Episode #42 – Sexy Hurdles

December 4, 2009

Seth and his girlfriend are cute. Mandi’s an asshole.

They say sex sells. In a recent study, the improbably named academic Anenome Cerridwen says it doesn’t. At least not at the box office. Reading the article about the study (I did not read the study), got me thinking about my own box office habits. It dawned on me, it’s true, I do tend to shy away from films with overt sexuality.

Is it because amped-up sexuality is often the earmark of a low-grade b-movie cheesefest (in which case it might actually be a selling point). Or are we, as a society, more prudish than we’re lead to believe?

I don’t consider myself particularly prudish , but my viewing habits seem to be. Perhaps it’s because we’re so bombarded with sexual images these days, sex in films simply isn’t the draw it traditionally was. We don’t need to look to an R-rated movie for softcore titillation anymore, we just need to stand in line at the grocery store and look at the covers of the gossip mags. Is it a case of familiarity breeding contempt?

It just may be the case I actually am a bit prudish. I’m a big fan of the Hard Case Crime publishing imprint. They’ve been reprinting classic pulp and noir novels, alongside new works by the old masters, for a few years now. They’re delightful but there’s one thing that turns me off about them—the sordid cover art faithfully rendered in lurid pulp fiction style.

A typical example is titled The Corpse Wore Pasties. If found this on the shelf at the library, where I get my Hard Case fix, my first thought would be “hilarious” but my second would be “too bad I can’t read this one on the subway.”

Sometimes I hurdle the embarrassment of reading what essentially looks like a porn novel in public, but I’m always aware of the eyes of my fellow commuters judging me. Of course, that’s all in my head. Commuters generally don’t look at anything other than their own book. Jesus. I am a prude.

But prudishness aside, there seems to be a formula that the more skin on the cover of one of these things, the worse the writing found inside. Not always, but I’ve noticed a trend. So I tend to go for the Hard Case books featuring fully clothed people. The Wounded and The Slain was particularly excellent. And not a navel to be seen on the cover. Though I think there may have been some cleavage. Fair enough. These books harken back to a day when you couldn’t get your fill of sex by simply breathing, you needed to go out and buy a trashy pulp novel and they wouldn’t be quite the same without the sensational covers, would they?

So, does sex still sell? Am I the only person who avoids sexy books and movies with an averted eye? I suspect , despite Anenome’s claims, that sex does still sell. But in a different way that it used to. I also suspect I’m not entirely alone in my box office prudishness.


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