What effect does sex in the media have on society?

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Answered by: Skye, An Expert in the Sexuality Category
Did you know that you burn about 200 calories during 30 minutes of rough sex? Or, did you know that more than 50% of people in the U.S have engaged in group sex? Well, just as those sexual facts sparked your interest, advertisers often use sex in the media, as well, to spark the interest of many of their potential customers. Dating back to the early 1800's, sex has proven to be a major success in the media to lure consumers in to buy their products. Although a great percentage of products are sold by the success of unique, consumer relatable advertisements, over the years, the mild sexual connotations conveyed in these ads have become increasingly provocative and have negatively dictated an immoral and degrading role to their targeted audience, creating many long-term adverse effects. Imagine this: Picture a girl in her mid-teens wearing a cropped, shorter version of her Catholic school skirt and an extra small Puma jacket that shows her bare middrift. Imagine that the picture is cropped so that she can only be seen from shoulder to toe. Imagine she is in Puma sneakers on her knees in front of a standing man, who is also wearing Puma sneakers, with her hands resting on his legs. And here’s the icing on the cake: Imagine a creamy white substance dripping down the side of her leg that is definitely not ice cream. Attention ladies and gentlemen. If you enjoy having oral sex, go to Puma and buy their brand new sneakers that offer great support when you have to get down on your knees and degrade yourself, by giving the good deed. This, essentially, is the message that this Puma advertisement is screaming.

In Puma’s ad, every detail targets a specific audience that they want their product to attract. The portrayal of the “naughty school girl” attracts the adolescent age group that is transitioning into their rebellious stage. Puma designers and advertising officials target young adults because their generation create “fads”. When one teen buys a particular product and it is liked, other teens ask their parents if they can buy it and it becomes the new trend. That age group is a top seller, not only in the fashion industry, but also in other industries, such as the music industry and car industries. For instance, in 1999, Judy Foerm, Ford Motor’s brand manager, targeted her advertising around the “young trendsetters”, with a goal to sell about 50% of Ford Focus’s to the youth as well as the “baby boomers”. By the end of the year, she accomplished her goal when sales showed that 46% of Ford Focus’s were sold to young adults (Halliday 1). Clearly, Puma is very clever because sex, itself, sells and so does youth targeted advertisements, but to combine them is ingenious--so it seems.By placing a boy and a girl in the advertisement, Puma also attracts the adolescent age group that are transitioning into young adults who are beginning to get into relationships. This day in age, each year, sex is selling, not only to adults and young adults, but to preteens, as well. Approximately 50 % of teens between the ages of 15 and 17 are having sex (Melby 1); therefore, if there is a product that relates to sex performance or sex in general, it will definitely succeed in attracting teens.

Because advertisements like this Puma ad are circulating through the media, the long-term effects of this strategy will not be good. Although it positively raises the profit percentages of many companies, in the long run, they will directly, negatively affect the very audience their advertisements targeted. Rachel Devlin, an associate professor at Tulane University says, “Advertisements, teen films, and music videos churn out an inescapable barrage of sexually provocative images of teenage girls. Some of the best contemporary social criticism has been concerned with the impact of commercial culture on girls' identity, or, as Joan Jacobs Brumberg recently put it, ‘the interaction between the garish commercial culture … and the psyches of ordinary girls.’”. Because of advertisements that use sex to sell their products, teens will think that it is okay to engage in sex, which will keep increasing the number of teenage pregnancies. Studies show that 70% of teenagers lose their virginity between the ages of 13 and 14 (Pan American Journal of Public Health 7). Like a domino effect, teen pregnancy will also cause a strain on parents to take care of their children’s children, the abortion rate may rise, more people will be forced to go on welfare, the government will forced to cut the budget of more schools and create more group homes for single teen parents, and so forth. It will be a chain reaction.

It can be argued that advertisements do not play a large role in dictating the lives of many people, but looking back at the 1950’s, that is not the case. Many companies based their advertisements around the “perfect” family and the roles that women played in them. An ad from the cookbook To the Bride, reads:

The way to a man's heart, so we've always been told, is a good working knowledge of pot, pan, and mold. The talented gal who can whip up a pie, rates a well deserved rave from her favorite guy. A juicy red steak, Or a tender, fish fillet done to a turn in a bright copper skillet Will soothe the rough edges Of tempers, no fooling!!! And leave the man happy contented and drooling.

Advertisements like these created an ideal image of being a housewife and encouraged them to do so more than the limited educational advertisements. Sadly, these ads proved to be more effective. Statistics show that during that time period, although women had the option to be independent and go to college, they did not. More than 50% of women assumed the role of the housewife, who cooks, cleans, and has babies, just as advertisements of the time portrayed. Also, note that that time period was also known as the “baby boom” era.

     Based on these statistics, it is safe to say that advertising does, in fact, play a major role in the lives of the targeted consumers; however, the use of sex will negatively influence many young adults’ lives. Sex in the media is great for selling products, but is it worth the long-term effects that it dictates to society?

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