Sexualizing Clogged Pipes? Really?

Sex Sells. We all know that. Marketers know that. Everyday, we’re bombarded by sexual undertones and overt sexual imagery on TV commercials, billboards, print and online ads. This is not new. As a society, we are addicted to sex and sexuality. We consume porn like we consume food. Even with a plethora of free Internet porn, the industry is still a thriving multibillion-dollar industry. Why are we so obsessed with sex? Some would argue it’s because of media’s influence and their fixation with sex. While others would say media is merely reflecting the desires of society. I’m not entirely sure if the chicken came before the egg in this instance, but what I do know is that sex is everywhere. And it’s on my mind often. But I never imagined I’d be reminded of a threesome while shopping for a liquid drain cleaner at the local Wal-Mart. It’s not my fault the thought came into my mind. I wasn’t even thinking about being engaged in the threesome myself, but of a woman and two male plumbers doing it dirty. More specifically, I was thinking about the Liquid-Plumr Double Impact commercial I had seen only weeks earlier. When I read the words “Double Impact” on the label, my mind shot back to the sexualization of this otherwise asexual product and how dirty the commercial made me feel the first time I saw it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no prude. I love sex. But not when I’m unclogging backed up pipes. Sex in marketing is very common for alcohol and tobacco companies, clothing and perfume lines, make-up brands and even deodorants (think Axe). But we don’t usually expect that from Liquid-Plumr do we? We have certainly come a long way from the 1980s Drano ads that depicted a God-like voice that shook the house about, scaring women into using their products.

The sexuality in this new ad starts within the first 5 seconds. A woman stands at a grocery aisle, reading the label on the Liquid-Plumr packaging and when she reads the words “Double Impact,” she doubles back to read them again. Apparently, she believes double impact means double penetration, since we are lured into her promiscuous mind to experience her sexual desires of being with two men at the same time (the threesome fantasy).

The first plumber, who by the way looks nothing like my cousin Gary that’s been plumbing for over twenty years, rings her bell and says, “I’m here to snake your drain.” Then another plumber, even more masculine than the first, shows up and tells her, “I’m here to flush your pipe” (not pipes). The lust on her face is priceless when she squeals as if the party has already started. The men go straight upstairs where the bedrooms usually are while she closes the door and lets her hair down.  In the next shot, the two men tower over her on either side as she appears to push a long phallic object down toward her body, while one of the guys smiles and nods approvingly. That’s when the 1970s style porn music intensifies and the deep, sexy voice of the Barry White-like narrator oozes his way onto the scene, telling us that Liquid-Plumr has a “long snake” that grabs “deep” clogs and a “powerful gel to finish off the rest baby.” While Barry White puts us in the mood, we cannot help but associate the otherwise mundane routine of unclogging pipes with the image of the two men, first penetrating the woman with a “long snake,” then releasing an orgasm in her pipes to “finish off the rest.” The emphasis he puts on certain words, coupled with the imagery, leaves no room for any other interpretation.

When the act is done, the music stops and we are abruptly brought back to reality where the woman snaps out of her fantasy, holding a bottle of the product. Miraculously, she sees the two men from her fantasy, who happen to be employees of the store, both glance over at her with flirtatious smiles. One of the men is handling meat. The other, in the fruit section, holds two large melons in his hand that resemble D-cups, and brings one melon to his face for a whiff; behind him we see stacks of the ever phallic cucumber. After that experience, how can she choose any other brand?

She not only takes one, but two of the bottles home and clumsily speeds away, embarrassed by her sexual fantasy. By taking two bottles instead of one, it clearly symbolizes her bringing the two men home. It’s also very curious that the two men from her daydream are actual employees of the store. That implies that she must have already seen them before she even got to the Liquid-Plumr, because too often, in our dreams, the people in them are those we either know or have come in contact with. She was already sexually attracted to the two men prior to her encounter with the words “Double Impact,” and when she put two and two together, she came up with three.

Quite often, ads represent the male as aggressor and initiator of sex. In this case, it is the woman who is represented as promiscuous and loose. Her conservative motherly look appears in stark contrast to her sexual longings, and even though we are living in the era of post-women’s sexual liberation, it seems risky for a wholesome brand like Liquid-Plumr to represent women as sexually aroused while shopping for groceries. Although her fantasy does not literally manifests itself into the actual act, the implications are all too obvious; she will go home with her two bottles and behind closed doors, she’s free to further explore her sexual desires. Some might be troubled by the woman’s fantasy itself. I’m not. In 2013, the threesome has become quiet common. But to sexualize a drain cleaner, might be taking the concept that sex sells products a bit too far. A commercial like this is broadcast during primetime. Do we want our children to experience women having sex with two men while Barry White and his porn music play in the background? I don’t think they’re ready. And I’m not excited by the thought of male-male-female threesomes when all I want is to unclog some pipes. Please. Not on a Monday afternoon.


About Wilson Santos

Wilson Santos is a writer, filmmaker, music producer, DJ, spoken word artist, graphic designer, entrepreneur and college professor. And he makes a hell of a Mojito too.

Posted on February 22, 2013, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. There are some interesting cut-off dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There’s some validity however I will take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

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