Sex Sells All Salt Lake City!

Sex really does sell in Salt Lake and Tooele.  Just watch a prime-time television series or two and you’ll see blatant sexuality that wouldn’t have even aired just 10 years ago.  Better yet, watch just one series of commercials airing during prime-time.  Whether it’s Carls Jr, Victorias Secret (nothing “secret” here!), etc., arguing that sex isn’t being used to sell products is pointless to the extreme.

Carl's Jr. Restaurant exteriorI’ve watched with interest recently as BeautyRedefined.org (BR) and it’s founders University of Utah grads Dr.’s Lindsay and Lexie Kite have taken Carl’s Jr. to task over their advertising.  As everyone on the planet likely knows, Carl’s depicts very fit and nearly naked young women eating their monstrous hamburgers provocatively, alluringly…ridiculously.   BR’s assertion is that by depicting women in this manner that they’re turning women into essentially sexual objects to be consumed by men.  In fact, they’ve hit social media strongly, asking their 40,000+ peeps on Facebook and several thousand Twitter followers to flood the Internet with #cutthecarls and (women are) #morethanmeat.  Awesome!

Not surprisingly, BR’s push back at Carl’s and essentially going toe to toe with their advertizing and marketing schemes has created quite a stir in the media.  In fact, one of many responses on their website from “James” included this snippet: “SEX sells. It always has, it always will. You are not going to change that. Why don’t you put your time and efforts into something more important like homelessness or starving children, or child abuse. GET A LIFE!!!”  That’s certainly one view!  The BR ladies were also interviewed on CNBC recently.  The interview was striking as the male co-host essentially stated about Carl’s ad “I’m a young, hungry guy and although I don’t eat there I’m not going to lie, I kinda like their commercials and bikini clad, very hot young women.”  Click here to locate a snippet of this interview.  http://www.beautyredefined.net/cut-the-carls/

As a mental health therapist who counsels women (and men) of all ages in the Salt Lake City area and speaks in the community often, it is glaringly apparent that there is immense pressure on women to reach an unattainable level of beauty and femininity.  Media, Social Media and society promote this ridiculous requirement that women look and act a certain way, e.g., Victoria’s Secret ads (VS). Young women are particularly vulnerable to this hype believing that “I’ve got to look like a model, be alluring like a VS model, and provocative/sexual to get or keep a boyfriend.”  The upstart to this is that since only a fraction of the population are 6 feet tall and have won the genetic lottery in regards to stereotypical beauty, the remaining 99.5% of the female population are left to either accept who they are or seek beauty enhancements that all too often include surgery, unsafe dieting, or…even full blown eating disorders.  I’ve blogged on these issues previously arguing that modest is indeed hottest.  I also argued that there are societal stereotypes that require women to show much more of their body then men, be more alluring than men, and, essentially valued only for their bodies.  Please follow this link for some nice insight. http://englandcounseling.org/modest-really-is-hottest/

Knowing that we are raising a generation of young men and young women who are under immense pressure to perform outwardly with their appearance is glaringly apparent.  Not only are young women under pressure to be “perfect” physically, young men are under the damaging illusion that only outwardly “perfect” young women are desirable and thus worth getting to know.  As a result, young men are looking just on the outward appearance and young women believe that only their physical, exterior attributes matter.  The resulting pressure to perform is driving anxiety and depression levels to increase and very likely life satisfaction among many teens to decrease.  What can be done?  I offer these three suggestions:

WomanSunglassesecs1) Sex sells in the media! Make sure that the standards that you set in your home are understood and followed.  That is, if its offensive and demeaning to women, let it be known and change the channel! Then…

2) Be willing to state your standards in your home, in the community and on social media. Support worthy groups such as BR’s efforts to push back at Carls, VR and many, many others. Oh and yeah, if you don’t agree with their company’s apparent value system, don’t frequent the business!

3) While a subject for another blog, be willing to keep immodesty and pornography out of your life…including your spouse’s if married.  I’ve blogged on this key subject arguing that young (and old!) men are being impacted by it.  Follow this link for details. http://englandcounseling.org/pornography-addiction-counseling-west-valleymagnatooele/

Regarding Carl’s Jr. and likely many other advertisers, BR stated that “the problem with everyone that uses idealized women’s bodies for their “sex sells” campaigns is that this is the least sexy thing  they could possibly be selling.  Messages that depict one narrow definition of “hot” and one way to think about, view and use women — solely as an object for sexual pleasure — are actually damaging sexuality for both sexes by limiting what we perceive as “sexy” and keeping all of us preoccupied with looking “sexy” rather than enjoying sexuality.” Well stated!

Lastly, I think we’re all in agreement that sex sells.  It sells cars, it sells jeans…it even sells toothpaste.  That doesn’t make it right. Right for you, right for your family…or right for your husband or wife. Be willing to stand up for who you are and what you believe, even when you’re not popular by stating it…even to your teenager!

Michael Boman, LCSW, is a relationship and marriage expert who blogs often on pornography, food and other addictions, families in crisis, and items that directly impact the community.  As the Clinical Director of England Counseling Services and LifeSTAR Oquirrh, he welcomes your objective and insightful comments.