Advertising is everywhere and is used in numerous different ways.  It is the, “act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product or service” (  Advertising goes hand in hand with the media, which is having a bigger influence on people than ever before.  People use the media to advertise their products, and depending on their targeted audience, one would use different methods as well as different material.  For example, depending on the television channel one is watching there will be different commercials.  If a child is watching cartoons on a children’s channel, then the commercials will most likely be on fun toys, and clothes and products specifically for children and their parents.  If someone was watching the history channel, commercials would be focused on adult products, and more mature things.  This essay will focus on how sex is marketed to teens and how the media plays a crucial role in it.  Many studies have proven that sex sells, and now more and more companies are using sex as an advertising method.  Although this was not an issue when it was used against adults, now that companies are using sex as a marketing tool for teens, there have been complaints.  The next point that will be discussed is the impact of the media, and how it is everywhere.  The media bombards teens with things pertaining to sex through everything; television, music, magazines ect.  Although the media has always been around, there has been drastic change in the amount of sexuality in the media, and how much teens are surrounded by it.  The last part of this essay will be from an analytical perspective pertaining to the social exchange theory.  Today’s media is pervasive and is getting more and more risqué on how they are marketing products to teenagers.

Sex has been used as a powerful marketing tool, and although it has only recently been used with teens, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding this topic.  Sex grabs people’s attention, and can keep them interested for just a couple seconds longer than another advertisement, which is exactly what advertisers are looking for.  “It’s human nature to be curious about sex. A pair of long legs on a billboard is more likely to catch (and hold) a guy’s attention than a puppy, regardless of how cute it may be.” (  Advertisers want attention to be brought to whatever they are trying to sell, and sex could be a very powerful route.  The article ‘Sex in Advertising: Dees it Sell?” mentions many examples of companies who use sex to sell their products, and company who used sex for teens was Abercrombie and Fitch.  They used a summer catalogue and titled it, “XXX Wet, Hot Summer Fun”.  The title along with the pictures in the catalogue caused them to get a lot of negative publicity because it was intended for teens.  Although Abercrombie and Fitch got a lot of attention from this catalogue, almost all of it was negative and for them, trying to use sex to market their products failed in the end.  They were faced with more law suits and other problems because of the message they were sending out to teenagers.  Sex can be used to sell all sorts of products and ideas.  Recently, people have even used sexually based things to help raise money for cancer.  The American Cancer Society now has bracelets that they are selling that say “I love boobies” on them.  It is well known that sex sells and that it draws attention, and now even very important and serious companies are trying to use to make money.  Although a lot of people were buying them, and are continuing to buy them, and schools have started to ban them.  In California, many of the public schools have banned the bracelets because of their sexual connotation. (2 ‘I love boobies bracelets banned’)  This shows that although it may be affective to use sex, it could still be very inappropriate. (*********)

The media is everywhere, but especially teens are constantly surrounded by it.  The media includes television, magazines, music, and many more, and now that technology is so advanced, teens have constant access to all of it.  An article titled, ‘For teens, consuming media is a full-time job’, states that Americans aged 13-18 spend about 72 hours a week using electronic media.  This may seem like a lot but teenagers are constantly on their phones, listening to music, on the internet checking Facebook, or watching television, and could possibly be overlapping (3 full time job).  Although the majority of the media is harmless, since they are so involved with it, sex comes up more than one would think.  Another study showed that the average teen spends up to three hours a night watching television.  And, “The Kaiser Institute studied both the frequency and content of sexual messages during the family hour on the main American television networks. In their research, there were an average of 8.5 sexual interactions during family hour.” (4 is there a connection)  Since adolescence is a time for change and figuring out who you are, they are greatly influenced by many things, the media included.  If sex and sex related things come up approximately eight times in one hour, how much are they seeing in three hours every day?  One may not realize how predominant sex is in the media, and with teens being constantly surrounded by it they are being influenced.  It is obvious that teens spend a lot of their time watching television, and “A recent study (2010) shows that 54 per cent of teens watch different shows depending on if their parents are there.”(5)  This shows inappropriate shows are available for viewers, and that parents may not be completely aware of what they could be watching.  New technology has allowed teens to become more and more involved and surrounded by the media, which is having a negative effect on their behaviour.

Sex in the media and the influence on teens is a powerful and relevant topic, and this paragraph will analyze it from a social exchange theory perspective.  “The social exchange theory is a theory that attempts to explain the how individuals form and interact within reciprocal relationships by analyzing the costs and benefits of the relationship.” (Individuals and Families)  In other terms, it is when people analyze things from a pros and cons perspective, and not much feeling or gray area.  They want what is best for them, and weigh everything in.  This theory will be used to show a couple main costs and benefits of using sex to sell, and a few pros and cons about the media.  Sex does sell, but only in good taste, and should not be used when dealing with teenagers.  It is very effective, which is a huge benefit, but it can also cause a lot of controversy, which is a cost.  Since sometimes the law suit is more than the money made off the sale, the costs out way the benefits.  Another example for sex sells is that a benefit is that it grabs people’s attention, but a cost is that it is inappropriate for a teen to be watching or have seen something that should be intended for adults only.  Now the focus will be on the media, and how it is everywhere.  There are more positive aspects of the media than negative ones, but when it comes to advertising, it gets more complicated.  A huge benefit is that it keeps everyone updated on what is going on in the world, and therefore the media is more of a benefit if everything is included.  Someone using the social exchange theory would look at marketing sex to teens and see that the negatives out way the positives, and that it is an ongoing problem.


2 “‘I Love Boobies bracelets’ are frowned upon in US public schools.” 9 Oct. 2010. General OneFile. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.


4 Course: HHS4M1-02 Grant, Christina. “Teens, Sex and the Media: Is There a Connection?” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oct.-Nov. 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2010

5 “Excess of TV watching may cause health hazards in teens: Assocham.” UNI 21 Nov. 2010. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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