On Sale: Sex
“What you see is what you get.” This is truer of nothing than advertising.
Do you feel like a simple, warm family environment? Buy some ready-made chips, pop them in the oven and a pile of fulfilling relationships will await you on the tray.
A relaxing middle age in the suburbs? Get some insurance. Undeserved social status? Get a car. An impulse-driven youth filled with permanently cheerful friends and inconsequential sexual promiscuity? Crack open a sugary soft drink. Or light a cigarette, if those ads aren’t banned in your country.
Best of all: sex!
You might not even know that you want it, or what exactly it is that you don’t know that you want. But you do want it. And it’s just one purchase away.
Perfume will magically transport you into a strangely-lit other-world, filled with smooth bodies you’ve only ever admired in films or other adverts. And the bodies gaze at you with a mix of hunger and impatience normally reserved for approaching waiting staff.
Overpriced designer clothes will enable you to swing through an unending high street where your every move is followed by well-built passers-by who wear the same brand. In their thousand-yard stare you can read it: they’ve recognized that your shared fashion sense signals that you are soulmates.
And underwear! A whole new dimension opens with the ads for this thin piece of extremely short-lived fabric. Mostly black and white, or else bathed in the muted filters of a French art-house production. Hotel room curtains sway in slow motion, touched by a breeze that seems to have no temperature at all, because everybody is still wandering around wearing only one layer. Lustful gazes over the shoulder, tilted hips and shoulders. Gentle fingers slide down spotless skin until they reach what they’re really looking for: expensively designed and cheaply produced bits of cloth.
Indeed, what wonders advertisements yield. The magic of the image has brought us divine powers. We now imbue storefront mannequins with life. Life! That elusive miracle religions and science worship alike.
Once we could merely daydream about these stiff imitations of the human form sprouting skin and hair before showing off the handcrafted shapes of their limbs from every angle, every pose. The modern mannequin even has eyes. Of course, these aren’t windows to any soul (don’t be ridiculous), but these fetishized balls of water can stare at us with widening pupils and rising eyebrows, triggering ancient instincts buried in our limbic system.
Who needs human beings? These simulacra are superior in every way. They show no sign of possessing a metabolism and have a severely limited capacity for decision-making. No matter under which circumstances, their mind seems to be focussed on mating. With you, specifically.
No bad hair day for them, no dry skin or cold sores. Those kinds of unattractive features are only found in creatures composed of cells. These beauties are made of sex.
It’s impossible to deny it: they appeal to all of us. Carefully selected by equally soulless marketing teams, they represent the finest specimen of your culture’s glorified physical norm.
No cross-section of the population in terms of age, shape or ethnicity, of course. I mean, have you seen the population? Out in the land of humans, you have to ignore five hundred great apes before you can creepily stare at a fellow commuter whose appearance vaguely resembles the cover of magazines.
But not in ad land. Although our imperfect technology still requires the use of humans for the photographs and poorly written short films, any traces of genetic variation or non-sexual body language is immediately removed in post-production.
It gets better: most of them seem unable to talk! The only form of communication their makers have equipped them with is flirting. Their laughter is silent — because we all know how much of a mood killer a bad laugh can be — and their gestures choreographed down to the smallest wave of their hand.
If you want to engage in real intercourse, there is an excruciating amount of communicating involved. Even the briefest, most shallow interaction to secure a temporary mate costs you not only time, but runs the danger of shattering the façade of allure. You might notice that they have tastes, quirks, hobbies, friends and family. Should everything crumble, you’ll begin to suspect the existence of thoughts and feelings. Indeed, even if we’re talking about some internet-facilitated high-speed hook-up, something could give away that your partner for the night is a human being.
And do I even need to say how gross that is? All you want is extended physical contact with a body roughly shaped like an amalgamation of bikini/swimsuit models. A nice shot straight into the pleasure centre of your brain. If you’re a guy, maybe the passing validation of a puerile sense of self that depends on treating people like achievement badges to pin to the emptiness where others keep their emotional maturity. Is that too much to ask?
But sadly, actual romantic conquests aren’t quite as easy as collecting Pokémon, and people are not even nearly as obedient (or cute, for that matter). If you aren’t really careful, you might catch something no brand of condom (best ads in the world) can keep away: a glimpse into their rich and complicated lives, messed up by their complex and multi-faceted minds. There have even been cases where these very design flaws and software bugs have created long-lasting emotional attachments.
No thank you! Sex still sells well in the wonderful universe of ceaseless consumption. So, before the rational part of your brain comes back on, buy all the sex you can get. The product will deliver exactly what it advertises: a one-dimensional, entirely hollow, cold, dead and childish fantasy with a 0% risk of touching your heart. It won’t give you any nauseating highs or lows, it can’t fatally infect you with true joy or sadness.
You’re buying a clean, flat image. Real life could never live up to it.
With thanks to Ellis Wiggins