Ads that avoid explicit use of sexual terms


It is odd how the mainstream media, awash in violence and sexual innuendo, is so squeamish about using accurate terms such as penis and vagina for bodily features. There has been an effort to remove the hesitancy about vaginas by means such as The Vagina Monologues but there seems to still be some hesitancy with regard to penises.

This hesitancy can produce strange results. I was watching an ad on TV that was discussing how to deal with Peyronie’s Disease that affects the shape of penises. Instead of using the word at all or describing the problem in a matter-of-fact way, they used vegetables of different shapes and sizes to make the point

It reminded me of the comic strip The Boondocks some years ago where the grandfather was watching an ad on TV for erectile dysfunction. But instead of saying so, the ad was coy and resorted to circumlocutions such as urging men to use their product so that they could ‘get in the game’. This caused much frustration for the oblivious grandfather who kept asking his world-wise grandson Huey (who knew exactly what was being promoted and why) what the game being played was and being mystified about why the advertisers were not telling him.

Comments

  1. says

    Americans are such puritans. Why can’t they just say “hardon pills”!? For fuck’s sake people will bend over backwards to avoid having to tell their kids what a hardon pill is. “Where do babies come feom?” For fuck’s sake, Americans!

  2. file thirteen says

    To be fair, the use of vegetables is an image replacement, not a word replacement. An accurate ad would be one showing penises. “This one is normal, but the bump on this other one is abnormal.” Think it would fly?

  3. Mano Singham says

    file thirteen,

    They don’t have to show actual penises. But surely they could use the word?

  4. lumipuna says

    I can’t really relate, since in my country it’s illegal to advertise prescription drugs to consumers. I’ve only seen ED med ads years ago when I flipped some medical journal, targeted for doctors.

    Anyway, words penis and vagina and erection shouldn’t be considered too risky.

  5. johnson catman says

    Mano @3:

    But surely they could use the word?

    You MONSTER. How DARE you advocate for such trashy language! Think of the CHILDREN! Their delicate ears must not hear such medical terms lest their eternal souls be ripped out. (/s in case anyone doubts)

  6. Holms says

    I don’t know that there was much evasion at all; they used erection without fuss, and since the condition mostly concerns the erect rather than flaccid penis, this seems fairly appropriate.

  7. says

    Marcus @#1

    Americans are such puritans. Why can’t they just say “hardon pills”!? For fuck’s sake people will bend over backwards to avoid having to tell their kids what a hardon pill is. “Where do babies come feom?”

    Yes, I agree that Americans have a problem. Unfortunately, it can get even worse than that. The only time I tried to have phone sex in Latvian, that ended up being weird. Not because I personally have any discomfort about discussing sex, but simply because the necessary vocabulary does not exist. Let’s start with penises, in Latvian there’s a medical term for this body part, but nobody wants to use that word outside of the doctor’s office. Then there are also some slang terms, but polite people aren’t supposed to use those. In general, I don’t like to use slang at all, thus having to use these terms when talking about sex feels weird. There simply are no normal everyday words that I could use while talking about sex in Latvian. Never mind that in order to talk about sex in my native language, I would need some extra words for which I don’t even know the slang terms. For example, I don’t know Latvian words for specific parts of a penis. And I have no clue whatsoever how to say “butt plug” in my native language. How the hell am I supposed to talk about sex without having even basic words?

    In English at least the vocabulary is there. Even if many people aren’t comfortable with using it. For me talking about sex in English is easy, but doing so in my native language feels like a linguistic challenge. And just think about the implications of having such limited vocabulary. How the hell are two people supposed to have good sex without talking about it? It’s not like somebody can just magically guess what their partner likes without having a conversation about it.

    By the way, if you want to say “pussy” in Latvian, there’s one word that’s considered rude slang that polite people aren’t supposed to use. Alternatively, there are some euphemisms, for example, the word that means literally “a squirrel.” Talking about squirrels during sex feels ridiculous, so I just stick with the slang version. It’s not like I have much of a choice.

  8. lumipuna says

    Andreas:

    Let’s start with penises, in Latvian there’s a medical term for this body part, but nobody wants to use that word outside of the doctor’s office. Then there are also some slang terms, but polite people aren’t supposed to use those.

    Same here. In Finnish, neutral language often defaults to using the English/Latin words “penis” and “vagina”, but that doesn’t feel quite natural to me either.

    And I have no clue whatsoever how to say “butt plug” in my native language.

    I can easily think up literal Finnish translations for “anal plug” (for formal use) and “butt plug” (for bedroom talk). For some reason, however, the most commonly used name seems to be “anus peg”, which sounds about as stupid in Finnish as in English.

    This is seriously one of my pet peeves. Half the time, when I hear a Finnish name for some English sex/kink term, I think “I could’ve done better than that”.

  9. says

    lumipuna @#10

    For some reason, however, the most commonly used name seems to be “anus peg”, which sounds about as stupid in Finnish as in English.

    I just looked up some Latvian sex toy online shops. They use various terms for butt plugs: “anal inserts,” “anal stimulators,” etc. One of the shops tried to literally translate the words “butt plug” into Latvian with an extremely weird sounding result.

    This is seriously one of my pet peeves. Half the time, when I hear a Finnish name for some English sex/kink term, I think “I could’ve done better than that”.

    Personally, I’m not interested in inventing new words. I’m just annoyed by the implications of the lack of existing vocabulary. It makes it harder to communicate during sex: “I want you to touch me there, I have no clue how this body part is called.” It also makes it impossible to have casual conversations about sex with a friend. Using what’s considered rude slang words isn’t socially acceptable, but there are no other words.

  10. mnb0 says

    I suppose I’m lucky for being Dutch. My native language has more words for human genitals (and also boobs) than anyone needs. They range from very rude to highly formal. And when a proper translation is not available, like for butt plug, we simply take it over. Check at Wikipedia: we translate that devise to buttplug. Its popularity increased thanks to

    https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus_(beeld)

    aka the butt plug gnome (kabouter buttplug) for pretty obvious reasons.

  11. Jazzlet says

    Vagina is still a problem for some platforms, Dr Jen Gunter a gynaecologist has receently published a book called ‘The Vagina Bible’ and facebook refused adds for it using the word ‘vagina’ …

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