Updated: May 31, 2019
It's one of the most cliche lines in marketing to date: sex sells. It's certainly used in every medium. Alcohol is just a liquid that alters perception...but it is marketed as something sexy. Burgers are sometimes advertised by showing models enjoying them in less-than-rational enthusiasm. Cigarettes, cars, sodas, and even domain hosts have all used "sexy" imagery to rationalize consumption.
It's become so watered down that even the word "sexy" has lost most, if not all meaning. After all, what is "sexy" about carbonated sugar water or rolled cylinders of combustible plant matter?
But in truth, Eros, the drive to reproduce, is a huge part of the human condition, one that motivates people more than just about anything. It is literally why there are seven billion people walking around instead of a dozen or so.
But that doesn't mean the human psyche is so malleable that a woman in a bikini extolling the virtues of real estate in Albuquerque is going to cause a rise in property values. More often than not, the "sex sells" claim is a lazy way to justify lazy copy.
True Eros drive isn't just about scantily clothed models and suggestive dialogue. Humans have been hard-wired to be drawn to symmetry and social comfort. That is the true Eros...not cleavage, not bikinis...symmetry and affection....things that get the blood flowing...to the brain, not further South.
Take cars for example. They are not "sexy" in the sense that they are erotically charged or beautiful in any romantic sense. But they are symmetrical. They have curvatures and elegant formations that suggest health and wellness. In other words...a beautiful car is like a beautiful, high-functioning horse, and an ugly car is like an unhealthy, ugly horse. It's not sex that sells...it's beauty.
Lastly, Eros is love...real love, not physical love. Alarm systems, not cigarettes, are "sexy." They cater to the desire to protect people you care about, so you can breath a sigh of relief when you come home and spend time with them, and oxytocin from their voices and their contact floods your bloodstream.
In short....sex does not sell, unless you're running a brothel. Eros, however, sells a myriad of things, and it does it with a clearer conscience and a nobler purpose.
Next week: We're leaving the Freudian terms and going with my own: The Aristaeus Drive!