it worked.
And ever since, brands have purposely linked themselves to suggestive (or downright blatant) sexual imagery in the search for new customers. In particular, alcohol, fashion, perfume and car advertisements have created strong links with sex.
Does Sex Actually Sell?
Yes, sex sells. It's a fact. Popular mens magazines like Maxim and FHM have experimented often with their covers. Overwhelmingly, when a sexy, semi-naked woman appears on the cover, it outperforms an image of a male star, even if that star is someone men want to read about.
When ads are more sexually provocative, men in particular are irresistibly drawn to them. It's simple genetics. Men respond to sexual images. And if your ad creates a sexual situation, it will get the desired response.
How can that be in a predominately Christian country like America?
That's a good question.
It would appear that Americans are not so Christian as they want others in the rest of the world to think they are.
My parents were very “God-fearing” (as the saying goes) Christian people who made sure that I attended both Sunday School and Church every Sunday (including while on vacations but only Church services) until I graduated from high school and was theoretically on my own, which I was and never looked back actually.
My parents gave at least 10% of their annual income to the Church in addition to another 10% that they gave to a variety of charities throughout their working careers. My Dad was a Deacon in the United Methodist Church and we said a prayer of thanks at every meal.
However, both my parents smoked and drank alcohol all their lives although after my Mother had breast cancer and my Dad retired, they both stopped smoking. My Dad would tell off-colored jokes and when making comments in the privacy of his own home, one would think that he was a racist. My Dad cussed like a sailor, lied on his income tax, tried on several occasions to outsmart the police when speeding, take souvenirs without paying for them, more than likely had extra-marital affairs.
So, I am wondering just how Christian was this so-called Christian man? I mean no disrespect to my Dad for sharing this nor do I mean disrespect for the disrespect that I have shown because it is what it is... but, this is indicative of what America has become.
And, one of the reasons why SEX sells.
So, why do we claim to be what we are not and how do we tell the difference between those who claim to be this and are and those who are not, like my Dad?
As a female, I have a right to wear what I want as long as it is not against the law and if I were that type of female, I would want to exercise that right (my right) as often as I could, just because I could.
And, in exercising my right to wear what I want when I want, I am teaching my children both directly and indirectly to be the same way when they get old enough to make those decisions.
So, what age might that be?
For a man, it is usually age 21, when a boy is now a man and can legally buy alcohol anywhere in the US... however, at age 18 this boy not yet turned a man can enlist in the military and be sent overseas to fight and perhaps die for his country before he has had his first taste of alcohol.
Yet, he has probably had sex with another female and if the truth be known probably has had a drink of alcohol illegally too.
And, if we drill down deep enough, we will find that this boy, not yet a man, has probably had a taste of several illegal drugs.
So, is all of this why sex sells?
Or, is it because we try to hide sex from minors like our Puritan ancestors did?
Perhaps if we let the advertisers continue to use sex to sell that eventually the public will be so saturated with sex that it will no longer be used to sell merchandise.
I mean think of it from the standpoint of an OBGYN doctor. After seeing thousands of female bottoms over the course of being one of these doctors, one is likely to no longer be “turned on” by another female bottom.
Even advertising has its sex sells limits. For example, if you are advertising lingerie like Victoria's Secret, you'd be a fool to overlook such a strong selling mechanism. But if you're trying to sell a lawn mower or a fireplace gas insert... well, sex selling is going to backfire
However, every boxing or wrestling (and I mean the really fake stuff) match I have ever watched, there is always a pretty young female in a skimpy bathing suit reminding us of the rounds of the match. And, every time there is a NASCAR race there are always pretty girls at the finish line pouring champagne all over everyone... this works for horse and dog racing as well.
But, I wonder if this is a global phenomenon or is just indigenous to America? I mean, I cannot imagine sex being used to sell anything in the Middle East for example; although, when I lived in Egypt from 1962-1966, I saw some might skimpy outfits on those Belly Dancers at the Nile Hilton.