I know. Scary topic.
I especially know because, sparked by #metoo and #notinmyindustry, I set about talking through this with nearly every woman in my life for a couple of months. During this time, I found out a few things that I would like to share.
I found out about trigger words in conversation that bring up a lifetime of agonizing shame. Shame about body, sexiness, worth. These words are not always expected. I don't know all of them, as they are different for everyone, but some of them are: trash, gross, slut, hot, sexy...
I found out that feelings of worth translate to feelings about happiness in life and I found that most women were expressing some feeling of worthlessness based on the comparisons to sexuality as portrayed in mainstream advertising and media.
I found these feelings to be nearly universal and that most women abhorred sex in advertising.
I found out that many of those same women fiercely defend other women who would make the choice to continue the tradition of the fabled "sex sells" and use their bodies to promote products.
I found out that most of these women had a definite definition of artful sexuality, and most have a hard time describing it, resorting to, "I know it when I see it."
I found out that this subject is a million times more murky than I had initially thought.
Then I found my own feelings about it. Why did I feel uncomfortable at the sight of this type of advertising and media? After all, I should be enjoying it, right?
Asking this question, I found my own shame. Shame for not enjoying it the way that I am expected to. Shame for lack of masculinity and bro-ness. Shame that the advertiser looked at me as someone who looked at women like that. Shame for sometimes looking at women like that. Shame for being attracted to women of all kinds and shapes and sizes and not just what is "hot". It goes on and on.
The reality is, I set out on this journey to tackle this question looking for an answer. Looking for a way forward. I can't say I found one.
But I can say that the companies out there that put women in charge of sex in advertising are the future. Because if anyone is going to find a way forward through this, it's women. After all, if anyone knows it when they see it, women do.
P.S. I know there are many emotional reaction to this, and I may have misstepped in some way, and I totally invite the feedback. That is how this subject gets better, and we all get better at it.