What Does Sex Sell?

Sex sells. There is no doubt about that. Let a semi-nude (semi-naked?) woman pose next to a car and men will suddenly be interested. Ensure your TV show has some steamy scenes and a romantic (lusty) storyline or two involving the protagonist, and your audience will be hooked. Use a sexually tantalizing image to advertise an upcoming sermon on teen sexuality and the teenagers will show up in droves. Think HBO, MTV,Telemundo… you get the picture.

Sex sells. In a hypersexualized society, the easiest and fastest way to get people’s attention is to dress up your message (or at least wrap the package) in lingerie.

sauti sol

In a recent heated controversy over a poster used by Mavuno Church to attract teens to church, Pastor Muriithi Wanjau made a lot of sense while defending the move. Our teenagers live in a hypersexualized world. They see sex everywhere, they think about it most of the time, that is where they spend most of their time. And in order to get their attention, we have to go where they are. We have to reach out to them using images that make sense to them. Images that will hook and lure them in. And sex is one of the most powerful images.

A big part of the uproar that is now only a distant memory was that the church was succumbing to immoral means to achieving moral ends. The church was becoming like the world in order to win the world. The church was not only in the world, but it was rapidly becoming of the world. Defenders of the “blurred lines” approach were however equally strongly persuaded that this was not the case. The church was not actually promoting pornography or condoning illicit sex. On the contrary, those who did visit Mavuno church and listen to the advertised message confirmed that the church was still for moral uprightness, for chastity and for a sexuality guided and guarded by the Word of God.

The publicity was just that — publicity.

Both sides agreed to disagree. Pastor Muriithi called on those opposed to his church’s approach to offer better ideas of getting the teenagers’ attention. The other side offered few flimsy ones and insisted that Muriithi was “missing the point.”

No matter where both sides currently stand, a fact that cannot be denied is that sex sells. But the question that seems to go unanswered is, “what does sex sell?” I came across a tweet that I thought offered an open door into a room that hopefully holds the answer. The tweet by @rasmengesha23 said:

“Sauti Sol’s new video has 200,000+ views and Kanjii Mbugua’s 9,043. And you still don’t want us to talk about blurred lines in church?”

It made perfect sense. The two-week old raunchy music video by Sauti Sol has taken the Kenyan online world by storm. Virtually everyone has been talking about it. By the time of writing this post, the YouTube views were at 281,849 and the comments under the video were at 966. The video is a big hit, and yet another illustration of the power of the provocative sexual images in attracting an audience. The message (possibly) implied in the tweet above is that Kanjii’s “Christian” video had less views because it was clean, and without any explicit images. Small wonder more people will gravitate to Sauti Sol than Kanjii.

That’s when an important question occurred to me: How many of the 281,000 viewers actually remember (or even listened to) the message in Sauti Sol’s video? And while at it, how many of the 9,000 viewers remember the scenes in Kanjii’s video? If we begin speaking percentages and not counts, the data may be very surprising. I will not be surprised if the survey reveals that a higher percentage of those who watched Kanjii’s message retained its message while a higher percentage of those who watched Sauti Sol’s video retained its images, its scandal.

What does this tell us? Many things. But I will focus on one today: SEX SELLS SEX. Unfortunately, both the video and the message in Sauti Sol’s video are about sex and sensuality. So it might be a bit easier to correlate the video and the message. But when it comes to preaching a message that is moving in the opposite direction from the images portrayed, we can see the problem.

The bottom line is that people do not disobey God’s Word because they never got a chance to hear it. That’s why I love Pitson and Mwenyehaki’s line: ‘wanajua, ni kulenga tu’ (they know, they just choose to ignore it). Getting more people to hear the truth does not guarantee more people will accept the truth. We cannot play BIG DATA games on God’s Word because that is not how God works. Exposure does not guarantee acceptance.

 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” [John 6:44]

Sex sells itself, and when we choose to wrap our morsels of truth in wrappers that deny and mock that truth, we should not be surprised if the only thing retained by those we are trying to reach is the packaging. Not only is the medium denying the message, but the fallen world is hard-wired to be drawn to and retain the packaging more than the content. How many of those kids who attended Mavuno’s sermons are currently practicing what was preached? How many of them are currently singing along to and dancing and acting out the lyrics of blurred lines?

You get the point.

For the fame of His name,


4 thoughts on “What Does Sex Sell?

  1. Wow, very enlightened and so true. Sex sells itself, and our teens are so hooked to music videos with sex scenes. Kudos for this piece!

  2. May be the solution would be to show them the WHY? and to bring light to the understanding of what God really meant by creating it and why it is so important to keep ones self pure. “Fath comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God” – let alone that The word is as sharp as a double edged sword, cuts through where soul and spirit meet… Like you said… Ni kulenga tu.
    Thank you for the insightful read:-)

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