Sex Appeal in the !940s-1950s-Kevin Moffatt


Sex Appeal in the 1940s
- The sexual revolution did not start in the free-loving 1960s as is commonly thought. It began with the “silent generation” of the 1940s and ‘50s where sex appeal started to really hit form.
- This late Forties article (given out to class) explored the post-W.W. II consumer culture and a new sales pitch that the high priests of mass media had recently discovered that was guaranteed to move the merchandise right out the door every time: sex appeal. "The importance of attractive girls in our economy” was stressed by John McPartland when he discussed modern advertising in his recent best seller, __Sex in Our Changing World__
- "Always, there was the secret whisper of sex. For women it was, 'Be lovely, be loved, don't grow old, be exciting'...For men it was, 'Be successful, make everyone know that your successful, how can you get women if your not successful?'"
- A string of ads during the 1940s portrayed gaining weight as the sexy way and skinny being the non-sexy way, or being a “beanpole”. It’s amazing how no matter what way ads are shown they still tell women that no matter how they look, they don’t look good enough. One thing though the ads do focus on finding a mate not just being sexually appealing to everyone like in today’s ads.
- In these ad segments, they also targeted men, stating in one ad (shown in presentation) “a skinny man hasn’t a chance”.
Sex Appeal in the 1950s
- Unlike today Women did not overtly object to sexism and stereotyping in ads in the 50s.
- A lot of ads were generally about the family values and life styles, but they were also quite sexual and stereotypical.
- Palmolive: This ad showed that the main purpose of a woman was to look pretty (and maybe cook food, clean the house and take care of the kids)?
- With Technology ads became slicker in the 1950s, and featured photos of famous people like rock stars for example, where they focused more on selling the image. Eaxmples: Rock Hudson in the camel ads
- About ad handouts at end of presentation: These ads stand as relics to a bygone era, one in which sexism as well as racism and other forms of intolerance were commonplace. Studying these print ads helps us reflect on today’s society and shows just how far we’ve come.
- In 1952, Smirnoff launched the “leaves you breathless” advertising campaign. The success led Smirnoff to head to Hollywood which brought the successful deal to be featured in James Bond movies for the infamous “vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.”(In 1962, lead in for 1960s-1970s for presentation)
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Works Cited


123HelpMe.com. Media Advertising - Portraying Stability Through Advertising in the 1950's. 11 October 2012 <<http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=19953>>.
About-Face. 1940s ads: Fat-shaming is rooted in skinny-shaming. 3 January 2012. 11 October 2012 <<http://www.about-face.org/1940s-ads-fat-shaming-is-rooted-in-skinny-shaming/>>.
Business Pundit. 10 Most Sexist Print Ads from the 1950s. 6 April 2010. 24 November 2012 <http://www.businesspundit.com/10-most-sexist-print-ads-from-the-1950s/>.
Marinica, Adriana. Print Ads Through the Decades: The ‘50s. 17 January 2011. 24 November 2012 <http://www.crazyleafdesign.com/blog/print-ads-through-the-decades-the-50s/>.
Old Magazine Articles. 1940s Advertising and the Need for Fashion Models. 11 October 2012 <<http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/fashion_mosel_history_article#.UH_8jo5tJzM>>.
Primal Branding. Smirnoff the Primal Vodka. 15 January 2006. 24 November 2012 <http://primalbranding.blogs.com/primal_branding/2006/01/smirnoff_the_pr.html>.
""Silent" Sexual Revolution Began In 1940's and '50s." Explore. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.research.ufl.edu/publications/explore/v10n1/extract4.html>.