Sex In Marketing – Calling The Pot Black

So today, my friends, we talk about sex.  Not the actual act of sex, but the subject of sex and how women are affected by the mention of the word in business or blogging.  It should be interesting.

It was my intention today to make this post a tutorial on setting up your blog advertising using OIO Publisher. (Maybe Thursday) Instead, when I woke up this morning I noticed a pingback (a notice letting me know someone else had mentioned my blog and linked to it on theirs) from another woman entrepreneur that seemingly took offense to one of my article headlines.

You may remember that back in October I entered a contest to win passes to Blogworld 09 from John Chow’s blog.  John’s a pretty big name in the Internet marketing world, so I expected a lot of competition.  I was pretty stoked when I actually WON a weekend pass to the expo for my article!  There were a few tactics I used when I wrote that piece that I may share in a later post, but one of the main things I did was use a headline that would catch attention. It’s called baiting.

My “Offensive” Article

The article is titled “Will Give Great Blog For Passes To Blogworld“.  Catchy?  Provocative? A little shocking?  I hoped so.  Demeaning to women?  Umm…not so much.  But Adria Richards seems to think so and has included me in her rant on using sex to promote yourself and how it is demeaning to women.

So why is this article from October being brought up now? I was mentioned in Adria’s article “What’s Wrong With Using Sex To Sell Your Wordcamp Session?” because of my Blogworld article. Note the headline here.

Someone uses a sexual innuendo to promote their work. It works. Someone else cries “sexism” and “women’s rights” by quoting it & promoting their work. How are they different? It’s the same marketing ploy with a different spin.

The Drama

Adria was given the opportunity to speak and placed on the schedule for Wordcamp Boston. When Danielle Morrill submitted her subject “Getting the Money Shot: Making Screencasts Without Going Insane” for her shot to speak at Wordcamp, and made it to the finals, Adria protested by backing out of her scheduled session and has stirred up some controversy over the subject.

Here is the subject description that has offended Adria so much to leave the Wordcamp people high and dry:

Danielle Morrill – Producing a useful screencast, where an online product or service is demonstrated for the user and they are introduced to the UI of your website, can increase the number of people who convert to customers. This talk will leave viewers with practical advise for creating their own screencast, including a list of tools and resources. It will also outline some of the things to avoid, the pyschology of the editor, and how thinking like a porn director will help you be sure to achieve the “”money shot””. Take 1 Mac, 1 Flipcam HD, a whole lot of coffee, and one really sleep deprived Danielle and hilarity ensues.

When I read Danielle’s description I see more than just a reference to porn.  I see the opportunity to learn a lesson on screencasting that will be entertaining as well as educational.  Porn is a multi-million dollar business and I would love to learn psychology behind the marketing strategy even if I am not a big supporter.  Danielle never mentioned having shots of naked women in her presentation, (sorry guys) but rather, jokes about how fun she will make the session.

Coree’s Take On The Sex Issue

I’m a chick that’s okay with talking about sex fairly openly.  I don’t get offended at sexual innuendos, and in fact, am often the one that starts them.  Not all sexual reference is bad.  Not all porn is bad.  If a woman is being abused or oppressed then it’s different.  I know plenty of women that actually enjoy watching porn or visiting a strip club with their male partner. That doesn’t set that woman back 20 years in our progression to fight discrimination.

By not taking offense to sexual innuendos I am placing myself on the same playing level as a guy.  No longer do they have that power over me to think they can offend me or make me uncomfortable by talking about sex.  Now, if someone is openly being rude, discriminatory or demeaning they will have to watch out!  But, all in all, I’m comfortable with my sexuality and can laugh at our human desires because we are sexual beings.

I am all about respect for women and treating us fairly in all areas of life.  Women have definitely had to fight to gain the respect as an equally intelligent and capable being and not just a man’s sex toy.  It irks me when I see women displayed as good for nothing other than eye candy or as a dumb bimbo that can only get ahead by sleeping her way to the top.  But, that’s an extreme.

This whole controversy over something as simple as a tongue in cheek wink at our infatuation with sex is also extreme.  We know sex sells, we know that men are all over any mention of sex like flies on …well, you know.  So, to be intelligent enough to use a discreet marketing ploy to win a competition and call it demeaning is a little out of order.

The Humor Behind Sex in Marketing

Adria says in her article, “I don’t find pornography to be funny“.

No one was laughing about pornography itself.  The humor is in the obsession we have with porn or sex and how we can laugh at ourselves because of it. Every comedian I can think of has become wildly popular for the ability to get us to identify and laugh at our own humanity.

You may not agree with everything that comes out of Jenny, The Bloggess, mouth but I can tell you that she is very popular with both men AND women for her ability to do put a funny spin on the sex subject.  I consider myself pretty extreme at times, but sometimes Jenny can even have me going “Whoa!”.  Jenny just began writing for Sexis Magazine where her entire mission is to make fun of porn in her articles.  It’s not demeaning to her, and I’m pretty sure if someone tried to demean Jenny she would have her own unique way of turning that back on them.

Of course there is a point where it’s gone too far.  Having the chicks in ultra tight shorts and tanks to gain attention at a convention is blatant and out of place.  On the flip side, if a woman sponsored booth used a guy in a speedo to attract attention would you go over there?  Probably not cuz that’s just creepy. But I think we can make rational decisions on what’s extreme, what’s funny, and what’s tasteful.

Share Your Thoughts

I say more power to Danielle for not being afraid to use a man’s tactic in marketing her submission! She has my vote for Wordcamp Boston…and if you’d like to join me you have til 11:59pm EST tonight to add yours.  I think Danielle and I could have been great Mae Wests in another life, or at least women that know how to dish it up with the best of them.  :)

What’s your opinion on using sexual innuendos in marketing?  I know I’m opening up for some lively conversation,  but feel free to leave your comments below.  I look forward to hearing them!
To Your Success,

P.S. ~> I have several advertising spots available for bargain prices.  I feel like maybe I should be selling some sex toys along with the advertising after this post, but alas…it’s just an awesome deal on advertising your business where other women entrepreneurs voice their opinions.  😉  Check out the pricing and availability and reserve your spot today.


  1. trishgorring says

    I loved the “Money Shot” Reference but they don't only use that term in Porn. It was also in The Truman Show.

    It is all about getting attention but there is a fine line between innuendo and offense and that will depend on the audience. I am totally comfortable with references to sex as I totally agree that we are sexual beings.

    And sex does sell, it is proven, so why not use it if you can do it and not harm your brand or reputation you will stand out.

    I personally feel that people who get overly offended or defensive about sex are not comfortable within themselves about it and it strikes a chord with them.

    I would love to see other comments as I am sure I am not the only one with an opinion on this.

  2. Cyn K. says

    Hi Coree!

    Okay, let me try again. I was just referring to the lines where you said “By not taking offense to sexual innuendos I am placing myself on the same playing level as a guy” and “not being afraid to use a man’s tactic”. According to the article I linked, in Ariel Levy's book “The Female Chauvinist Pig”, basically she argues that embracing/accepting how *we* (women) relate to sex/sexuality in the same ways that the media/pop culture/*men* relate *us* to sex, we are calling that empowerment while perpetuating sexism and objectification of women (since that's how they relate us), but saying it's okay because we are doing it ourselves. At the same time, this wins us points with the guys for being “cool/chill/not uptight” etc., which speaks to the idea of becoming “on the same level” as them…since, of course, what guy wouldn't want a girl who willingly went along with his own views of women, moreover thinking she was empowered through it?

    It's kind of complicated though because on one level, it is true that you feel empowered/”liberated” in the short term. And I completely agree with being sex-positive and hate the culture that tells young women sex is bad and they should be unattainable-yet-sexy virgins and so forth. Also, what, women *shouldn't* embrace sexuality that way, if they just happen to want to?

    At the same time, embracing sex/sexuality that way DOES perpetuate sexism and stereotypes. It's a classic “if you can't beat 'em, join 'em”, even if joining 'em means being beat and not even a compromise at all. It's kind of like if racial minorities everywhere started playing to stereotypes of themselves, or becoming “model minorities” to win points among the dominant group in a population, but at the expense of those who aren't willing to “sell out” like that.

    Anyway, I hope that clarified things… one more thing, I think everything I just wrote about is way beyond the scope of the actual event(s) you wrote about and this actual post. I wouldn't have reacted at all if I'd just heard/read about those events with no context/explanation, and I think the marketing blurbs were fine/of really no consequence and not worth raising such a furor over. I just felt compelled, based on those lines above, to mention that part of your defense of Danielle, to some people, based on Levy's book, might not actually be a defense at all but could be seen to strengthen Adria's point of view.

    Whew, that definitely took more than 140 characters. Thanks for inviting me on!

  3. Coree says

    Wow! I knew 140 characters wouldn't contain that thought! :)

    The thing about Ariel Levy's idea behind the Female Chauvenist Pig is that it's assuming women who can talk like a guy, market like a guy, or whatever…are lowering their standards and joining in the stereotyping of women.

    I guess that's why I called this Market Like A “Chick”, because, to me, a chick has a few “guy” characteristics. We don't get offended easily, we like to be one of the guys, and we don't care much about what people think of us. If we want to use some spicy innuendo we do…and don't feel less of a woman for it. Rather, we feel it expresses that side of us that some women are timid to talk about.

    And, I agree, this whole thing was blown way out of proportion for the small references that were made!

    I'm so glad you came by and left your comment here…welcome! Hope to see lots more of you! :)

  4. kathyklingaman says

    Wow, so much controversy over what I see as a simple play on words for the purpose of gaining attention. Apparently it worked big time.

    I agree with so many of the comments made already but will wade in anyway.

    Cyn K. makes a beautiful and cogent statement of her perspective. I personally am against material that objectifies women and/or degrades them in any way. I am probably more sensitive than most in my disdain for such material and can not only argue that position at length but can do it with a ferocity that would defy counter argument. Dare me.

    And yet, even with the chip I have on my shoulder, the headline in question merely raised my brow. That is all. And, I am sure that is all that was intended. The author used her marketing wit to get the attention she needed.

    Sex sells. It is all over the television and the people producing television programs and ads come from both genders.

    The headline is not pornographic. Pornography is the use of “sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other materials whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” (check it: Coree's intention was to get attention, not to cause an erection.

    Now someone was offended. Surprise, surprise. In a normal distribution on the bell curve of possible responses that is indeed one of them. That is one extreme end. So be it.

    I don't come close to sharing Adria's sensitivity (see definition of pornography above) and see the what both authors (Coree and Danielle) were trying to accomplish, but I respect Adria's position as long as it doesn't deliberately hurt someone else. I don't want to judge Adria and tell her she is wrong no more than I want her to judge me for my position and tell me I am wrong. The possible reasons for her position are limitless, we don't know what experiences brought her to have the perspective that she has.

    I congratulate both Coree and Danielle for doing their jobs so well and hope that they don't let the controversy effect them personally other than to revel in all of the attention they got. Don't forget that there will always be someone who takes offense at something/anything and tons more people who love you and appreciate you. (see bell curve)

    I would LOVE to end with a Mae West quote but can't decide which one. Pick one out for yourself:
    I would agree with Adria that sex does not belong in the content of technology conferences. We disagree on what constitutes sex and pornography.

  5. Cyn K. says

    Thanks for the great feedback, everyone. :)

    I'd like to second what Kathy said about respecting Adria's position and her standing up for it, as I'm not sure if that came through in my post or not. Especially as I'm more often than not on her end of the deal (in a male-dominated martial art, it's impossible not to be)!

    As for what you said about Levy's assumption, Coree, I think that's exactly right, and that's what she's saying the problem is, only I think the difference is that it doesn't matter whether the women are doing it intentionally or not, but the fact they are just contributes to the overall fact that it's happening. I enjoyed reading about how you came up with your blog name though, thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Coree says

    Thanks for sharing, Trish. To be honest, I had never even heard the term “money shot” before this and, had it not been explicitly described, I probably would have just used my own imagination to believe it meant something like “finding the one thing that people are really looking for in your work”. Which, I tend to think was Danielle's intention.

    Sex sells, we all know it. To use sexually explicit language or images to degrade any human, whether woman, man or child is wrong. That's not the case here, and it's a little obvious that it was melodramatic.

    What was used for a little wink of the eye for marketing purposes by two women that have the cajones to push the envelope was spun and used for publicity in itself. So, really, we all used sex to sell and it just doubled my efforts. Maybe I should be thanking her.

  7. Coree says

    Thaks, Kathy for all the very good points you make in your comment. You said something that I had been thinking in the back of my head and hadn't touched on. And that is, what may seem like a casual jest to one can be found offensive to another based on what they have been through in their lives. We DON'T know what Adria has experienced and it's not really our business, but those allowances should be made.

    For instance, I have suffered the loss of several family members to suicide. When I hear people joking about depression or judging those that have taken their own lives it stirs me to the point that I will butt in and give my speech about how depression is really a sickness just like any other and is treatable, you would not judge someone that died from leukemia or another untreated sickness. Mental illness is one of the most neglected sicknesses in the world because of the stigma associated around it and people die every day because shame won't allow the to seek help. Oh, yes…I can get very passionate about this subject because I have been personally affected by it. And when the sting was still fresh it didn't take much to get me going.

    So, in all fairness, I don't want to say that anyone is wrong either. We each have our passionate points and levels of tolerance in certain areas.

    To me, this was blown out of proportion. It stirred many emotional comments over a very in-explicit joke & marketing tactic. I feel that the emotions of women were played upon and am saddened that those emotions had to be brought to the surface to be dealt with once again.

    In saying all that…You won't see me holding back or changing anything about the way I write or the way I promote. I like being fun, lighthearted and a bit provocative. It's who I am, and I'm comfortable with that. I loved your statement :”Coree's intention was to get attention, not to cause an erection.”! Perfect.

    My favorite Mae West quote from your link is this, ” I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.” :)

  8. Coree says

    Agreed…we all need to stand up for what we think is right. And we all need to choose the best outlet to do that. I did see that Adria is now back on the schedule and both she and Danielle will be speaking at Wordcamp. Perhaps this will be a good chance for Adria to have a larger and more unbiased audience than her own blogs. One thing is for sure, she will now have more people interested in hearing what she has to say than before this whole fiasco.

    Oh, by the way, the blog name, Market Like A Chick, was primarily chosen because I was tired of the comments like “she hits like a girl”, or “you're acting like a chick” as if chicks were less than capable or too emotional. Chicks are smart, sassy and able to show our feelings, but we are also tough as nails and know how to get sh*t done! It was more of an “in-your-face” way of saying we know our strengths and our weaknesses and we use them to our advantage…now let us show you how to do the same and dominate your niche!

  9. Dennis Edell says

    The funny thing is, porn sure as hell didn't coin the phrase “money shot”; just perhaps the most known for it, for those looking for it anyway…

  10. VickiMoore says

    I guess I should start by saying that my favorite word starts with F and ends with K. Sometimes saying it once just isn't enough. And so is innuendo – one of my favorite forms of conversation.

    Life is full of enough depression, worry, fear. We take ourselves too seriously.

    I don't think talking about sex or using it as a marketing tool is demeaning. It's funny, powerful and creates conversation and controversy – nothing wrong with any of those.

  11. Coree says

    Oh, I think you and I would get along just fine, Vicki! :)

    You're so right…people need to lighten up. We have been so conditioned to think that every time sex or porn is talked about that it is automatically discriminating against women. I am quite sure that we would find men and/or boys that have been victimized in the seedy porn industry along with women. That side of porn is just ugly. But, someone really has a wild imagination if they got that out of the headline I used or the subject matter of Danielle's topic.

    Basically, the whole thing was just used as publicity for someone that wanted to use the sex card but was afraid of being judged.. Judge me if you will…but I bet I spend a lot more time smiling than they do. :)

  12. Coree says

    Oh, I think you and I would get along just fine, Vicki! :)

    You're so right…people need to lighten up. We have been so conditioned to think that every time sex or porn is talked about that it is automatically discriminating against women. I am quite sure that we would find men and/or boys that have been victimized in the seedy porn industry along with women. That side of porn is just ugly. But, someone really has a wild imagination if they got that out of the headline I used or the subject matter of Danielle's topic.

    Basically, the whole thing was just used as publicity for someone that wanted to use the sex card but was afraid of being judged.. Judge me if you will…but I bet I spend a lot more time smiling than they do. :)


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