Selling Sexy

Woman have been used for decades to sell things.  Fancy cars that you need an autobahn to enjoy, unattainable lifestyles with motor boats and Rolex watches, men’s cologne that promise instant gratification without lifting a hand: you name it, women are used to sell it.  Other women have fought for decades to stop this from happening.  To stop women from being ogled and manipulated and abused.  There seems to be some disconnect between men and women despite the suffragette and feminists hard work.  Women still have to sell sexy in order to succeed.

What got me to thinking about this was the band One Direction.  I have a teenage girl in the house so I’m not some ageing cougar stalking innocent young lads.  I’ve even been to one of their concerts and quite enjoyed it.  They are a bunch of relatively clean-cut, well dressed, talented young men who are able to make the girls scream and shout without resorting to jumping around stage in their underwear.  The act before them ? Some unknown girl from I don’t know where who by the end of her performance had stripped off a couple of layers to end up in a bustier and some kind of tutu-nightmare. Hmmmm ….

Look at girl bands in the last 20 years – Spice Girls: all flash and boobs.  Pussy Cat Dolls: all leather, stilettos and boobs.  Destiny’s Child: cutouts, high heels, gyrations and boobs.  TLC: combats, sports bras and boobs.  Need more evidence?

Top 20 Girl Bands

Bands named Sugarbabes, Atomic Kitten, Girlicious and No Angels.  All writhing around in a state of semi-nakedness while either engaging in titillating behavior like the camera is their new boyfriend or jumping around like they shook out their last brain cell.  I’m not saying that these ladies aren’t talented.  For the most part they have decent voices and typical sugar-pop lyrics but obviously that isn’t enough.  Somebody has decided that girls aren’t worthy to sell their music based on talent and ability.  Boobs, innuendo and cow-towing to male dominated fantasy are apparently de rigueur.

And then we check out the boy bands. Interesting to note that there is nary a high heel, peekaboo dress or body part other than biceps flaunted.  There is no gyrating, finger in the pouty mouth or hair tossing.  There is the odd come hither look with puppy dog eyes as they move with choreographed routines that inspire us to rock out like the Jackson 5.  I’ve yet to see a booty come shakin’ at the camera like it was having its own earthquake.

Top Boy Bands

The whole tone of the songs are different.  More why won’t you love me and baby I’m sorry versus come do nasty things to me.  But the girls in the videos ? Well we’re right back at the boobs, heels, and booty.  The boys are all dressed up to the neck unless you count showing the band of their underwear above their jeans as risqué. But the girls, not so much.  They take on the sexy role that somehow the men are not able to emote in quite the same way.  Or is it just easier to let women sell their music for them ? To sell the fantasy that you too could have some scantily clad 18-year-old writhing around at your feet if only you could find five friends to carry a tune with ? Once again, these are some talented guys with decent moves and voices you can listen to without cringing.  The songs follow the same route with the safe, sugar-pop lyrics of their female contemporaries except for the girls are far more overt in the “give it to me now” messaging.

I know there are those shaking their heads and saying this battle is something that will rage on forever.  Between the women participating in it because they believe it’s the only way to get ahead and the men who encourage that belief, what can society do ?  I don’t know what it would take to finally have a shift in consciousness significant enough to embrace girl groups that rely on talent and personality alone.  I know I strongly discourage my daughter from following most of the girl bands. The ones worth looking up to are few and far between and I don’t need her getting the impression that this is how she needs to dress and act to be successful.  My daughter is better than that.  Oh yeah – I said it.

It wasn’t always this way.  The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and The Shirelles started it off.  The Runaways took us in to the 70’s though they had their image issues. The Bangles, The Go-Go’s and Bananarama took us in to the 80’s.  Things seemed to go down hill during this time with male glam metal bands cutting in to the share of make-up and large hair looks.  Maybe that was the end of the “good girl” bands.  Glam bands cut in to the female music realm and women felt they had to prove their sexuality against bulging spandex pants and eye make up that made Tammy Faye Baker look like an Avon lady.

My hope ? That smart and talented will make a comeback and triumph again over the hyper-sexualized music industry that we see today.  That with the decline in glam rock women won’t feel they have to prove their feminism other than to out-sing some of the lip syncing hacks currently on the scene.  That maybe men will learn to value women for their talent and abilities and not just their boobs.  That we find a way to connect talent and success once again.  I’m sure Christabel Pankhurst, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinhem and many other pioneers for women’s rights, would find that sexy indeed.

5 thoughts on “Selling Sexy

  1. I think this has more to do with avoiding the appearance of homosexuality than with audience preferences.

    I think this is especially noticeable when you start looking at solo artists. The disparity between who’s selling sexy becomes a lot narrower. The man who comes to mind immediately as selling sex and doing so in ways to make women swoon in ecstasy was Elvis Presley. Now, the way the solo artists present sexy is a bit different; women are often alone and skimpily dressed whereas men often have an anonymous skimpily dressed woman. But this isn’t always the case – think of all the male solo artists who have bared their chests and shown peeks of underwear (or suggestiveness of none).

    Whereas for the bands, the boys need to avoid any suggestion that they’re gay for each other by letting their naked bits get too close to someone else’s (Village People), while homoerotic suggestiveness is more acceptable for girls, not just because of the male gaze that likes it but also because physical closeness in general is more socially acceptable for girls.

    Didn’t mean to write an essay in response. 🙂 You just got me thinking.

    • I didn’t think of the gay aspect but I can see your point. The proportion of naked, I think you will agree, is very disproportionate between the sexes. If the man who was baring his chest also had boy short underwear on, construction boots (the mans equivalent to high heels I guess) and was thrusting his package out at every opportunity that would be one thing. But just baring biceps and the top of his Calvin’s ? Hmmmm … Elvis had true talent in his voice. I think he enjoyed the swivelling of the hips and the effect it had on women but he didn’t need it. One look with those deep eyes and snarling lips and the girls would still be swooning. I think it’s just gone too far. When you have to rely on fireworks spouting out of your boobs or riding on horseback in a wet, white dress then something is missing …

  2. There are female entertainers who do cover up and dress elegantly but the flash and cash crowd dominate the visual space… responding to a public hungry for more? Perhaps. Sadly, this approach wont change until women learn to own their talent without resorting to what you describe.

  3. Hello would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m
    looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

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