Sex sells cosmetics

Steve Gibbons explores the ways beauty brands can tap into the zeitgeist for fetish

Poet Philip Larkin famously said “sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three, which was rather late for me, between the end of the Chatterley ban and The Beatles’ first LP”.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and while 1963 happily wasn’t too late for me, my youth was still coloured by Edwardian mores towards sexuality. I asked for the album of the musical Hair for my 14th birthday. My mother was, and still is, relatively liberal, but she felt it necessary to biro out the third song on the track list, which is entitled Sodomy. And for additional good measure, she nail varnished out the entire track on the record itself!

Fast-forward 50 years and everything has changed. Putting the conservative Christian right to one side, here in the west things like the pill, the women’s movement and attitudes to sex before marriage, single sex relationships and women’s reproductive rights have created a paradigm shift in our acceptance of our natural sexuality. But perhaps ‘paradigm shift’ isn’t quite the correct phrase, as this suggests a seismic shift at one point in time, and the reality is that it’s taken 50 years to get to where we are now.

I still can’t quite shake off my Edwardian-coloured upbringing, and I’m writing this article against my better judgment under persuasion from my colleagues. But I was encouraged by the Editor’s response when I proposed the subject. She said: “Who doesn’t like a bit of filth in their Christmas issue?”

By now I hope your curiosity has been piqued.

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