Sexed up

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This article is about the English slang. For the single by Robbie Williams, see Sexed Up.

Sexed up refers to making something more sexually attractive. Since 2003 it has been used in the sense of making something more attractive than it really is by selective presentation; a modern update to the phrase "hyped up". Variants include "sex it up". The implication is that no actual lying is taking place, but that spin is being placed on certain parts of the message.

"Sexed up" is English slang, referring to making a product or service sexually attractive, which otherwise would not be sexually provocative (Chang & Tseng, 2013). Sex has been used in marketing for more than a century, from as far back as Pearl Tobacco in 1871 to promoting Carl’s Jr burgers in 2016 (Walsh, 2010). "Sexed up" is used in several aspects of marketing and is key in certain promotion campaigns (Chang & Tseng, 2013). Several well-known companies such as Carl's Jr, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Marc Jacobs, Nivea and Mars use sexual suggestiveness to market their products and services (Chang & Tseng, 2013). The influences of sexed-up ads affect both genders and adding a sexual feeling to something that would normally not exist in order to excite customers/audiences and gaining their attention (Chang & Tseng, 2013).

Sex appeal can be defined as the use of sexual or erotic images in advertising to draw interest or attract target audience and to help sell a particular service or product (Anabila et al., 2015). This technique has been an element of marketing ever since the introduction of modern advertising. Throughout the years, advertisers have exploited a variety of advertising appeals involving fear, humour, sex, music, rationality and emotions (Chang & Tseng, 2013). Sex appeal has gradually become a popular technique to sell products, especially those that are image-based, such as candy, liquor, cigarettes, jewellery, fragrance, fast foods, cosmetics and fashion goods (Chang & Tseng, 2013). Sex appeal has become a legitimate tactic when used in a manner that is interesting and relevant to the product, also ethically appropriate in the region it is promoted (Anabila, Tagoe, & Asare, 2015). A sexed-up appeal can be viewed as branding information in advertising context or have a persuasive appeal in a marketing context. Sex appeal can be defined as the use of sexual or erotic images in advertising to draw interest or attract target audience and to help sell a particular service or product (Anabila, et al., 2015).

Examples of products or services[edit]

In 1885 W. Dukes & Sons inserted trading cards into cigarette packs that featured sexually provocative pictures of models and actress (Reichert, 2002). This proved a masterstroke in promotions as Duke grew to become the leading cigarette brand by 1890 (Reichert, 2002). Woodbury’s soap sales declined and was almost discontinued in 1910, but it was historically saved by ads containing images of romantic couples promising love and intimacy for users of the brand (Reichert, 2002). Another example of the success of sexed-up appeals was Jōvan Musk Oil: Launched in 1972, Jōvan Musk Oil (now a product of Coty, Inc.) was promoted with a sexual phrase and description of the fragrance's sexual attraction properties.[1][2] This resulted in Jōvan, Inc.’s revenue growth from $1.5 million in 1971 to $77 million by 1978 (Reichert, 2002).


Evolution and emotional arousal theoretical framework, which states that people are evolutionarily predisposed to attend to emotionally arousing cues such as sex and violence (Lull & Bushman, 2015). Sexed up ads gains the attention of the audience but the product must retain the attention of the audience in order for the promotion campaign to be successful (Anabelia et al., 2015). Lull and Bushman in 2015 concluded there were no significant effects of sexual media on memory or buying intentions.

Advertising is only a part of a broader set of marketing and company decisions. Advertising must communicate the business value proposition to the intended target market (Kotler, Burton, Deans, Brown, & Armstrong, 2013). An advertising objective is set in regards to the target market, positioning, and marketing mix. The advertising objectives primary role is to inform, persuade or remind the target market (Kotler, et al., 2013). Carls Jr uses female models in minimal clothing to promote its burger through television advertisements (Walsh, 2010). This advertisement gains the attention of men in general. This, however, is unnecessary and has nothing to do with the product, the models are to help gain attention from the target market.


Sexed up is a case of stereotypes in advertising. Use of stereotypes in general no matter which one it be from gender, race or age it will miss-represent current social issues and continue to create a social class difference (Fraser & Taylor, 2012). The simplistic and sexist role portrayal of women is an inaccurate reflection of reality and is an unhealthy programming of youth (Fraser & Taylor, 2012). Exposure of gender-stereotypical images contributes to social problems like eating disorders as well as creating unrealistic body ideals for women and the perception by men that women should look a certain way (Fraser & Taylor, 2012).


The phrase gained currency in the United Kingdom on 29 May 2003, when BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan filed a report for BBC Radio 4's Today programme in which he stated that an unnamed source, a senior British official, had told him that the September Dossier had been "sexed up", and that the intelligence agencies were concerned about some highly dubious information contained within it—specifically the claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order. The dubious information was used to make the case for urgent action and to justify the war with Iraq.[3][4]

Brian Hutton, Baron Hutton explained the term "sexed up" when used by the BBC as

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Some have called this "Doublethink"." [5]


In music[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jōvan". Coty, Inc. Retrieved July 29, 2016. Along its longstanding history since 1972, Jōvan has been a leader in fragrance. The iconic Musk continues to be a best-selling fragrance with its sexual and revolutionary appeal. 
  2. ^ "Jōvan". Retrieved July 29, 2016. The infamous line proclaimed “Drop for drop, Jovan Musk Oil has brought more men and women together than any other fragrance in history”, introducing a sexual positioning advertising that paid handsomely. 
  3. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (September 27, 2003). "10 ways to sex up a dossier". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-08-11. Close analysis shows the changes were intended to make the case for urgent action, and then to justify war 
  4. ^ "Dossier on Iraq was not sexed up". The Hindu. September 12, 2003. Retrieved 2009-08-12. After weeks of damaging headlines, the Blair Government scored a significant hit against its critics today when a high-power parliamentary committee cleared it of the allegation of "sexing up" the controversial dossier on Iraq's weapons capability, published last September. 
  5. ^ Catherine Bennett (29 January 2004). "The sexing up of absolutely everything". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-08-12. The term "sexed up", as Lord Hutton explained yesterday, with wonderfully understated, under-sexed distaste, is "a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of the dossier". If he says so. "It is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable to make the case against Saddam Hussein stronger or it could mean that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it is permitted." Only in the latter sense, according to Hutton's view, could the dossier be called sexed up. Some have called this "Doublethink". 
  6. ^ Sahner, Christian C. (September 5, 2007). "Sexed-Up Sex-Ed". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  7. ^ "Ashlee Simpson Gearing up for 'Melrose Place' Role". BuddyTV. August 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 

Further reading[edit]