Sex Sells — Why?

The only advertisement I need — By Francesca Bonafin

Sex. The most taboo of all the subjects. I don’t really know what it is about sex that is such a hushed up topic. It is one of the most, if not the most, natural things in the world. It’s amazing, interesting, diverse and, if we’re being honest, jolly good fun. I think sometimes people are afraid to say something as simple as liking/loving sex. And why not? We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t like it, yet, especially for women might I add, there’s a sort of unwritten idea that we shouldn’t admit to such a thing. It’s ok for Dave, 26 from Leicester, to brag to the world about “all the fit birds he’s banged” and that although “the one with big tits had the personality of a frog” he could get past that for “a quick lay”. After a few ladish jeers, a ferocious clinking of beer glasses and neanderthal like thumping of each others chests and elbows, Dave’s macho status has been heightened, testosterone flying. It’s a scenario we can all picture.

Now lets switch it round for a second. Lets say it’s a group of women, and its Danielle, not Dave, who is speaking crudely about her sexual exploits. Now I’m not saying women don’t do a similar sort of thing, because believe me, we do. What is different, however, is the general attitude towards women who do do it. It’s unladylike, it’s vulgar and it’s just not done. To me, however, this is ridiculous. I just don’t understand why we as women take so much stick for just behaving the same as the other 50% of the population. It’s no secret that women get a lot more hassle for being more sexually open. A woman is often portrayed as promiscuous where a man is merely considered to be a ‘lad’ if they have many sexual partners respectively. It’s not just men that have these views on women either, often other women will do exactly the same, berating their fellow females. But I just don’t understand why. First of all, why is it any of your damn business how many men she sleeps with; as long as she is being safe? Secondly, what is so wrong about doing what comes naturally to our species, and furthermore talking about it? Because it’s such a taboo subject, there’s connotations of it being something wrong or there is something shameful about it… but only for women of course. At the end of the day, the men had to have sex with someone; the heterosexuals had a willing female in bed (or wherever you fancy) right there with them yet they are not allowed to talk about it? Odd. Very very odd.

But there’s more. If all of this isn’t baffling enough, I bring into this more confusing musings. If women’s sexuality and the way in which they portray themselves is put into question, why then is it such a big selling point? Sex sells. That phrase is thrown about so much. The truth of it though, is startling. Before writing this I hadn’t really thought about this too much and as I continue to write this I keep thinking about all the ways in which it could be true. It’s not easy, although not for the reasons you would think. I think it is 100% true, but why I struggle to think about where it is true is because I think that sexualisation is used all around us in order to sell. We have been surrounded by these provocative images and adverts, songs are often highly sexualised, stars are often dressed sexually… the list could continue. I think that we, because I know I am now, have become almost immune to these that it’s now sort of an accepted norm. Car adverts, to take an example, one of the most absurdly sexualised items of modern times. Sultry music, erotically charged voiceovers, dark shadowy lighting; I can hardly believe what I’m watching when one of these come on the television. It is just a car. There is, I would hope, no sexual attraction to a car, no intimacy to be had.. quite frankly no sex there. Cat food for goodness sake! Another example of an advert that I have watched that has a strong sexual subtext. I have smelt cat food, and i can categorically say that there is nothing sexy about that.

It’s all around us then, that much is obvious. It is ridiculous when you really think about it, yet worrying at the same time. This brings me back to talking about women and again how we are immune to the sexualisation of women’s bodies. I don’t understand why it is seemingly acceptable for women’s bodies to be used and their sexuality flaunted in this way, yet the double standards in terms of sexual partners, for example, shame them for sexual ‘flaunting’ (just being human beings really). This juxtaposition and contradiction is so puzzling and highlights how women, put simply, just cannot win. Be confident and sexy, but only in the correct scenarios. You can only pretend to be confident about your sexuality, but if you actually are.. that’s not cool. I guess in the still male-dominated society, pressures and expectations are put on women that are frankly impossible to maintain. I often hear men describing women who have slept with, what they consider, a lot of people as ‘unattractive’. When women wear too much makeup or when their dresses are ‘too short’ they are also considered to be ‘unattractive’. I think it could surprise a lot of men out there that what you find attractive or not doesn’t affect my decisions what so ever. It does, however, affect the advertising industry and a lot of the sexualisation of women and things reflects the attitudes of the populace. Because, at the end of the day, they use strategies in order to appeal to an audience in order to sell things. If there wasn’t an attraction of an audience in the first place, such strategies would not be used. Mind…blown.

I feel like in this piece I have just expressed my confusion, asked many questions, without really answering anything. I think I have just highlighted some of the irregularities and weird quirks in our society. I imagine you probably knew these things already, but it’s interesting to think about this topic and talk about it. Without these sort of questions, things don’t change and we would carry on just living in a world where women are constantly scrutinised. I’m not sure where we go from here really, but I do know one thing. Sex does, indeed, sell.

With thanks to Ana Bonitch and Sam Packer