Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sex sells... milk?

Whoever coined the term “sex sells” must have secretly been makers themselves of some overtly licentious commercial revolving around or based solely on sexual appeals. Over the past few decades, advertising with the use of explicitly sexual content in advertising has become more common than advertising without. As one of the most powerful tools of persuasion in marketing, sex is an effective way of drawing interest to a particular product. Sexually explicit images and auditory content are commonly used methods by which sellers attract immediate interest of consumers. Yet the reason why “sex sells” is because it manages to successfully hold that interest and allows sellers to present their products in a way that correlates with the consumer’s interests.
One way of describing the powerful role that sex plays in advertising today is - in Tizzy Asher’s words - “heterosexual consumption” (Asher 22). The first glance that the consumer takes at an ad, as well as the lasting effect that the ad has on the consumer, are both contributing factors to the barbaric nature that Asher associates with consumerism. She connects the sex-hungry minds that many, if not most, public consumers have to the use of insuations towards sex in commonplace media content.
Undoubtedly, the use of erotic content in advertising is an extremely effective technique. Yet, one thing to consider when looking at sexuality in the media is the wide realm of taboos and contention that are associated with sex in society today. Sex becomes a bit problematic when used in everyday commericals and other commonplace advertising exposed to the public. It’s sort of a “sellers beware, use at your own risk” type of deal. Yet it is precisely this “code red” attitude that makes outlandishly sexual images and ideas even more intriguing to both the public consumer and the seller.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are yet still, subtle uses of sexuality that are even incorporated into the media. Sex isn’t just limited to visual media; ‘sexy’ lingo and deep-toned commentary are radiated all over the radio and are often coupled with sex visuals to enhance appeal of the ad to the consumer.
An interesting theme in advertising that I’d like to touch on is the use of male bodies. Historically reflecting the realm of Greek architecture, public displays of men have embodied the ideal "athletic young man" for centuries. Dating back to 400 B.C., the public eye has been “obsessed” with a strong, masculine male figure (Bagorio). And it is just these ‘ideal’ male figures that marketers use in much of the advertising that exists today. Toned, hard bodies of both men and women attract consumers’ eyes in all cultures. Though we hate to admit the ‘ripped’ guy in the Calvin Klein commercial looks good, hardly one woman is able to flip past his large, naked ad in the center of a magazine or even close an eye when our sexual connoisseur male-friend pops up on the television.
And this type of sexy photography is just one of the many forms of media that is embedded in all forms of the media. According to Anastasia Higginbotham, the media perpetuates sex to the eye of the consumer in just the right way. That is, articles surrounding sex-insinuating ads and words flashed on the t.v. screen next to nude figures are just as guilty as the sexually explicit images themselves; they oftn encourage the reader to fit an ideal “sexy” persona or conform to the “hot” character of the naked lady on the next page. Either way, it all comes down to the reader and how well he or she can become “absorbed in the rules of the game” (Higginbotham 93) – the rules of advertising.
When it comes to advertising, sexually suggestive images sell just about everything. Yet although It makes sense to use sex in ads for lingerie, men's cologne and even liquor, it hardly seems relevant to use sex in the millions of other products out there that are somehow being advertised with naked bodies and sexual inuendos. I mean, an advertisement for a vacuum, video game or hamburger joint is hardly comparable to a commercial with the ‘Very Sexy’ Angels over at Victoria’s Secret. Simply because The Angels have successfully and rightfully found a comfortable place in the hearts of sex-driven consumers, doesn’t make it right for the naked girl in the milk commericial to flash her fake breasts under a waterfall of dairy. Call me crazy, but that is not even slightly appropriate in my mind.
You still must look carefully to avoid missing the point of an ad like this. Don’t believe me? Take a quick look at the ad with the school girl in who is knealing down. Did you catch the part about the sneakers? Hmm… well it sure fooled me.
All in all, I’ll admit - automobile companies tend to use sex implying slogans in car commercials often. And the use of sexual images in ads for a men’s magazine may skate past by as tasteful. Yet just because sex is a common style of marketing today doesn’t make up for the fact that multimillion dollar companies attempt to induce consumers to want to go out and buy something totally unrelated to sex. My issue is with sexual ads for things like coffee and toilet paper that contain images of two nude people about to have sex. My skepticism has become widely enlarged upon putting together this collage. Perhaps sex does something for those looking to purchase household appliances, but just like a naked lady drowning in milk doesn’t leave me convinced, the implication that a girl is giving a guy oral pleasure just doesn’t do it for me.

Works Cited

Asher, Tizzy. Girls, Sexuality, and Popular Culture. The Feminist Journal. 22-26.

Bagorio, Elaine (2007). Uncovering the Naked Truth. http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/va11/bagorio/bagorio.html

Gifford, Amy (2007). 15 Ads that Prove Sex Sells… Best? Aha Cafe LLC. http://inventorspot.com/articles/ads_prove_sex_sells_5576?page=0%2C0

Gallup & Robinson, Inc. (2007). http://www.gallup-robinson.com/essay2.html

Higginbotham, Anastasia. Teen Mags: How to get a guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose your Self Esteem, 93-96.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sugar N' Spice and Everything Nice, That's What Girls are Made of... Right?

Natalie Hage
Gender & Popular Culture WGS 220-05
Blog Post Writing Assignment # 1
October 2, 2007

Given boxes filled with jewelry and makeup and closets adorned with dress-up clothes, little girls are bound to be absorbed in a world of fairy tale images of beauty, glamour, and a whole slew of guidelines of how they should look and act. Today’s toy market provides a large and seemingly disturbing variety of gadgets and accessories that, according to society, should define the lives of female youth. Items such as vanities and makeup kits provide little girls with weapons that allow them to mark and mess themselves and not knowingly, reconsider her appearance.
The famous “Pretty, Pretty Princess” game is a prime example of such ‘weaponry’, with its many pieces of plastic jewel mockery and a large embellished mirror, the game idealizes the epitome of what society thinks is female beauty. The makers at Milton Bradley expose little girls to the dainty and exquisite life of a princess and even gives them the tacky crown with which to complete the look. The game not only falls short of a wholesome and educating pastime for young girls, it also fails to see past the picturesque and silenced life that society wants a lady to be destined to. Prior to my toy shopping extravaganza, I came across an interesting article on About.com. Publicist, Dipika Mirpuri begins her piece titled “Fun Indoor Activities for Girls” in stating that “most girls love fashion, painting, cooking, makeup, arts and crafts”. Mirpuri then claims that “these girl’s toys will provide your child with challenging and stimulating tasks” (Mirpuri). Immediately the reader, who is usually a mother, falls helpless to the idea that her little girl’s knowledge will be broadened indefinitely if she allows her to dress up and pretend to be a modern-day housewife. Yet what the mother fails to realize is that by doing so, she places her child directly into a whirlwind of material possessions stung by false identities both of which trick her and her daughter into trying to attain a purely feminine image with solely feminine duties. This image leaves a little girl helpless to her own identity and could perhaps leave her “standing before a mirror in all finery and jewels, feeling suddenly ridiculous and miserable” (Gilman 72).
A link titled “Simply Dolls” then led me to a page strewn with an immense image of a half-naked Barbie doll look-alike, cross-legged, sitting atop a stack of gift hat-boxes. The site attests that they display “all kinds of dolls - including fashion, baby and porcelain - to suit any girl” (SimplyDolls.co.uk). Does ‘any girl’ pertain to the thousands of little girls out who are not particularly phased by a Barbie doll or who were not yet exposed to the petite beauty that one exemplifies? Our society tends to single out girls who go against the ‘prim and proper’ image that is associated with a doll, which in turn causes them to accept and conform to this persona, while dually puts them in a terrible position to feel left out if they do not. Assuming that any toy deemed as ‘feminine’ involves a domestic task, beauty enhancement, nurturing and/or looking attractive, we can say the opposite for all ‘masculine’ toys, which are identified as more competitive, aggressive, constructive, conducive to handling, and reality based. This type of gender construction sets highly unequal learning standards for boys and girls, yet even more-so, actually promotes and encourages the gender-specific lifestyle that a child both learns and is entertained by. Even ‘gender-neutral’ toys, such as books and bicycles, puzzles and finger-paints are under question. Even the most neutral past time for active young children, a pair of roller skates, is hardly found without bright pink and glitter embellishments. The most visible role models and dynamic social influence in children’s lives are their parents. And it seems that because the parents are the ones to provide their children with such gender-encrusted paraphernalia, they are the ones responsible for gendering toys in using traditional stereotypical standards when classifying them. Yet, in actuality, it is the problematic toy market that sends both implicit and explicit messages to children regarding their specific role according to gender, and also sets the tight boundary lines that children feel uncomfortable venturing outside of. And when put into a world that demands so much of each and every character, including children, this becomes a large stand still in the growing-up process. As Michael Messner puts it, “gender identity [should be viewed] not as a ‘thing’ that people ‘have’ but rather as a process of construction that develops, comes into crisis, and changes as a person interacts with the social world” (Messner 121).
We need to start allowing children to come into society with duty free hands so that they discover and become products of their own unique identities. They should not feel forced into a world of pink and blue being told what is right and where is wrong.

Works Cited
Gilman, S. J. (1984). “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. 20, 72-74. Messner, M. A. (1990). “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 120-135 Mirpuri, D. (2007). “Fun Outdoor Activities for Girl”. About.com Yahoo!Shopping. 2007. Search: ‘girl’s toys’