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Science: Women Don’t Like Sexy Ads, Unless the Ad is for Something Expensive

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. . .

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