Does Sex Sell?
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: IS VICTORIA'S SECRET TOO SEXY FOR THEIR OWN GOOD?
We all have heard the term: "Sex Sells." It's true that sex garners attention, but does it sell? Some would say no. That in many cases it just gives women a bad name or makes a brand look bad. Others might say, "Who doesn't like looking at 'attractive' people, and what does it mean to be attractive?" In this article let's explore the idea of beauty, how it relates to society, international standards, and build a baseline for a deeper conversation. For the purposes of this article let's set aside any discussion of weight as a factor, plenty of other authors have beat this topic into the ground, and it would too easy to lose focus on the deeper discussion points.
"We've so much gotten off our heritage ... too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine," said Sharen Turney, Victoria's Secret's chief executive, in a call with industry analysts. -- ABC NEWS
We tend to Clammer toward our own preferences for attraction: well-groomed, healthy, and or well-dressed people. A Clammer is a marine crustacean that burrows into the depths, which is also how we got the term clammer, or to dig. So let's dig into this topic, shall we?
- What is beauty and how does it effect us subconsciously?
- Are beauty, advertising, and moral standards defined differently in different areas of the world?
- How does the media portray moral standards, sex, beauty, and violence?
- What is social cognition?
- What is cognitive thinking?
- How does cognitive thinking effect the way we interact with the world, our computers, and society as a whole?
"Even though there have been studies which conclude that sex doesn't sell, it is commonly believed that it does. " -- Huffington Post, Madeline Wahl
Sex, beauty, love, and lust are at our core and an innate part of being human. Many cultures have fought with ideals such as feminism, slut shaming, and religious beliefs. In some parts of the world thoughts, actions, and looks or hiding your looks are integral to daily life. The book, Princess by Jean Sasson, gives you a raw look into the life of a Saudi Arabian princess. You feel her struggles and a modern fight for freedom. A fight that women in the USA have long since taken for-granted.
Ideals of Beauty
Korean Beauty StandardsThe Huffington Post published a dire piece on, "Why It's Unfortunate That 'Sex Sells' in Advertising and in Life." Coincidence, that the entire article consists of little more than nude images and tweets about those images? I think not.
Every culture has slight differences relating to expectations. In Korea for example, the ideal beauty standards is very real and often discussed. South Korea and North Korean standards differ slightly, and some regions differ, however Korean "ideal beauty" is something very quantifiable and tangible based on things like a V line chin, eye folds or lack of eye folds, and even lighter skin colors are coveted. In
Concepts of Ideal Beauty in Art and Renaissance Florence
Jennifer McMahon, in a discussion1 of the problem of beauty (the problem of reconciling the pre-reflective and reflective, or conceptual aspects of beauty), argues that an explanation of beauty must do two things:
- Account for the experience of beauty in such a way that both its subjectivity (I know something is beautiful by how it makes me feel rather than by first identifying the presence of necessary or sufficient conditions of beauty in the object) and objectivity (a judgment of beauty is grounded in objective properties in the object) can be understood as complementary rather than contradictory. In other words we need to provide a rational basis for beauty which does not translate into principles (logically necessary or sufficient conditions for beauty).
- Provide grounds for differentiating between the pleasures of the agreeably sensuous, the good and the beautiful.
Violence verse Sex
The original version of this article was slightly different and part of an essay I wrote in college, you'll notice that it was originally published in 2010. The original article is from 2007. Yes, sex sells but it's not the only thing exploited for advertising dollars, money, beauty, violence, and adventure are all tools we use to explore feelings. This dichotomy has been going on for centuries.
Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, rand two studies on media violence. In college, I had to listen to people tell me that gamers who are exposed to violence are prone to be (more)... violent. I do not like extreme violence in movies or games, but overall do not believe that either have indeed made me become a violent person. Seeing sexy posters and ads do not make me sexier. Some ads may peek my interest for a shopping spree, but I do not think the two (exposure to media sex and violence) correlate. It's not the same as growing up in a 3rd world country and being handed a gun at age five or being sold into human trafficking.
If you study advertising on a global scale you will notice that in Europe sex is a fact of life, but that violence, at least in advertising, is frowned upon more than it is in the USA. In Northern America, the tides seem to be turning more and more, violence is still very prominent in games, movies, and media but where nudity and sexuality where once taboo (think Janet Jackson Super Bowl XXXVIII) we're now inclined to overlook far more revealing imagery, books, and icons. By no means am I trying to lay judgement on where to draw the line for violence, sex, nudity and the like in broadcasting. It is not my place to say for all of society what is appropriate or amoral, but let's explore the idea of cognitive thinking and how this effects our thought process.
The Subconscious Reaction to Broadcasting, a Cognitive Reaction
Social cognition is a term that I learned in my junior psychology class. Cognition is the scientific term for "the process of thought" to knowing. Basically when you see an object, hear a sound, or start telling a story cognition is the process of remembering other pieces of that story.
Cognition is like a spider web of memory and when you remember one thing you often remember another and another. On a deeper level cognition effects your feelings and decision making. When you see a car coming you know that the object is probably faster than it appears, animals do not have this common sense. You also know that if someone lies to you, you may or may not be able to trust them. You have a memory of them lying to you and how that made you feel or react.
Think about the last few times you watched a movie with a villain. You probably didn't have very much sympathy for that villain, did you? Think about if that villain was a violent person, a rapist, or a murderer. What feelings did the villain's actions provoke? Towards the end did you hope that person disappeared, was locked up or worse yet, murdered themselves? The way that movies and the media skew our views can sometimes devalue life, our personal image, or time.
I know I certainly do not look like a Victoria's Secret model. I'm not tall enough, thin enough or symmetrically shaped like a barbie doll. In college I may have had abs, but have spent much of my time since then missing them. I'm not saying I think I'm the ugly duckling or even trying to have a pity party, simply pointing out how these images raise or lower the standard of morality.
Photo Credit Victoria's Secret Magazine
Photo Credit My Painting for Sale
Interesting Articles Related to This Topic:
- The Real Neuroscience of Creativity
- How advertisers use sex to sell products to women, Carmel Lobello
- Sexualization of Girls, Report by APA
- Does Sex Sell?, Psychology Today
- Magazines increase Selling Sexy Ads, UGA.EDU
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Originally publish 1/1/2010, additions made 2/8/2015