I was shopping in a department store and had the pleasure of overhearing a mother and her (approximately) sixth grade son having a conversation. They were in the men’s underwear section and the son was not particularly happy with the experience.
The boy says to his mother, “Why do all these packages have men on the packages? Why can’t they show women wearing the underwear?”
We all know the obvious
and most clearly correctanswer. Don’t write about that. Instead, your challenge this week is to devise a sociological, psychological, or other intellectually infused explanation for why underwear manufacturers don’t sell their product using irrelevant images like other businesses do.
Stupid Questions R Us. I used to work in advertising, an industry about which it can be said — without fear of argument or contradiction — there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Or, for that matter, a stupid answer. It is an industry with a passion for stupidity. It embraces it. An industry in which the demographic bottom line makes a slow third-grader look like a budding Einstein.
When I worked at Doubleday, we used to put warning labels on books. “Warning: May contain sexually explicit material.”
Usually, there was no sexually explicit material. It was boilerplate and we put it on boring books to make them look spicy. We received complaints, too, from our customers. Who had sought in vain for The Good Parts, but had found nothing but … literature.
We pointed out we had said “MAY contain sexually explicit material.” We hadn’t actually promised it did. No guarantees, implicit, implied, or whatever.
In the name of pure research, I asked my husband if he, as a man (not as my husband, as a reporter, or as an otherwise intelligent human being) thought naked women in men’s underwear advertising would be a good idea. He said (and I quote): “Well, it would probably be a smart advertising ploy.”
Psychological, sociological, or cultural explanations? Nah. Irrelevant. It’s about money. Advertisers will do anything to sell the product.
Sex sells. It always has. Always will. Put a naked body on the cover of any book and it will sell better (not to me, but to somebody somewhere). The same book without a naked person will sell fewer books. Fact, not opinion.
Getting back to the important issue of marketing men’s underwear. The kid had a point. While I think women wearing the men’s underwear might confuse customers (presumably men), as you can see, there is far from universal agreement on that point.
Of course there ought to be sexy, naked women selling men’s underwear. They should be gazing at it with longing. Rubbing it all over their bodies while they gasp with pleasure. Caressing their breasts with it.
As for the larger question — why aren’t men’s underwear manufacturers already doing this kind of advertising? Who says they aren’t?