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Alms for the Love of Ella

by on February 7, 2015

                                            Alms For The Love Of Ella

By Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

This piece is a revised version of one I published in Cheers magazine some years ago.

“On the boobs of a barmaid in Crail

Was writ the price of pale ale,

And on her behind,

For the sake of the blind,

It was also written in braille.”

George B., Scottish soldier, written while his was bogged down at the Arno in World War II, 1944.

For many people, sexual intercourse is simply masturbation by proxy. One of the most ridiculous, and degrading euphemisms in American usage is, “making love”, a reference to doing the Hokey Pokey.  In the words of the famous song, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Yet, this casual thinking underlies a broad approach to the uncritical acceptance of jingoisms, including the “you know, they say” level of such myths as “Sex sells”. Certainly, sexual imagery is used in advertizing.  But why?

Let’s take the ad for that new product you are not sure you need; the three speed reversible electric nose picker. Now, let’s include an image of a winsome wench looking out at you demurely, perhaps curling herself about an enlarged image of the picker as if it has just replaced all the other buzzing toys in her nightstand. The message here is that somehow a purchase of the product will bring you an encounter with those (typified by the wench) who value the product – or the effect. Buy the product; get the value expressed toward it by some kind of magical transference. Sorry to disappoint, but Saturday nights will be as they always were, save a different buzzing.

The five most obvious sexually marketed products have been: Tobacco, liquor, automobiles, jewelry, and women’s underwear. Cigarette ads assured us that “It’s what’s up front that counts” and that they were “round, firm, and fully packed”.  And what pubescent boy did not spend time scrutinizing the hind quarter of a camel (on Camel cigarette packs) to discern the “naked woman in there”?  The Marlboro Man was a rugged icon of masculinity, but for whom? Other cowboys?  Brokeback Mountain?  Not likely.  Smoke this and you’ll be in the saddle.

Liquor ads routinely feature women in alluring poses, just waiting for the buyer of the liquor to impair their judgment with a taste. Beer, of course, is for lightening up (an excellent example of cognitive dissonance).  Remember the “Swedish Ski Team”, not one of the bikini clad beauties being Swedish. Bottle blonde hair with breasts that appeared to have been recently serviced by a near-sighted helium vendor. Perhaps the surgical implements used to enhance their anatomies were Swedish. But this followed an era in which Americans were convinced that Swedes were sexually liberated.  Of course, it went unsaid that excessive use of alcohol often has a rather deflating effect on a man’s periscope. 

In the days of real sports cars, driving a Jaguar XKE, a four wheeled penis, was a statement against floundering potency, especially since most of the buyers were older men in need of demonstration.  It was a sad example of claim coming before capability; Viagra had not yet been invented.  In the mid 1970’s I stopped into an exotic car dealer to consider a “pre-owned” Rolls Royce Silver Dawn (actually, a Bentley Mark VI with Rolls radiator and badge). Any doubts I may have had that the car would be fun to own were allayed by the sales girl, wearing a completely transparent blouse with nothing (or a lot of something) underneath.  I wondered how she spent her day. Perhaps a second job advertizing energy absorbing bumpers.  And, going to car shows often meant watching scantily clad women trying to keep from sliding off a sloping hood.  The message?  Buy the car and the extra padding comes with it, so to speak.  But why, exactly, should a woman be attracted by a car? I suspect it was the underlying message that the man had money.  What a terrible statement about women.

Every year, around the manufactured holidays such as Valentine’s Day,  the media is glutted with ads for women’s jewelry, usually diamonds.  We remember, certainly, that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” A currently running ad shows a male penguin offering a plain stone to a female penguin as part of the mating ritual.  Immediately the ad cuts to a set diamond and exhorts the viewer to select the diamond as true “proof” of love.  The take away?  Bring a diamond to a rock concert and it will be raining panties. What’s a woman to do with this expensive rock, stash it away somewhere so that when she divorces you it can simply be listed during the financial settlement as hers by gift and not subject to negotiation? What would happen if a man bought diamond jewelry for himself and simply let the woman wear it once in a while?  No, women have been put on a rent-to-own level, and some seem happy to be there.

Women’s underwear ads are really head turning, though perhaps not in the way intended. While advising women to “feel pretty” or “alluring” by wearing under items that are more intricately crafted than over items, what are they saying? A glimpse at the package will make a man pay for the contents?  But if a man sees the undergarments, isn’t he already just about there?

Is it any wonder that children entering the dating scene begin to view sexual contact as an arena of barter?  If a burger gets the bra, a steak must surely get the panties. Why not just give her the money and quit wasting time?

In the first seven of my 23 years with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention I worked in STD and HIV/AIDS epidemiology.  Throughout those years I met, interviewed, and treated a very large number of prostitutes (from dumpster divas to film “actresses”) and took part in national and international “sex worker” research studies.  I also spent many nights in various nude club “dressing” rooms. I found a remarkable common denominator; many of these women claimed, on some level, that they despised, and even hated men.  Indeed, whether “talking with a John” (performing oral sex) or undulating on someone’s lap, the primary goal was to get the desired reaction as quickly as possible.  This was not a commercial tactic in the same way a waitress “turns a table” for the next tip paying customer.  It was a statement of power over men in general, and it was more gratifying as the perceived power of the man was higher; quickly rendering the paper boy was not comparable to quickly rendering a Congressman.

So, if “sex sells”, what is really being marketed?  Access to power. Specifically, an increase in potential power over others. I’ve known several women who had silicone breast implants. Usually, they quickly said they got them only to please a former husband or boyfriend.  But, in moments of honesty they admitted to getting them for their “power”.  Power?  Putting my ear close I could not detect a thing.  But power does seem to be the common denominator. Enter a room blouse first and the room is at your command.

Speaking of power, some firearms manufacturers have been marketing handguns and even rifles in pink, one diminutive handgun titled, “Ladysmith”.  What are they thinking, Barbie packin’ heat? Of course a REAL man would never be caught…er, dead with one of those.

So whizz by in your 400hp vibrator and panties blow off down the block. Expose a bit of the underwear that would have Medieval catapult engineers scratching their heads and the corporate board room will spring to attention. But is that the ultimate product?

I am well aware that “Women’s liberation” and related movement have been trying for decades to overturn this blatantly disgusting image of women.  So I am still disturbed that more women are not vocal about these issues.  When does a little girl buy into the power trip?  And, why?

Somewhere inside this kaleidoscopic social matrix is a person seeking personal validity. The need to prove self worth to the self by demonstrating it through the reactions of others is the bottom line.  This entire complex could be obviated by enabling young people to attain a satisfactory self realization, leading to a satisfactory self image.   “I yam who I yam,” said Popeye the Sailor Man.

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15 Comments
  1. diannejoydiamond permalink

    M – I think you have forgotten what real love is like…and the joy of loving physical contact. You have gotten so jaded. Sure, there is a lot of what you have described, but not among the people I know. I see married couples that still look at each other as they did when they were young. And there is amazing intimacy in walking hand in hand as well as being bed mates. This post seems very sad to me.

  2. Thank you, Dianne. You may be right that I’ve gotten jaded. Or, it may simply be that past things are in the past. I think my main point was the commercialization of relationships, including sexual ones. But, I can see your point.

  3. When I look at how pervasive pornography is across the planet I wonder how we have gotten this all so wrong. Good lord, even Bin Laden had a porn library. You would have thought he would have been a little too busy for that. I don’t know why that bit of news struck me so when it came out. I realized I really don’t have a clue about the world. And if sex is power how is it women don’t rule the world? There are scattered stories in places like Africa, and Columbia of women having sex strikes, to improve conditions, and they were effective. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more. But sex has been used as a commodity since the beginning of time. And as long as it continues to be is one more barrier to humans becoming fully human.

    • Thank you, Mary. I concur, and find it sad that so many are recruited into this “game of life” as if it’s the natural order of things. I’ve heard women describe red dresses as “power dresses”. Even the media have succumbed to such notions, fixating on the wardrobe of female speakers as much if not more than the substance of their talks.

  4. Cynical, maybe, but not without reason. If sex sells, it is because it panders to the basest of our natures. I, for one, find it all to be very distasteful. As Mary points out, sex has been selling since the beginning of time. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, and marriage is the legalized form of prostitution and slavery. Women (girls, really) were once sold into marriage, and we are still selling ourselves. We should be ashamed.

    Power is the ultimate prize, but if we have sold or given ourselves in its pursuit, then I question the value of the barter. Money and sex are really just things we trade for what we really want or need. It makes me kind of sad that we have found no better method of achievement; that after all these years, we still value ourselves so little.

    • Thank you, Rose. As we see in so many parts of our world, girls are still sold into marriage in one form or another. But on a more subtle level, many people discern the currency appropriate to the achievement of a goal and apply it with developed skill. And so few seem to ask themselves what they really got for the barter. I’ve heard many people say that life is a constant process of trade off. Well, I guess I never had a head for business, as the saying goes.

  5. I am perplexed…I know all this to be true of course, but it is not the whole truth. Sex as power or money, and sex as love are two very different things .
    In all honesty I must say that more than Marco`s post, I was shocked by Rose`s statement (Rose !!! 🙂 !!) : `marriage is the legalized form of prostitution and slavery.`
    I know that in many other countries it may be the norm and that also in our more `advanced` societies there are cases as such, but are they truly the average form of marriage ? I never considered I was selling myself to my husband …
    As I see it, it is more like an exchange, there is nothing wrong in taking care of each other, albeit in different ways.
    Yet anyway, I do respect everybody`s opinion, and I do understand that we can see things with different eyes . But I really hope that the marriage situation has not reached such bleak state…

    • Thank you, FOAL. I’m so glad to see you rise to the occasion. I won’t presume to speak for Rose, but will say that my discomfort arises from the superficiality I feel so many people practice when they fail to examine and consider the nature of their relationships, sexual or otherwise, with others.

      • Rise to the occasion?? mmmm… rather I took the bait 😉 !! lol

    • In an ideal marriage, two people give themselves to one another. In an ideal marriage, sex is a physical expression of the love they share. In an ideal marriage, each partner feels equal in caring and doing for one another. Most marriages are not ideal.

      Marriage becomes a form of prostitution and slavery when sex becomes the price and the payment for other services rendered. When both parties contribute financially to the household, even if this contribution is not equal, this attitude is less likely. When a person needs, rather than wants, to be with another, then the relationship becomes more a business partnership than a marriage.

      I recently described family life as the perfect expression of the communist ideal; each person contributes as they are able, and takes only what they need in return. Of course, communism on an ideal level doesn’t exist either; you have to factor human nature into the equation.

      It makes me smile to know that FOAL has a happy marriage; may it always be so. I would wish it for all of us. Rose

      • Rose. I completely agree.

      • Rose dear, my marriage has been no bed of roses, also because of the incredible differences of the two cultures in every possible way and the different social values of the families (of origin 🙂 ). Yet we have made it so far and yes, it is a relationship full of love and respect, but ideal ?? well, that depends a lot on what ideal means to each of us. What our desires and expectations are (and they kind of vary from person to person and country to country).
        But now, let me go back to the focal point of your comment.
        I do understand and agree that there are many marriages just as you describe, and I am certainly no big fan either, but even so the kind of generalization scares me.
        To give an example. Here where I live, in Japan, many MANY couples were married out of pre-arranged marriages. (Well, not all, and especially not the new generations, but it is still very popular.)
        I have many good friends with good families (maybe not ideal but still good families!!) who did not marry out of love and did not even expect their husbands to give a lending hand in house chores or kids ‘education, mainly because they were too tired bringing the bread home and there was little time left .
        For them, both husband and wife, even if it was not love/passion that made them tick, marriage meant building a family on a good respectful friendship basis. The wife needed the husband to bring home the money to raise the family, the husband needed the wife to educate and raise the children and to keep things in order so that the kids could grow up well. They just needed each other to build the new generation.
        Is this an ideal marriage? no, FOR ME NO! but for many of them, yes, or at least they got what they expected.
        Now for me to say that these wives are prostituting themselves just because they rely on their husbands’ money to live is just not possible and it doesn’t feel right.
        Let me stress again that this is not the ideal marriage for me, but it is pretty much the staple here. My husband often tells me that he is grateful that I made him realize other kind of relationships are possible and may even work 😉
        So Rose, maybe our different opinions derive from the different countries we live in , and the different `majority` we see every day. 🙂

  6. Dana permalink

    Marco, I am not sure if you had the chance to see this week’s episode of “The Americans.” The TV is on in the Jennings’ bedroom, and there is a vintage (to us now, of course) commercial on for a product called “Love’s Baby Soft.” The products were fragrances and shampoo, lotions, conditioners, and as I recall in the 80s, marketed to adolescent and teenage girls.

    But the ad, which originally aired in 1975, ties into this blog very well. It was probably created in an era where sex was really beginning to sell products, although perhaps it began before then. Still, I’m pretty surprised at the “raciness” of the ad. The girl in it is also made to have a very child-like quality, so it is even more distasteful.

    Here is a link to the commercial for anyone interested, and note the shape of the products’ containers:

    • Clarification:

      What I meant above was that I imagine this ad was created in an area when sex was beginning to be used with the intention of selling products. Whether or not that works, I’m not sure.

    • Thanks, Dana. I didn’t watch much American tv in the ’70’s. And, haven’t seen the latest Americans episode. But, I’ve either gotten prudish or some current ads are downright raunchy.

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