The serious Issue about "Sex Sells" and Why it's Time for a Change
by hotcoco on September 26, 2016 - 10:28pm
“Sex sells” is a common phrase we have all heard. Companies use it as a tactic to grab consumers attention and Gaspari Nutrition is not any different. The company specializes in science based sport nutrition supplements. They guarantee that this product will get men stronger, leaner and bigger. The founder, Rich Gaspari is himself a very strong, lean and big man, he’s won multiple titles including “Mr. America”. Ironically, this company does not come near to demonstrating recent american values which includes the equality and proper treatment of women. Instead, this firm uses the subjectification of women to endorse products. An ad released by the company with men as its target audience in the late 2000’s sparked controversy and upset many feminists for good reason.
The advertisement stars Marzia Prince, an award winning trainer and model sitting on the floor with her legs sprawled out. Her upper body is covered with her long blond hair and a small white bikini top. As for her bottom half, her legs are wide open with the product conveniently placed in between them. Although the majority of the ad is taken up by Prince, the company is actually trying to sell Halodrol, a type of supplement. The ad focuses entirely on the model and the product itself is not very visible.
Gaspari Nutrition sends three messages to its consumers. Firstly, it suggests that all men want sex. In bold, the ad says “the most sought after box” however, this box is placed right in front of the girl’s vagina. It insinuates that all men are looking for is sex with a woman, that nothing else is as important except sex and being muscular. Secondly, the commercial sets unrealistic beauty standards on women, even though the product is actually geared towards men. The 5’9 woman weighs a mere 127 pounds while the average american woman is about 166.2 pounds (Cortney Coren, Average weight of women today same as men in 1960’s, NewsMax). An ad like this one convinces young impressionable men that all women look like this; a perfectly toned body, tan skin and long luscious hair. Finally, Marzia Prince is seen as a sexual object like many other women used in commercials. Her open legs suggests that she is “asking for it”. It tries to insinuate that Marzia Prince can be used for the sole purpose of sex. It gives the woman no important role except to look pretty and spread her legs, essentially dehumanizing her.
To a lot of consumers, these sex focused advertisements are not alarming but that is where the problem lies. Due to the overwhelming amount of sexist commercials we are bombarded with each and everyday, we become desensitized to it. These commercials become the norm so we fail to critique them although there is so much to say and change. In the Gaspari Nutrition ad, the eye-popping headline saying that this little box (symbol for a woman’s vagina) is what all men want. This is a huge generalization, framing all men as heterosexual sex crazed animals which is clearly not accurate. It teaches men that sex should be on their minds at all times. The media confines men to rigid expectations.
The overwhelming perfection of the model in the advertisement as well as women seen on television, magazines and movies creates unrealistic beauty standards for young women. Women end up spending money to look like people in the media, on average 1 million is spent on cosmetics every hour (Cortese 60). The pressure of being perfect can lead to detrimental consequences. For example, a woman named Megan shared her lifelong struggle with body image issues including anorexia, bulimia and cutting. Megan admits that even years later, she still struggles with her body and that her recovery will be a long process (Cortese 63-65). Fortunately, certain companies and organizations are countering these types of ads with body positivity ones such as Dove, Aerie, etc.
Gaspari Nutrition manages to surface a less common issue that gets far less attention than needed; men and self-esteem. For men, body image is a more private issue but it is still very existent. In the media, men are most commonly depicted as tall, muscular and rational. This installs fear in men that they might not conform to these stereotypical attributes (Cortese 69-73). Gaspari uses the expectations imposed on men to sell a protein supplement. They use the insecurities that men have to make a profit, similarly to the cosmetic industry. This advertisement reveals insight on the very real but less noticed issue of men also having body-image dissatisfaction.
“Sex sells” is not the only tactic that can be used in effectively selling a product. In order to make this advertisement more efficient in grabbing consumers attention, the company could focus more on the product itself by enlarging the picture of it and offering more information. In addition, they could show a before and after picture of people who have successfully used this product. Not only will this remove the sexual objectification but it will also allow consumers to see actual results.
In our western world, the population has become almost completely desensitized to the abundance of sexual media we are exposed to each and everyday. However, it is still important that we critique and analyze these commercials in order to raise awareness and create change so that women and men are no longer held to such high unattainable standards.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 57-89.
Isaac Hindes. Women in Supplement Ads. Hardbodynews, March 25 2008, (http://www.hardbodynews.com/2008/03/25/ad-watch-women-in-supplement-ads/).