Wednesday, June 17

Sex Sells but not vicee versee

So much 'sex in advertising' crap has come across my computer screen in the past 48 hours (not to mention a certain Nevada Senator and his defense of marriage/affair with staffer, don't get me started) that I really have to respond.

First up is the W Magazine supposed S&M spread modeled by a very buff Bruce Willis and his new bride Emma Heming. Shocking and graphic and daring oh my! The fact that Bruce models gloves from an actual medical sex toy website is supposed to make this photo spread authenticly kinky? And what exactly is authentic about an Alexander McQueen fox fur jacket and leather harness, which are only available to order from the designer? If this was sex porn instead of sales porn, we wouldn't be distracted from the sex by the stated fact that "Mrs. Willis shakes up the city with Chanel Long-Lasting Soft Matte Makeup in Soft Bisque." Not that you can see it under the fur helmet:

Dear Mister Willis: You dressed Chris Tucker in your vehicle 'The Fifth Element' in sexier clothes (via Jean Paul Gautier) than you do your new wife in W. Here's proof:

Love that dress--always have--always will.

But this whole bs "shocking" sexual images in advertising thing has got to stop. Because whenever sex is used to sell something, even sex, it's not shocking, it's boring. Terribly terribly boring. That's why the coral suited lady newscasters on CBS Morning can cover it, do "on the street interviews," re the "shocking" Threesome Calvin Klein ad in Soho.

It's boring because it's commerce rather than carnality, which means it is expressly designed for the public space and public sphere, something that is the opposite of illicit sex. If someone gets sexually excited by doing something illicit, shocking, and unacceptable to polite society, they will NOT do that thing on a five foot high billboard. That ruins the fun. We are not seeing Bruce and Emma's private honeymoon photos in W. That's perhaps the fantasy they were going for, but really. Who packs Fox fur? (Don't answer that. Furries can go with God and all that, but sex with animals is not what He in His Divine Wisdom had in mind. Nevermind Nevada Senators, don't get me started about those poor horses.)

But if Bruce and Emma are actually exhibitionists, this would still not be the result. Face it, to slake their thirst for real exhibitionism, they would have 'leaked' actual honeymoon sex video to some sleazy celebrity scandal website (no link but you know the one, dahlink) and the lighting would have been terrible and Alexander McQueen would have asked for his made-to-order harness back. Instead we have a "spread" designed to create [blog] buzz for a printed magazine, and look, it succeeded.

All of this reminds me of a wonderful New York Times review, entitled "The Empress has No Clothes," (good writing and germane to my argument; go read the whole thing) for that "Sex" book Madonna came out with several years ago. I never forgot the tagline Caryn James came up with for the book:

"No sex please, we're posing."


  1. Thanks, Bg, for your head-on comments.

    I actually have come to believe it's the same thing (as everyone is now doing the former).

    And who reads "W" now? Just more bread and circuses?


    commerce rather than carnality

  2. Killer points all, Blue Gal! Very, very nice post!

    And of course you're right -- a photo that shows up on morning TV, even morning cable TV, pretty much by-definition isn't shocking. Or, as you say, they wouldn't consider running it.

    By and large it's hard to sympathize with people who's fetish really is shocking people. In the long run they've got to support priggishness or else risk having to do stuff they can't stand either in order to get the shock value they need.*

    I mean, like, yeah, Bruce Willis and his wife posing in an industrial kitchen with a fur-suiter in a metal hat is just so daring and graphic I'm shocked the giant staff of professional photographers, assistants to the photographers, assistants to the models, assistants to the assistants, gophers, producers, schedulers, gaffers, makeup artists, hair artists, drapers, consultants, and stainless-steel polishers could stay awake... err... I mean keep their clothes on for the hours it took to setup and take those shots.

    Again, just a great takedown. Thanks!


    * Since you mostly blog politics you saw something similar at the height of the Bush era in the genuinely ugly initiatives Karl Rove & Co. came up with, and mainstream Republicans had to hold their noses to vote for, in order to keep the Republican/K-Street-Project 50%+1 strategy going.

  3. Speaking of Ruby Rhod, have you seen the president's new outfit? ;o)


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