Sunday, February 8, 2015


Does Sex Sell?


"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 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 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?
Esquire recently published an article on the rise of the "Spornosexual". Try to ignore the disagreeable term (spornosexual), that is repeated throughout the article, and you get a well written piece on a man transforming himself into what he considers the ideal of today's western standards. In the Esquire article, the author believes a big part of what it means to be attractive has a direct correlation to his fitness level and how much he exercises, but his photos also seem to transform his personal style and viewpoints.

"Even though there have been studies which conclude that sex doesn't sell, it is commonly believed that it does. " -- Huffington PostMadeline 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 Standards

The 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

Cognitive thinking, in essence, is how a mind journeys from one thought to the next. It is thought by some researchers that beauty lies in the exotic or unattainable. Other's believe in art and beauty as a science. The Ramachandran’s principles of art set baselines for artistic principals and beauty.
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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

So how does Social Cognition relate to Victoria's Secret, Violence, or SEX?

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.

I'd love to read your feedback on here or on my twitter account.

Photo Credit Victoria's Secret Magazine

Photo Credit My Painting for Sale

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Originally publish 1/1/2010, additions made 2/8/2015

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Senior UI/UX web designer at a large-scale IT contractor for defense, intelligence, and civilian government solutions. Adventurist and certified Yoga / Barre Instructor. Love aviation, books, and travel.Prefer long light hearted series in mystery, comedy, fantasy, and romance.
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  1. Holly Beth Is it really possible to be "too sexy?"
    7 hrs · Unlike · 1

    Desarae Veit Read the article lol
    7 hrs · Like

    Holly Beth But is it really necessary to even read? Lol with a title like that! I will started to and got distracted!
    7 hrs · Like

    Holly Beth Okay so it basically said what I thought it would. I'm not surprised however,, because the article was written by a woman. Violence and sex have never gone hand in hand to me. I wonder if this was written also with the Fifty Shades of Grey in mind and all that controversy. It infuriates me when other women are judgmental simply because they have a different viewpoint. To each her own! I think after going to Europe, I realized many Anericans are quite uptight or conservative. There is an article written by an American who was transferred to ️Paris, to write about French women and their view on lingerie. That was thee best article, bout women and being sexy. Journelle posted it, I'll try to find it. Yeah the article was interesting but I think the writer's conjecture is the main objective. Just my opinion though! The lingerie in Europe? Everywhere in Paris, not like here where most only know of VS. It's also much prettier than VS!
    6 hrs · Like

    Holly Beth Sorry the VS article is the article I think the article is largely based on her opinion. The Journelle article I gotta find for you.
    6 hrs · Like

    Desarae Veit lol
    2 hrs · Like

    Desarae Veit How much of the article did you read? I must have missed the "fifty shades of grey" reference. Especially since the article was originally written in 2010 as a way to study cognitive thinking, or how we think about beauty and less about forcing a singl...See More
    1 hr · Like

    Desarae Veit Greg Veit
    1 hr · Like

    Holly Beth Oh no I meant it's odd with all the controversy going on about 50 Shades of Grey! I'm a fast reader, and yes I read the entire article. It was redundant to say the least!
    36 mins · Like

    Holly Beth [...] to say the least!

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