Does sex(iness) sell? Yes, without a doubt. The images discussed in this lecture were provocative, displaying the (so called) perfect form, in various degrees of undress. The high proportion of images discussed were of women being used as objects, as set dressing to help sell whatever unrelated item was being advertised at the time. If we think objectively about it, surely the people who are employed as these models, to depict themselves in these adverts as objects of desire or ‘things’ to be looked at, are selling themselves as that very commodity? They have been naturally gifted a face deemed beautiful by the industry – and no doubt worked hard at keeping their body in toned, hairless form – and so (knowingly), sell themselves to the industry as a beautiful, blank form, to be manipulated by the advertising agency into anything they need for that shoot. Sex certainly sells, but it has already been sold by the model before it ever reaches us.
Much was discussed about the objectification of women AND men in the field of media, and how both are used to sell items, using their form and placing them, generally, in demeaning ways. Pictures were discussed where the women were shown with their face cropped from the photo, or had a look that indicated a certain weakness, a person being dominated, being overpowered by the man. Less photos were then shown where the man is being used to sell similar items, in similar states of undress, but it seemed the consensus thought that the man was still in control; that he was not being made to do anything he didn’t want to do; that what he was doing was ok, but what the woman was doing was degrading. I disagree. In many of the female photos, the woman had the control, she was in power of he man, she was using her sexualness to take ownership of the situation. The ‘Hello Boys’ advert reportedly had people crashing their cars when they saw the billboard, overcome by their fixation of the woman. The man could do nothing but keep his eyes on the woman, like a puppy dog. Similar to many of the Helmut Newton photos: the woman is shown partially out of shot, and so it is seen that the man has the power, but the man is purely in awe of the female form, paralysed under her power. The YSL photo (the modern one, where the man is naked and looking down), wasn’t met with the same disgust as the female photos, as it seemed the man had control. No. In my opinion, he is shying away from the camera lens and looks uncomfortable. He had no control, he was stripped of masculinity and exposed to the naked truth. There may be an argument that there is a case of double standards. There is still (rightly), ongoing movements to stop the misrepresentation of women in the media – using sex to sell – and how shaming it is; but when men are used in a similar way, it is deemed ok, and not relatable at all. It is said that the women portrayed in photo shoots are not ‘real’ – with their fully toned bodies without a pubic hair on them – as it is not a real representation of women and shouldn’t be allowed; causing young people to try and achieve this unattainable form. These models are real (maybe some photos have been photoshopped), but they are real people. It seems less of an issue for men. Male models are toned, have chisel good looks, flowing hair and perfect teeth, showing unattainable levels of masculinity and making Hercules look like an accountant. Do men really just brush this sex sells image off as nothing to bother them; that they know that these can’t be real people and women know that, realistically, men don’t look like that? No. Men have feelings, they do care. They care the same way women care, it’s just not manly to say they have a problem with it.
So I guess sex(iness) does sell. It sells one of two things: either the pinnacle of what the human form can be, making us put down the cake and pick up the running shoes or it drives us further into our shells, stuffing our face with fried chicken and wearing a massive hat to cover our balding head. Who has the power in these images? The man or woman? Mostly, it’s the advertising agencies, but we ultimately have the power. We can look, enjoy the human form and then go for walk…just don’t buy anything their advertising, it’s usually ridiculously expensive crap that has appeared on the pages ‘Olla magazine.