Sex Sells in the media

Feb 232004
Authors: Stacey Schneider

In the past few weeks, I have found no need to even open up the

newspapers; I can already forecast what will be decorating the

newsprint pages. There will for certain be some article about a

corrupt politician, one article still chastising the Super Bowl’s

infamous “wardrobe malfunction” (by the way, can anyone tell me who

actually won the game?) and 30 articles on the sexual escapades at

the University of Colorado. If you take a good look at all these

topics, and excuse the upcoming math term, the lowest common

denominator is: sex.

While sex has always been a favorite of journalists and the

public alike, it has seemed to leap to the forefront of news in

recent months. Janet Jackson and her “show” at the Super Bowl is

just one brick in this building. Sex is the hot topic at the school

to the south where it seems it has been used as a top-notch

recruiting tool to sell their Big 12 football team.

Donald Trump and his show “The Apprentice” highlight the use of

the “sex sells” tactic. In the various competitions throughout past

weeks, the women’s team has found that pretty women and sex appeal

can drive you to the win. Although reprimanded by Trump for this

behavior, they have not yet been kicked off, proving the usefulness

of this school of thought.

Sex is obviously not just seen in the newspapers and on the 5

p.m. news. Every television station and show has this image in some

fashion, starting with the aptly named “Sex in the City” where all

aspects of four women’s lives are detailed, often graphically. Even

though this show’s title showcases the sexual content displayed,

some shows are a little more discrete. Sex has popped up in

everything from “The O.C.” to “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Research at the University of California at Santa Barbara shows

that 64 percent of television shows include some type of sexual

content, and 14 percent actually show people having sex.

What is the justification of all for this sex? Are all of the

media, television producers, marketers and advertisers, head

football coaches, and sex-deprived people searching for an outlet?

Well, some might be, but it is too common a theme for that to be

the answer. The real reason is obvious: sex sells.

Whether or not we like to admit it, sex does catch our

attention, which is exactly what they want it to do. Then, the

ultimate goal is to reel us in. Many advertisers and television

shows have proven to be very successful with this. No guy can tell

me they go to Hooters for the hot wings.

When did this blatant display of sex become the norm? When did

society say it was OK? Sure, there are people today who fight this

sexual image. Groups of moms and religious organizations band

together to try and stop this “sex sells” practice. But I fear that

they are just fighting a losing battle. The sexual image has become

so engrained in society that it would be nearly impossible to

change. Ranting and raving about sexual content just highlights the

advertisements and television shows even more, bringing them more

publicity and media time. Governmental regulations might stop the

overtly deliberate content, but they are still not going to get sex

out of society.

So if complaining and setting rules are not the answer, what is?

For the time being, the best thing is apathy. Sex is used to stir

up emotion and get you to buy the ultimate product, whether that is

beer, viewership or a football team. If we don’t respond to these

sexual images, by not buying the product for example, the end

result will show up in the numbers.

Many businesses are driven by the numbers, and when those

numbers decline, red flags go up. If the sex stops becoming

important and selling, they will move on. What they will move on to

remains up in the air, but this indifference to the sexual message

is the best shot we have at the moment.

Sex is not going to stop. The best thing we can hope for is that

it levels out and does not continue to push the limits. In the

meantime, expect it on all your favorite shows. When you go home

tonight to watch all those programs you recorded on TiVo, do not be

surprised by what comes on.

Stacey is a senior majoring in marketing. Her column runs every

other Tuesday.

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