Sex Sells (but We Don’t Have to Buy)

Do we cheapen the value of human life by buying into pop culture? via @blestbutstrest

Out of the Mouth of Babes

“Mrs. Ojeda, Lenny called my momma a hoe!” The little one tugged at my sleeve, her voice indignant and outraged. “Whatcha you gonna do about it?”

I responded with the first thing that came to mind. “Why did he say that, Susie? Did you call his daddy a rake?” Clearly, I had gardening implements on my mind.

“Of course not! I didn’t say nothing!”

And so I told her what I told my children when they tattled on each other. “Why don’t you go back and tell Lenny how it makes you feel when he calls your mom a hoe.” I patted her on the head and turned to find the other duty teacher doubled over with laughter.

I thought my first weeks teaching English as a Second Language at an inner city public school had gone well—but another teacher evidently found me amusing. “What?” I asked her. “What did I do wrong?”

When she finally quit gasping for breath, she said, “Lenny called her momma a H-O.”

As if that helped. I thought that was a sound that Santa made right before he said “Merry Christmas!”

She burst into giggles again, and shook her head in disbelief at my confused expression. “You really don’t know, do you?” She patted my arm. “’Ho’ is short for ‘whore.’”

I blushed. Evidently, my sheltered, conservative upbringing and four years teaching in a private school hadn’t prepared me for the reality of working with inner city children.

Little Girls Don’t Want to be Whores When they Grow Up!

Nineteen years have passed, with six of them working in public schools, 11 of them working for a private school with upper-middle class students and two working at a private school for very underprivileged minority students. Each experience has educated me in ways colleges and universities never can.

And that word? It’s been cropping up more and more lately. Little boys wander around campus muttering nasty lyrics to the latest rap song under their breath. I don’t think any of the songs are about Santa Claus or gardening, either.

If their pie is so good, why do they need sex to sell it? via @blestbutstrestAnd that makes me sad. Especially when I know that no little girl ever says, “I want to work as
a prostitute when I grow up.” I’ve known a few little girls who came from unstable homes with violence and neglect. One thing led to another and now their sad eyes stare out from their Facebook profile pictures while their status updates sound sexy and forced. Their boyfriends are pimps and their lives are a mess.

That word stopped me from buying a piece of pie back in September. On a trip back from my husband’s 30th high school reunion, we wanted to stop at a bakery for some sweets. The first little bakery we came upon had closed five minutes before we arrived, so when I saw a sign for a pie shop and restaurant in the next town, I thought we had found exactly what we wanted—although their spelling of ‘homemade’ caused me to shake my head at the way people abuse the English language. They must have shortened it to ‘ho-made’ to save space on their sign.

Sex Sells

Or not. But we really wanted something sweet. So we stopped. Incredulous, I hopped out and snapped some photos of the sign. I wondered how they found bakers for their restaurant, given the implications of their advertising.

What might have at one point been an old-fashioned rendition of ‘homemade’ obviously had changed over the years. Yeah. I know she’s not a ‘real’ woman. I know she’s just a cartoon character. But still. It felt more like sexual harassment than a good place to eat pie.

If their pie is so good, why do they need sex to sell it? via @blestbutstrest
And so we got back in our vehicle and drove away.

Several months later, on our way down south, I finally noticed the exit where a colleague had told me about another wonderful pie shop (you’re going to think we have an obsession with pie shops—but that’s another story). I had planned on pulling over and buying some pie, but the pie shop’s billboard turned me off. Once again, I felt harassed instead of hungry. If their pie is so good, why do they need to use sex to sell it?

We Don’t Have to Buy!

We all know that sex sells. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy. We can make a decision to not support businesses that exploit women in their advertisements.

When my favorite department store started selling clothing in their children’s department that looked like it belonged in Frederick’s of Hollywood, I let the store saleslady know (in a very nice way) that I wouldn’t be shopping there any more because I didn’t think my five-year-old needed to wear fishnet stockings and a mini skirt to school. I explained that I’d bring my business back when their buyers started purchasing appropriate clothing for their children’s section, and asked her to please pass my customer complaint on to her supervisor.

Of course, upholding my standards meant it got a lot harder to shop for my girls because just about every store had a scarcity of appropriate clothing.

Objectifying women and men cheapens a gift and confuses our children—causing them to buy into a… Click To Tweet

A Different Kind of Sex Education

We all know that sex drives television ratings. But that doesn’t mean we have to watch. When women on television show up for work in provocatively plunging blouses and scanty skirts, who’s buying the message that that’s how women should dress? Our daughters. We, of course, understand that no woman in her right mind would show up for work in a skirt so short that her legs would stick to her chair.

We all know sex sells magazines. But we don’t have to buy them. Years ago I cancelled my subscriptions to magazines I’d enjoyed since my youth when I realized that even though many of the articles were good, the advertising amounted to soft porn. I didn’t want those magazines to desensitize my daughters into thinking that objectifying women was ok.

What if all of us protested and stopped buying stuff sold with sex? What if we gently explained that we want to boycott the objectification of women (and men) in advertising? I don’t need to see a guy’s half-naked body to convince me to purchase a perfume. I’ll buy the perfume if it smells good—not because I think it’s ‘sexy.’

In all the things we don’t do, it’s important to let our children know the reasons behind our choices. We need to talk to our sons and our daughters and let them know that sex and sexuality are wonderful things in the context for which God created them.

Sex might sell, but if we join together and quit buying, maybe we can start a quiet revolution. Maybe one day Santa will be the only one saying, “ho-ho-ho,” and it will always be followed by, “Merry Christmas!”

Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe I can inspire you to join me in a quiet revolution.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • As a mother of two toddlers, I have big concerns about raising them in this over-specialized culture. I’m not sure if I’m more worried about my son thinking it’s okay to objectify women or my daughter feeling she has to obtain the outrageous- and false- standards of beauty portrayed everywhere she looks.
    This “sex sells” business is the reason we refuse to eat at Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. or Jack-the-Box (though I’ve had food from both restaurants a long time ago and it isn’t any great hardship eat somewhere else).

    • I’m glad you take a stand and are concerned about your children–all too often I think we mentally shrug our shoulders and pacify ourselves with the ‘everyone does it’ mantra. Well, enough! Not everyone does it or wants to put up with it!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Sex Sells (but We Don’t Have to Buy)My Profile

  • Anita, you have written a most powerful post, giving us all much to think about. We all have choices as to where we will shop. May we think about it & be wise. And may I add, I am grateful you added that the objectifying is of men and women. May they both cause offense and not one over the other.
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Roots & ThankfulnessMy Profile

  • It’s so important that we don’t sit quietly with our shame and frustration over the victimization of women. Speaking out and spreading awareness is important in the fight against sexualizing our culture. Thanks for this point, and for the chance to share mine!

  • Anita … thanks for putting this right on the table where it belongs. Sometimes we’ve got to stand up strong and speak the truth clearly. You’ve done that here.

    Sex might sell. But we don’t have to buy.

    Purity matters.
    Linda@Creekside recently posted…Discovering Your Best Time : : blogheart & Party Giveaway #2My Profile

  • Very good post, and I applaud your choice to hold your standards.

    Using sex to sell fits the literal definition of pornography, which comes from the Greek for “prostituted woman”.

    And pornography is used to build the desire for “more and deeper”; new images, and new levels of depravity. Using pornography – and the images in the signs fits – creates excitement which affects brain chemistry, and in turn pushes the ‘set point” for arousal further away. More exposure is needed to achieve the same rush.

    And yes, this is terrible for relationships, destructive for marriages, and it’s a sin…but this is beside the point.

    Pornography is the largest user of the victims – overwhelmingly women and children – of human trafficking. SLAVERY. They are coerced, physically threatened, drugged…and sometimes killed.

    This about real people, being hurt to make money, so that “good people” can wallow in the thrill of decadence (ever notice how the word ‘decadent’ is used to sell, too…stuff like chocolate?).

    And yes, we need a revolution, but it need not be quiet. We need to band together with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, Muslim and Jew and Hindu and Sikh and Buddhist. We need to call in the agnostics and New Agers, and the atheists.

    We need to be loud, and forceful, and to let the world know that we won’t tolerate the exploitation of the weak and the innocent.

    Because THAT is what “sex sells” is all about.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Can Fifty Shades Help Your Marriage?My Profile

    • If you happen to be reading through the comments–please click on Andrew’s link “Can Fifty Shades Help Your Marriage.” It’s powerful. Thank you, Andrew, for joining your voice with others!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Sex Sells (but We Don’t Have to Buy)My Profile

  • THANK YOU! I have had to make some VERY difficult decisions about where I put my money or my attention and it’s hard. I don’t want people to think I am judging them if they watch THAT show or wear THOSE clothes, but I do feel like the Lord has given me deep convictions about this matter. I have had to speak up. I did a post last year about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. It was called “2nd Hand Nudity” because it’s like second hand smoke. You didn’t choose nicotine, but you got to breathe it in anyway (these days that matters to the government whereas before no one cared). These graphic images are the same You didn’t choose porn, but your children saw it anyway. I would like to see this change. I have written multiple emails to various organizations. In all honesty I don’t expect to make a difference, but I can’t sit back idly either.
    Messy Mom recently posted…When Karin Met CameronMy Profile

    • I’m not sure why you don’t want people judging you.

      This isn’t about tolerance, or Free Speech. This is about evil.

      FSOG is part of the pornographic “industry”, and by proxy it supports human trafficking.

      It also glamourizes the “BDSM” lifestyle. be clear – the S stands for sadism, the willingness to inflict pain for one’s own sexual gratification.

      Judge, and let the perverts – for that is what they are – howl.

      And Free Speech? You can’t shout “fire!” in a public space for the fun of watching a panic, and you can’t threaten the president with assassination.

      So why should Free Speech give the right to make money based on the sexual exploitation of women and children?

      So, yeah, judge the vermin. If they don’t like you for it…are they really people you want as friends?

      Do you want to be friends with someone who thinks that pornography is OK?
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Can Fifty Shades Help Your Marriage?My Profile

    • If we all join together–we WILL make a difference. As long as we always speak in love.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Sex Sells (but We Don’t Have to Buy)My Profile

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  • Excellent and needs to be shared.
    Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday: keepMy Profile

  • Your reply made me literally lol. 🙂 My daughter is interning this semester in a kindergarten class and she tells us funny stories similar to this. I realize some of the kids don’t understand what they’re saying, but some do, and it is sad that they’re exposed to things like this, especially so young. In a perfect world, we’d have no “sex sells” attitude. 🙁 I join you in your quiet revolution, Anita.
    Lisa notes… recently posted…When you can’t repayMy Profile

  • All I can add is a hearty Amen! I am astonished at ads and commercials, not to mention actual programs that are airing on network (non-cable) channels in primetime slots and then we wonder why society is obsessed with sex and we have so many identity crisis issues all around us! It’s heart breaking to see a generation who does not value themselves or know their own worth!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…It’s All About LOVE… (and a Giveaway!)My Profile

  • Exactly, it is bad enough that the “world” allows these ads etc. to get worse and worse but we do need to take a stand for ourselves our children and the better future we would like to have.
    Sandra @ Sandra’s Ark recently posted…Songs for Worship #6My Profile

    • Amen. We have to teach children whilst they’re young (they might ‘forget’ during their adolescence, but they’ll come back and examine the issues for themselves at some point).
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Sex Sells (but We Don’t Have to Buy)My Profile

  • Oh, that we would each and all follow your example. I have thought along those lines even in the grocery store when they buy inferior bananas, but have not stopped. Your example is what my own mother would have done as she stood up for her beliefs and how things would affect her 3 daughters. You have given me food for thought, Anita. Thanks.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda
    ~ linda recently posted…Clouds … FogMy Profile

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  • This is a great article. So much truth to it. I stopped buying one of the magazines I enjoyed because more and more of the articles were on things I couldn’t agree with. It was sad how long it took me to stop resubscribing to something I knew I shouldn’t support.
    My friends were talking about this topic after the Super Bowl. We mentioned how bad some commercials are and were surprised at how the Katie Perry concert wasn’t as bad as we expected.
    I think sometimes we think one person doesn’t make a difference, but if we all started doing it, it wouldn’t just be one person.
    Amanda recently posted…Spiritual and Physical Fitness CombineMy Profile

  • Exactly!
    Paula recently posted…My Simple Woman’s Daybook-February 9th EditionMy Profile

  • This is a really well-written essay, and it comes at the right time. I can’t believe those billboards/signs! Thank you for writing this. I’m off to share it with my Facebook world.
    Laura recently posted…Five Tips On Getting Things DoneMy Profile

  • Oh AMEN! And those pie signs…really!?! I have never seen such a thing.

    • Yeah–can you believe those signs? Now if you’d like to know about pie shops with really good pies and no sex in their advertising, I know of quite a few!

  • Oh Anita, I agree! Amen!! A year ago my husband and I flew to Phoenix and then drove to Sedona. Along the way we stopped at Rock Springs because we had seen the restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. I admit we ate at the restaurant (the pie and baked goods were very good), but I was disappointed with the huge billboard and the provocative message. I recognized the location of your picture immediately!

    Thank you for tackling this subject with care and sincerity. Thank you for reminding me to vote with my words (truth spoken in love) and with my spending choices. If we each one make a stand for purity in our own daily lives, ultimately we’ll see our stand for truth will make a difference.

    Exploitation is never ok…thank you for the reminders and for building me up to be bold!
    Blessings of GREAT JOY on your amazing journey with Jesus!
    Lisa Brittain recently posted…FiveMinuteFriday::KeepMy Profile

    • Now if you want to know about a really amazing pie place, it’s the Pio-O-Neer in Pie Town, New Mexico. Am-a-zing pie–and they don’t use sex to sell it! Thank you for stopping by, Lisa, and as, always, thank you for your affirming words.

  • Donne

    I have a friend who is a Kindergarten teacher in Texas and she says that her kiddos come into class the first week knowing all the words to the song “Blurred Lines” but often don’t know the ABC song, Twinkle Twinkle, or other classic ‘children’s’ songs.

    By the way, there are plenty of modest clothing sites online. Here’s a story about it:

    • Thanks for the link :). Of course, my babies aren’t five any more–but I always appreciate business that sell modest clothing and I rarely set foot inside a department store.

  • I am praying for the day that only Santa says “ho ho ho”. We have accepted so much on our world as normal that is so far from it. Thank you for going to this place in your post today and reminding all of us that we are precious in God’s sight and it is okay to disagree with our present culture. Blessed you joined The Weekend Brew.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…When Life is a Big ExhaleMy Profile

  • Just checking to see if the comment thank you works. 🙂
    Messy Mom recently posted…When Kailei met BradMy Profile

  • Oh my gosh the number of comments on this page is insane! <3
    Kirsten recently posted…The Top 10 Quotes from My Junior High DiaryMy Profile

  • Hi Anita! Love the new blog look!
    Your reaction to the shop lady reminds me of my experience with Abercrombie and Fitch. It was a very popular clothing store when my kids were teens. Way expensive, and the ads were very exploitive. I couldn’t bring myself to even go in that store.

    We have to back up our values with action. Just like you did.
    Didn’t know you had blog-hop! Thanks for visiting me, so now I know 🙂
    Ceil recently posted…My Valentine’s Day ConversionMy Profile

  • Anita,
    Oh, I would have made the same “gardening” mistake several years ago…and those pie ads..,,Yes, I’m with you: say “no” to objectifying women and men…we forget we’re made in God’s image and precious …not sex objects.
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…Renew 12: When you pray for changeMy Profile

    • ;)–it’s amazing what one learns whilst working with kids! Now, I DO know of two pie shops in the area (ok, within 120 miles) that serve amazing pie without the tasteless ads…if you’re ever in the area…

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