Sex Sells - Except When You're Selling Sex

Is it true that sex sells? I was recently the call-in sex expert for a radio show back in my home state of PA. The show is called Sex & Sensibility with host Jill McDevitt, the owner of the Feminique Boutique erotic store. Our topic of discussion was economics, spending, marketing, and sexuality.

I shared the example of when I co-owned Zip Zap Toys, an erotic product company for women, and we were buying advertising space to announce workshops in the San Diego Reader. The Reader is bursting with the plastic surgery ads, photos of women in bikinis, and also has ads for male sexual enhancement products. We, however, were not allowed to say what we actually sold, but were instructed to call the products "marital aids." The only way I was able to get any semblance of the word "sex" in the ad about female sexual empowerment and education was because I am a "sexual health educator." The double standard was loud and clear.

Jill shared a recent story of advertising for her company. She found that local newspapers would publish ads of women in bikinis for bars, cars, and even something as nonsexual as lamps. But when she attempted to place an ad for her erotic store with a pin-up style model photo, she was told it was too risque. The clear message here? Women's sexuality can be used to sell everything except for education and empowerment of positive women's sexuality.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego