Yes, Sex Sells
To begin with, I want to guide you to this highly enjoyable video Kohta Sataa by a Finnish artist Pete Parkkonen, link here: https://youtu.be/L9ZbJrxloQ8. Of course, it’s only enjoyable if you enjoy oiled, half-naked men. Otherwise just watch it for the experience. If you don’t want the experience, well, honestly, you’re missing out. To those who may not be familiar with the beautiful language of Finland, the name of the song is roughly translated into “It’s going to rain soon”. Before seeing the video and just hearing the song a few times over the radio I honestly thought that it meant raining in the literal sense, and didn’t really pay any attention to it. Then, I saw the video. Oh, the video. Now, if you watch the clip, you see oiled Pete licking his hands, grabbing his hair and grinding on a concrete floor with so many penis references throughout the video that I lost count early on, you start to realize that it was not really the down-from-the-clouds kind of rain he was talking about. Yikes. Simultaneously enjoying and feeling slightly awkward about the hot guy grinding on the floor, I was somehow reminded of Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty. Or Britney’s I’m a Slave. Or Beyonce’s Partition. Or Rihanna’s Pour It Up. Or her S&M. Or basically any video made by a popular female artist.
Let’s return to the Pete Parkkonen video. At the time it was released, the entire country of Finland went bananas. Everyone was talking about it, because, truthfully, a video that sexualized had not been done in Finland before. Especially by a guy. Never have I ever (take a drink if you have) in my life seen a video, where the gender positions were so clearly reversed. Usually you do not really see the guys dressing down, oiled and surrounded by smoke machines. Even if it were a video by a male artist, the ones naked would still be the women, because yes, sex sells, but doesn’t it seem like that in most cases it’s only true when there’s women involved? Sex sells, and sex demands attention, and sadly, it’s usually the women in the industry who have to carry the weight of this on their shoulders. That’s why Kohta Sataa caught the amount of media coverage and attention it did because it so clearly showed the viewers how women are usually portrayed in music videos and revealed the double-standards we are so ready and willing to ignore. When you went to read the comments section under the video, most of the comments were about the “ridiculousness” of the video, because the one grinding wasn’t a woman, but a guy. The director of the video, Viivi Huuska, a new maker in the Finnish show business, told in interviews that she made the video specifically with that goal in mind. She wanted to put under spotlight the position women hold in our societies, how they are made into objects, who only carry value through the level of sexuality they can portray. It seemed unfathomable to some people that a man, a man, a heterosexual Finnish man, would be doing something like this. That sort of hip movement is reserved for women and, according to a few Finnish guys, gay men.
Huuska has also directed another video where she highlights the ridiculous role women play in music videos made by male artists. A group of Finnish rappers made a song (https://youtu.be/xpaI48BiNW0), and Huuska put a bunch of women on the video doing the most ridiculous things completely unrelated to the actual lyrics, such as eating spaghetti, drinking Pepsi, shooting plastic guns, and most dramatically, being on their hands and knees on a leash. Obviously, the said video also started an uproar about how sexist it was to put those women there on leashes, when they had no real part in the video or the song. The point that Huuska was making with the video was that in most videos we have those women dancing and gyrating in skimpy clothing, but it has become something so normal that we hardly even pay attention to it, let alone say anything about it. Only when it achieved an extra level, i.e. the women in the leashes, people started paying attention. The video shows how pointless the women usually are in the videos, but they are still there, because, hey, sex sells, doesn’t it?
Moreover, what is so striking about the Parkkonen video is the fact that I heard no comments about how he was such ‘a whore’, ‘a slut’, ‘selling himself for money’, ‘how he should go and put clothes on’. Compare it to the feedback Miley Cyrus received along the release of Wrecking Ball. Instead, Parkkonen was in some statements hailed as brave for showing so much. He was not a whore; he was a brave artist. Now, compare it to the female artists you see on stages and the amount of clothing they have on, which is usually short shorts and a top, usually a bra or a crop top. There’s nothing brave about that, but rather it’s the assumed performance outfit they’re expected to wear. They’re women, aren’t they? You gotta flaunt what you got. They aren’t brave when they dress down for the videos and squirm around, they’re just filling a certain requirement of their job. And of course, some women do it on their own will, they want to embrace it and that’s great, but we need to remember that there are female artists out there who feel forced to be put in that position where they are turned into these sex-objects to increase the sales. Many women have spoken up about this and brought attention to the part record labels and directors play in the image creation of an artist. For example, the likes of Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, and Camila Cabello have discussed the constant pressure of “being sexy“, even if they felt uncomfortable about it. To demonstrate, Cabello has recently been in the news for leaving her girl group Fifth Harmony, and she has, among other things, said that over-sexualization is one of the factors that made her decide to exit the group. Could you imagine the same news surfacing about a boy band member leaving a group? Zayn Malik didn’t leave One Direction because he was being told to sex it up, now did he?
Unfortunately, sex sells. There’s definitely been times where there’s stuff that I have not been comfortable with. . .
— Cabello in Glamour
So, to sum everything up, sex truly sells. Pete Parkkonen proved it by stripping it all off and making a video, which brought him more fame than any one of his previous attempts. And to be honest, without the video the song would not been as popular as it is now. But the problem isn’t the fact that sex sells, but it’s rather the fact that “sex sells” positions itself unequally between the sexes (no surprises there, I guess). Women are expected to do it and often have to do it, men can do it. And well, looking at the views on Pete’s video, maybe more men should start doing it. Whatever the outcome is, we just need to realize that there is something terribly wrong with the automatic expectation of sexuality when it comes to female artists.
“Yeah, I know, sex sells, baby”
- Coleman Hell, All the Monsters
Cabello’s interview in Glamour-magazine: http://www.glamour.com/story/pop-star-sexuality
With thanks to mirjami oja