What’s better than sex?

According to a Salon article, surveys are trying to make the answer to that question “everything”.

I had to wonder: Why have these sex-devaluing surveys become so popular?

In part, it’s good business. Take a survey finding that 43 percent of Canadians would choose bacon over sex – it was conducted by Maple Leaf Foods Inc., a bacon producer. Then there’s the one sponsored by the Better Sleep Council, a creation of the mattress industry, which found that 61 percent of American adults would choose a good night’s sleep over sex. See also: a survey by mobile app company Telenav which found that — surprise, surprise – one-third of Americans would rather go without sex than their cellphone. (On a related note, Gazelle, an electronics trade-in site, found that 15 percent of respondents would rather “give up sex than go for even a weekend without their iPhone.”) Sex is the ultimate measure of desire — so why wouldn’t a company try to position its product as shockingly even more desirable?

Of course, there’s also some reinforcement of beloved gender stereotypes going on here. Some of the surveys focus in particular on women – you know, those creatures famed for hating sex. Cosmopolitan found that one in five women would sooner give up sex than Farmville (presumably the magazine will begin selling women 101 hot new ways to win at Farmville). It’s just an updated riff on the joke of “Not tonight, honey, I have a headache.”

And yet sex is what sells, strangely enough. Despite the fact that there are some asexual folks, but there are no (surviving) people who abstain from eating.

Don’t get me wrong, I would probably have to make a decision between sex and something else, any time the choice is presented, and sometimes (though rarely) sex wouldn’t win. I don’t get why the decision must be made as a binary one — or one of those surveys that say “would you give up sex for a week or Facebook for a week” when some people don’t even have computers or Facebook accounts, or no steady partner and a week is nothing. (Or a steady partner and a week is still nothing.)

What do you folks make of this phenomenon of trying to play your product up as better than sex? How would that play to asexual folks? And what do you think tops sex on your to-do list?


  1. Erin says

    Considering that everything’s better with bacon, sex and bacon should be allies, not adversaries. Therefore it should be sex followed by bacon, not sex or bacon.

  2. Randomfactor says

    Reminds me of the old joke about the rabbi and the priest, and the priest asks him, “just between the two of us, have you ever tried bacon? Just to see what it’s like?” And the rabbi allowed that yes, once on vacation where presumably nobody knew him, he’d had some.

    “So tell me, have you ever had sex?” the rabbi asked. “Just between us, of course?” And the priest sheepishly admitted he’d wavered once early in his career with a parishioner.

    “Better than bacon, isn’t it?”

  3. throwaway says

    I get a better night’s sleep after indulging in bacon and sex. You’re right that it isn’t binary. But bacon comes before and after sex, and in between sleep periods. Like an SlBSBSl sandwich, extra mayo.

  4. carpenterman says

    I’ve given up bacon, actually. It’s helped me lose weight and get in better shape. Which gives me more energy for sex.
    Seriously… I don’t miss bacon.

  5. Aliasalpha says

    They’d be better off flipping it for me, asking if I’d give up something that I actually DO to instead have sex & then use a probable negative answer as the selling point.

  6. Charles Sullivan says

    But after sleeping, the morning ride is a very nice ride, unless you have to get up too early.

  7. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    What’s better than sex?

    To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.

  8. says

    I can’t speak for anyone else who is asexual, but sex just doesn’t sell to me. I simply cannot see sex as anything but a way of creating more humans, which doesn’t interest me either.

    Back to the question. At the top of my list are writing sci-fi, playing or planning video games or taking photos. Or just about anything BUT sex. Especially if it’s my birthday and CERN have just announced they’ve found the Higgs boson. :)

  9. michael says

    I think you mean “What’s better than the hypothetical sex you fantasy about?”

    I can think of many offers of sex that just make me cringe, ohhh sure, if I get to pick the person and assume we have chemistry and assume she is into the same thing I am then of course…whats better than sex?

    What about sex with your grandpa?

    What about sex with your dog?

    What about sex with someone who likes performing rough anal?

    Whats better than that sex? well, a good sandwich for starters.

  10. A. Noyd says

    For asexuals to relate, they’d have to do “worse-than” comparisons. Like, “62% of asexuals find sleeping on the competitor’s mattress is worse than having sex.”

  11. Emburii says

    It’s actually a little more complicated than just ‘sex sells’.

    As I understand it, yes, mentioning sex or using it in an ad will attract attention more than one that does not use such imagery. But that doesn’t actually translate to higher sales on that product, or even higher brand recognition. People actually are smart enough to realize that using a naked woman (because it’s almost always naked women) in an advertisement for a chocolate bar does not make it tastier. Nor does a slinky blonde (never a blond, sadly) draped across the hood make a car faster, or its gas mileage better. But because people do have that initial reaction of ‘nekkid? where?’, ‘sex sells is treated as an immutable law rather than the cheap and incomplete truism it actually is.

  12. embertine says

    Jason, sex is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lea,n and the tomato is ripe…
    They’re so perky, I love that.

  13. says

    Well, I can’t have sex right now, so most pleasurable things are better than sex right now.
    After having had wonderful sex, everything else seems better than more sex right now, too, especially a good night’s sleep.

    But I’d like to see the responses they’d get if they stopped people during sex and asked them if they wanted to stop now for bacon.

  14. embertine says

    Giliell, I didn’t realise that most people don’t stop halfway through sex for a bacon break. Boy was I embarrassed when my ex explained that.

  15. garnetstar says

    I find sex a darn good thing, but I’ve been an insomniac for several decades. If I could choose right now between a sexual encounter or a prolonged deep sleep, I’d be off to Dreamland.

    If, OTOH, you asked whether I’d prefer to have no sex or no sleep for several decades, the answer would be different.

    I gather that medical residents who work 130 hours a week and have only every third night off often have their cake and eat it too by catching some sleep *during* the sex. Their partners don’t mind because it’s a rare occasion that they ever see the resident while s/he’s awake.

  16. Drew says

    Does “sex” in this situation include masturbation? I can go for a while without having sex with someone else, but I don’t think I could give up sex with myself.

    Aside from that, I don’t think sex is really that great, and I am by no means asexual. I would choose most things I like over sex. Personally, I think many people overvalue sex and spend too much fantasizing about it and trying to get it. Sex is merely sex. I think efforts to devalue sex are constructive and realistic.

    I’m just waiting for them to start devaluing romance…

  17. plutosdad says

    My long running joke with my wife is that once when we were first dating I was about to go out on an errand, and she called me into the bedroom where she was and wanted to have sex, and I said “but I was about to go to Walgreens”

    That went over well as you can imagine, I pretty quickly came to my senses

    So now our code when there are other people around is “let’s go to Walgreens later”

  18. says

    I’m guessing the reality of these polls is that people are comparing the possibility of sex to the certainty of the alternative. I’ve gone through a dozen condoms in a weekend, and if you asked me after that weekend whether that weekend I just had was better than your product, I’d laugh in your face. If I was in the midst of a 2-year dry spell, and you asked me “sex or gummi bears” I would think about the 5-pound bag of gummi bears for $6 at Sam’s Club, and compare it to the likelihood of somehow breaking my 104-0 weekend losing streak, and I’d be happier with the bears in the hand, you know what I mean?

  19. Isaac says

    Ooooh, thank you so much for remembering about asexual people!
    This post is funny since in the asexual community, the line that cake is better than sex is actually a common joke (I mean, it’s true for many of us, but cake as a meme is a joke).

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