Sex Sells … Medical Imaging?

Debbie says:

Eizo, a Japanese company also doing business in Europe and around the world, has a new way to sell its medical monitors and imaging devices, with a “pin-up” calendar of skeletal images.

I’m no stranger to sex, or conventionally beautiful women, as sales devices, but I have to say that I don’t think of skeletons as sexy, and I imagine that I’m not alone in this. (I also imagine that some people will find these images very sexy indeed.)

Two things make this interesting to me:

First of all, the viewers (except anyone who is actually attracted to skeletal images) have to be so familiar with conventionally sexy poses that they can automatically “dress” the images with skin and hair and smiles. Of course, this is a lot easier because we have such predetermined senses of what color that skin should be, how smooth it is, what the hair should look like, what an advertising version of an inviting smile is.

Second, even in the realm of medical imaging, satisfying the stereotypical male gaze is more important than demonstrating the product. For medical purposes, these images would be just as useful (and perhaps more useful) if they represented a variety of sizes, shapes, ages, and sexes. (Since the way they’re done allows us to see the skin lines, it seems pretty clear that this is either one model, or several similar-looking tall, thin women. Assuming the model or models are young, they’re also in a demographic statistically less likely to need the kind of imaging work being sold here.) But the calendar isn’t a medical tool, it’s a sales tool; they want their customers to remember Eizo’s name and, in time-honored fashion, they’ve done that by associating their name with sex.

I wonder if it’s working for them.

(Thanks to Sociological Images for finding this one.)

7 thoughts on “Sex Sells … Medical Imaging?

  1. I was reading your post with interest, reflecting back on the reactions I had had when I first came across these pictures.

    And then I tripped over this line:
    Of course, this is a lot easier because we have such predetermined senses of what color that skin should be, how smooth it is, what the hair should look like

    I think I must be reading this badly, because this is the *last* blog where I would expect to feel like this.

    1. Hi, Trinker,

      I don’t think you’re reading badly, I think that sentence is sloppy. What I meant was that we are so accustomed to seeing particular skin colors, skin textures, hair styles in photographs of women in these positions that those are the looks our eyes most reflexively substitute. Not the “should” of what is right, but the “should” of what we are bombarded with daily.

      Does that help?

      And thanks for the compliment!

  2. Debbie –

    Hmm…I’m having still having trouble parsing that…is the supposition here that the observer will substitute their one favorite set of complexion/texture/hair? Or that we know what the general range of “this is a pinup shot” is, so that merely sketching out the bones with shadows allows us to complete the image?

    Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, thinking that many (or even most, in these post United Colors of Benetton days) will have a bit of confusion trying to decide which set they project. We’ve had 20 years or so of an increasingly diverse (at least as far as ethnicity, not so much for body shape) models.

    For myself, I found it an interesting exercise – more akin to seeing plastinated bodies than anything else.

    1. Trinker,

      I would never say that you are being too idealistic. From where I sit, though, United Colors of Benetton was a small inroad into a huge forest of whiteness. I’m thinking about the post-UCB magazine cover about up-and-coming actresses that got so much attention in the feminist/progressive blogosphere because every single one of the actresses featured was white. I’m thinking about what I see on the streets and in the magazines and on the websites I go to where I can’t block the advertising.

      I’d love for you to be right! And I will try to be more idealistic in my own writing, or at the very least, allow for more idealistic possibilities. You’re doing me a big favor!

  3. Deb,

    I find another unintended aspect of these images fascinating. All of us look like this “underneath”. So the pictures become an ironic comment on all “sexy girl “shots. They could easily be post modern or German expressionist images.

  4. Debbie –

    UCB was part of a huge revolution – whether one approaches those skeletal models as pinups or fashion models, I think this is one of the few places where the default is no longer quite so stringently high albedo. (There’s a lot of problematic exoticizing, but that’s another story.) Now, *Hollywood* I expect to be ridiculously self-congratulatory about some minor tokenization.

    Then again, I so know there are parts of the U.S. and English-speaking world where there’s still a strong element of “blond and boob-ey” as a standard.

    1. Trinker,

      Clearly, this is something you’ve been watching more carefully than I have, and what you tell me is really good to hear. Thanks!

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