Have you ever wondered why casinos often employ scantily clad waitresses? I’m not making this up as some sort of feminist attack or even a complaint. Many casinos, like the Rio in Vegas, do more than appear to vie for the title of Most Scantily Clad Waitresses in Town; they have appearance clauses in their employment contracts (which actually protect them from discrimination law suits). Now that any doubters are convinced…
Have you ever wondered why casinos focus on providing scantily clad staff?
Yes, sex sells. That’s the saying, anyway — and, if advertising itself counts, there’s certainly some evidence to back that up. Or at least sex sells to men; women aren’t always so happy with it. In fact, just this past December, the results of a study about women’s reactions to sex in advertising made the news. According to the study abstract:
Two experiments tested when and why women’s typically negative, spontaneous reactions to sexual imagery would soften. Sexual economics theory predicts that women want sex to be seen as rare and special. We reasoned that this outlook would translate to women tolerating sexual images more when those images are linked to high worth as opposed to low worth. We manipulated whether an ad promoted an expensive or a cheap product using a sexually charged or a neutral scene. As predicted, women found sexual imagery distasteful when it was used to promote a cheap product, but this reaction to sexual imagery was mitigated if the product promoted was expensive. This pattern was not observed among men. Furthermore, we predicted and found that sexual ads promoting cheap products heightened feelings of being upset and angry among women. These findings suggest that women’s reactions to sexual images can reveal deep-seated preferences about how sex should be used and understood.
When the news of this sexual economics theory, the theory that that “women want sex to be something rare and valuable”, hit the news, only a few smart folks took the time to point out that women had more negative feelings toward all sex-driven ads, than they did towards the others ads (which featured “mountain scenes”). Anyway, the news of this study and its findings really upset some women — but for all the wrong reasons, I say.
Some women were upset, claiming that the study’s findings were that “women use sex as a bargaining tool” and that such a notion is “wildly outdated” — which is really just taking an issue with sexual economics theory itself. Yes, that theory is debatable. But why not take issue with the fact that this study, like so many damn other studies, had the odd idea to see if sex can sell to women by showing them sexy photos of women and not sexy photos of men?
While there’s no mention of the sexual orientation of the study participants, and demographics for orientation are largely unknown, it is relatively safe to assume that, unless screened otherwise, the majority of the participants would be heterosexual. So why not show them sexy photos of men? Or at least show them some photos of sexy men? Why do we continue to study the female response to sexuality on male terms?
That’s as sexist as it gets. And, frankly, I think it objectifies the women in the study themselves.
Then again, just how are the women responding to the sexy women in ads? Do women see the sexy babes in advertising as commodities, rivals, the idea of sex, or glamorous versions of themselves? Would that depend on the product? Would luxury products themselves just make the women imagine they were in that scene, enjoying a luxury lifestyle?
All this said, it sure makes sense for casinos to reconsider their scantily clad female waitresses in terms of female gamblers. Are the casinos selling dreams and glamour, or driving female gamblers away?