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Sex Sells... Everything!

Updated on June 26, 2011
English: "Vegetarians make chicks happy!"  Chinese: "Love her, love vegetarianism."
English: "Vegetarians make chicks happy!" Chinese: "Love her, love vegetarianism."

On Thursday, the vibrant Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu unveiled PeTA's new publicity campaign promoting vegetarianism. Targetting China's youth, the ads feature Hsu beatifically holding a tiny yellow chick, with text in English reading, "Vegetarians make chicks happy". The Chinese versions of the ads read, "Love her, love vegetarianism". The ads will be featured in fashion magazines and websites in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong over the next few weeks to promote the benefits of giving up meat.

Hsu, better-known in China as "Big S", rose to acclaim on the hit daytime drama Meteor Garden. Hsu says, "My health has improved a lot since I became a vegetarian. ... I want to tell this good news to all of my friends, to tell them the advantages ... so this campaign is perfect for me." Hsu has not touched meat for over a decade.

PeTA's ad campaign follows up on its other high-profile global efforts involving celebrities, such as its annual "sexiest vegetarian alive" awards, which last year went to Red Hot Chili Peppers' vocalist Anthony Kiedis, and to R&B singer-songwriter (and former X Factor winner) Leona Lewis.

PeTA promotes vegetarianism not only for its health benefits, but as a way of improving the lot of farmyard animals, that it says are often brutally treated by factory farms. Vegetarianism is not a widely popular concept in China, where until fairly recently many people struggled to feed themselves, and where all sorts of creatures - some of them endangered - are considered food, to the chagrin of environmental groups. Meat consumption in China is currently booming along with its increasing economic success. PeTA is hoping the Big S campaign will appeal to the next generation of Chinese youth, who are becoming more health conscious in the wake of increasing scandals involving tainted food.

"Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and protect against heart disease, cancer and strokes," the group said in a statement.

"A vegetarian diet is also the easiest way to stay slim and sexy," it added.

Hsu's cause is admirable, to be sure. But how often is sex used to promote campaigns? In a world where it's become common practice to use the enticement of sex - without the fulfillment - to promote ad campaigns... but where actually selling that sexual fulfillment is deemed unacceptable, we're getting bombarded with the message that our agendas are only worthwhile when they're being used to someone else's advantage. How often is this natural, healthy aspect of our lives repurposed to sell something completely peripheral to it - and how much are we sacrificing when we're being packaged and commodified like so much ground beef? Let's take a look at how sex is being used to sell everything from coffee to vacuum cleaners, and hope that the next election won't be won by our first female president... who got elected because she posed for photo-ops in a bikini.

Victoria's Secret

Starting with the least bizarre - everyone is familiar with the Victoria's Secret angels. Using sex to sell lingerie certainly makes sense. But as we'll see, it becomes an increasingly slippery slope.

German vacuum cleaner ad

Mm-mm! Nothing says sexy like a vacuum cleaner. You... do spot the vacuum cleaner, don't you? It's off over there in the corner.

Renova toilet paper

When I think of toilet paper, I think of sex because... I dunno, it's soft, strong and disposable?

Caption: "We're just as excited as you."
Caption: "We're just as excited as you."

Volvo car ad

The caption reads, "We're just as excited as you" (This was probably because, "Sit on it" was rejected.)

Really, Volvo? Somehow, I just don't think so.  Maybe it's just that I don't usually try to sell someone a car when I get excited.

Lavazza coffee

When I think of Italian coffee, I think of sex.  Yes, sex in coffee beans.  They're constantly hounding me for that over at Starbucks, the prudes.

Lynx body wash

It was certainly nice of her to just stand still while someone wrote that on her.

Carl's Jr. Hamburgers

Balancing out PeTA's vegetarianism campaign in an oddly ironic, cosmic, karmic way, the infamous Paris Hilton Carl's Jr. ad. I guess the PR business really is a meat market.

Canadian milk ad

Man, Canadia has everything. This ad shows people the healthy benefits of drinking milk.  Or at least applying it topically.

PeTA dietary campaign

I guess sex-based campaigns are familiar territory for PeTA.

PeTA anti-fur campaign

PeTA, you really need to find a better approach. Like, yesterday. I'm sure there are plenty of great ad people out there who'd be able to come up with something.

PUMA clothing

Oh look, she found his contact lens! Awesome! Now maybe he can help her wipe that odd gunk off of her leg.

Herald Towers Condominiums

Sex and real estate, now.

"Yes, come to Herald Towers. Completely furnished with very narrow single beds like these, you'll love it."

Che Magazine

It's difficult to tell from the photo, but the bottom half of her is real.  The top is the cardboard cutout.

Playstation 2 ad

The Playstation 2 has a lot to advertise.  But sex?


Hello there.  Would you care to tell us your name and what planet you come from?

Caption: "On my scooter, everything has to be perfect."
Caption: "On my scooter, everything has to be perfect."

Aprilia Scooters

And here you were, thinking it was an ad for The Gap.


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    • profile image

      guest 4 years ago

      I think it is pathetic

    • Satori profile image

      Satori 7 years ago from California

      Hey, Pam! Sure, it's not as though sex is the end-all, be-all of life. There's certainly some awesome sci-fi out there. I guess I just think we're cheapened somehow when it gets eclipsed to make way for another agenda. It's as though we have to take everything meaningful and worthwhile in life, and filter all of the value out of it. Sex is supposed to be one expression of intimacy and mutual attraction, and when that gets sabotaged on a societal level, a lot of the meaning in our lives becomes impaired. And in all sincerity, there isn't a whole lot of meaningfulness going on in the world. As an aside, they recently found that ten percent of the internet was pornography. I was pretty incredulous when I read that. I had always supposed that about ten percent of the internet was /not/ porn.

      Hi Fawntia! No, I hadn't seen those. You did just remind me of the United Colors of Benetton ads, though. How wild is it that clothing companies are using sex to sell clothes? Talk about turning a concept on its ear. It doesn't take long to come up with the idea of using sex to sell something - kind of unoriginal, I think. Maybe if we were less repressed as a society it wouldn't be a big deal, but it's almost like they're using the fact that we already are to sell their products... and that just reinforces the problem, which they're now profiting from. I dunno, maybe it's just me.

      Thank you both for your comments! I'm glad to hear from you again.

    • Fawntia profile image

      Fawntia Fowler 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Have you seen ads from American Apparel? Somehow they manage to be much more risque than Victoria's Secret ads, despite the fact that they aren't selling lingerie.

    • profile image

      pgrundy 7 years ago

      Weirdly, it kind of turns me off at this point. There's too much of it, and I'm 56. Right or wrong I find myself more excited by new sci fi movies or a good book. Also, the kind of sex that is used to sell stuff--it's so fake and glossy. It's as if only perfect beautiful people buy things and have sex, everyone else can just drop dead. That's how it feels anyway.

      This should get you some traffic though! I've written exactly two hubs with anything sexual in the title and they both get TONS of traffic. So the urge to merge is definitely still alive and browsing online. :)