Sex is used to sell practically everything today, from personal hygiene products to sport utility vehicles. But ads featuring models wearing come-hither looks run a certain risk: Some women find them offensive, and their negative attitude can rub off on the product or service being sold.
A newly published study reports this dynamic is real, but limited. A research team led by the University of Minnesota’s Kathleen Vohs reports women do find sexual imagery in advertisements distasteful—but only when erotic appeal is used “to promote a cheap product.”
This finding provides evidence for what the researchers call “sexual economics theory,” which suggests women “want sex to be seen as rare and special.” Associating lovemaking with a luxury item is one thing; using it to sell shaving cream is quite another….
Of course, as we know, sex has been used to sell shaving cream to men — quite famously. The study found that men reacted the same to the ads whether the product was cheap or expensive.
Simple creatures, men…