Sex sells more than products

Advertising is often criticized for the use of sexualized images of women in the media to attract consumers and convey a cultural message. These ads use sexuality to appeal to their audience and communicate messages that reflect societal female stereotypes. In a scene taken from the popular Family Guy television show, advertisers use the sexualized image of women to promote their products. This technique is effective in all social contexts. This scene shows how sexuality is used in advertising to sell goods.

The chosen Family Guy scene demonstrates that sex is necessary in advertising, regardless of the social context. The Griffin Family History’s episode “The Griffin Family History”, places characters from the scene in a prehistoric period of Earth. The caveman characters are portrayed as modern characters. This scene is a conflict that arises from the invention of the wheel by Caveman Peter, a vital innovation for the advancement of mankind. Caveman Brain tries to help Caveman Peter with his sales pitch, but when he realizes that normal advertising techniques do not seem to sway the caveman consumers, he resorts “drastic measures.” Caveman Brain initially tries to assist Caveman Peter, but after realizing that his normal sales techniques aren’t working, he resorts instead to “drastic” measures. When Cavewoman Lois’s minimally dressed appearance is displayed next to a wheel, audiences respond positively. One caveman says “hot lady next wheel, make want wheel.”

This scene from Family Guy illustrates the importance of the relationship between advertising and sex. William M. O’Barr cites Tom Reichert’s descriptions of sex and advertising. Reichert says that sex advertising is characterized by “showing attractive women in various stages of undressing.” (O’Barr 3). This characteristic can be seen in the Family Guy episode, where Caveman Brian strips Cavewoman Lois of her clothing and leaves her wearing only what looks like her underwear. Reichert claims that “sex in advertising is often centered around the clothing models wear or don’t wear.” (O’Barr 3). The lack of clothing displayed by Lois is a key way to convey “a fundamental kind of sexual information to audiences” (O’Barr 3). The sexual information that is displayed in advertising leads to cultural stereotypes of women, including the value of a sexy body. The increasingly high degree of sexual imagery used in advertisements attracts a significant amount of criticism; but, despite the criticism, “sex in advertising has frequently…increased consumer interest and often aided in the selling [of] products.” (O’Barr 5) Family Guy accurately depicts this relationship between sex and consumer interest by illustrating the immediate affect on the audience’s willingness to buy the product after Cavewoman Lois has endorsed it with her presence. After the caveman’s audience buys the wheel, Peter reflects that the “people are buying the wheel because of his sexy spouse.” (FG 3:30) This particular male-female relationship shows how Caveman Peter has the primary role, while Lois’s job is to simply stand and look pretty. This advertising stereotype can have a significant impact on what people do in terms of sex. The combination of a sexualized image of a woman and culturally accepted views about normal sexual relationships have significant effects on societal and culture values that are derived from erotic advertisements.

The correlation between sex advertising and cultural views of sex, as well as feminine stereotypes is revealed by analyzing the data. In the Family Guy episode, Caveman Peter’s audience is a large group consisting of other men cavemen. When the audience consists of heterosexual men, the use of sexualized images of women is especially effective. Family Guy is a great example of how advertising has emphasized the heteronormativity of both the content and the audience. (O’Barr). By promoting the heterosexual success to the audience the ads also emphasize the importance being heterosexual and being normal. In addition to conveying ideas to the audience about what constitutes normal sexual desires and relationships, “sex in advertising often employs…sex-related promises;” (O’Barr 3) such as the promise that if a consumer purchases a certain product, they are also purchasing the objectified female models who endorse that product. This Family Guy scene shows one caveman who explicitly states a sexy promise made by the wheel’s advertisement. “Maybe if i buy wheel, me get a pretty lady too.” Women’s body image is negatively affected by the growing frequency of subordinate female sex object representations. The dehumanizing deconstructions of female body images have a huge impact on women’s perception of their value within society. Advertising confirms this traditional male/female dynamic. It shows a dominant man and a female subordinate. In advertising, sex is used to attract the consumer’s attention and reinforce men’s status over women.

Advertisers are increasingly using sex as a way to communicate societal views about sex. The selected Family Guy scene is an example of how sex can be used in advertising. This includes the connection between sexualized women displays and consumer interest. The sale of products is accompanied by sex promises. This establishes cultural norms about the relationship between consumerism and a successful sexual life. These ads are sexualized to the point that the target males will believe they are entitled, as long as they own the product that was endorsed and endorsed again by a beautiful woman, to get the attention of that attractive woman. Advertising companies try to convince the audience of this expectation, which is neither factual nor certain.


  • noahtaylor

    Noah Taylor is a bloger, teacher, and writer living in upstate New York. He is the author of the highly successful educational blog, Noah's World, and the creator of the popular teacher resource, Noah's Notes. He has also written for many online publications, including Parenting, The Huffington Post, and The Learning Place. Noah is a graduate of Williams College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.