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Booty shorts: what product are you selling?

The 7 Triggers for Fascination
grey goose [1]

“Booty shorts” Creative Commons License [2] JASON ANFINSEN [1] via Compfight [3]

Today I’m trying something new. I’m writing something for my kids. I have 2 girls, currently 9 and 13. The older one (M) seems to have great desire to hang her derriere out of the bottom of her shorts. I’m approaching this from an advertising perspective since that’s what I do to put a roof over her head.

M. I’ve got a friend, Sally Hogshead (whom you met in Orlando at Starbucks before we headed home from Disneyworld) who is one of the most brilliant advertising minds I know. She’s also pretty hawt, just like you. It’s no secret among us in the advertising world that sex sells stuff. It’s one of those things in life that works better than it should- but it’s also intellectually weak, so we tend to try not to use it when we don’t have to.

Sally’s no stranger to doing ads that are risque. She’s done some for Dolce and Gabbana that border on pornography, and work for the Hard Rock hotel people in Las Vegas that try to make them the ultimate “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” sort of place.

Why would advertising do ads like this? To make their products memorable, to make you have some kind of emotional punch in the gut, to ultimately make people lust after whatever it is you’re selling- even if it has nothing to do with sex or sex appeal.

I hope you are smart enough to know that very expensive sunglasses don’t make ugly people look great when you look through them- but that they can make mediocre looking  people look better wearing them. Sally used one of advertising’s tricks to make you think that as long as you’re wearing their shades, you’ll constantly be running into very sexy people because they make you feel sexy- and we know that sex sells.

While Sally can still make ads for a living, that’s not her primary profession anymore. She teaches people “How to fascinate” [4]– it’s a pretty cool gig for her, because she’s a very interesting person from an incredibly fascinating family. Her father is an orthopoedic surgeon (and no I didn’t spell it wrong, that’s the way the Brits spell it and how Dr. Hogshead prefers it) and her older sister, Nancy Hogshead [5], won 3 gold medals in the Olympics in swimming and is a big proponent of Title IX (making it possible for your little sister to play football if she wants). Her brother went to Harvard and is a really smart guy too- but doesn’t jump in the limelight like his sisters. She even jokes about her last name, Hogshead (on her business card it says “A hogshead is 62 gallons, what’s your last name mean smartass?”) as driving her to stand out as someone other than the girl with a funny name in school- you thought it was a horrible name when you first heard it- didn’t you? Once you met her, you wouldn’t dare think of someone with a hog head on their shoulders would you?

The 7 Triggers for Fascination [6]

Seven ways to be fascinating

But this post is about “booty shorts” not hogsheads. It’s about what you say when your ass cheeks are hanging out the bottom of your pants. I understand you think it’s cool to be “hawt” and have the boys all go wild when you’re around and shaking your butt when you walk- but lets instead take an analytical look at what booty shorts are doing from Sally’s Fascination triggers. Yep, she’s come up with the science of desire- breaking down the ways we get attention and become fascinating to our audience to seven different “triggers”- tools that you have at your disposal to get and hold someone’s attention:

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret- when she first wrote the book “Fascinate [7]” two of the names were slightly different. Passion was “Lust” and rebellion was “vice”- so when you see me in my The Next Wave [8] t-shirt and it says “Create Lust • Evoke Trust” you may better understand why Sally and I worked together. We both came to the same conclusions and put them into similar words. When we were still working on the draft, before the title was finalized, there was a focus on goldfish- because research had made the claim that our attention span was now around 9 seconds- about the same as a goldfish.

Boys your age are a lot like goldfish btw, as we start exploring my rationale for “hating on” booty shorts,

So which triggers do you think you use in wearing booty shorts? Well, you can use a bunch of them at the same time – but it’s pretty easy to analyze that there are some you aren’t using: Power, and trust are both out- and although teenage boys may think you are using mystique- arousing their curiosity, you are actually doing the opposite- there is nothing left to the imagination other than seeing you with your shorts off- you’ve taken away any reason to be curious about you in a meaningful way.

Now- as to Passion- remember it used to be called lust- there is a big difference between those two terms. To be passionate about something is noble- deep and strong. To be passionate about saving the world is a lot different than to lust after everything in the world, right? It’s why Sally had to refine her thesis (a thesis is her way of explaining her ideas) so that people didn’t go off in the wrong direction. So when you’re wearing booty shorts- you aren’t using passion- you’re using lust- and it’s off the approved trigger list.

You think you are using Rebellion- because you know I don’t approve. But, it’s not from my position as dad, but from my position as an advertising guy. Remember, rebellion used to be called vice- but isn’t anymore. Being truly rebellious is defined by me as an act of courage. For the people in the Arab states who fought against their countries’ rulers- was rebellion. Showing up with a slingshot at a gunfight takes bravery- and a willingness to risk your life to make a point and try to change the world. Vice on the other hand, means doing something you know you shouldn’t do- like smoking dope, drinking to excess, gambling money you can’t afford to lose or having sex for the wrong reasons. Wearing booty shorts is a shortcut to vice- not an act of rebellion.When I was growing up, wearing jeans was consider rebellious- funny huh? And the rebel in blue jeans was James Dean, and the jeans of choice were Levi’s. But, by the time I was wearing them- everyone was. We weren’t rebelling anymore- we were just saying we wanted to be like him, because the rebellion was already over- suit and tie or slacks and dress shirts had already given way to jeans and t-shirts. To be a rebel now- booty shorts don’t really work anymore. They’ve become the Levi’s of the wannabes. Anyone can wear them- and so most of your friends in school are. That doesn’t mean they are fascinating- it means that you are all conforming and competing with each other for the vice vote.

There is the alarm trigger left. “Create urgency and need” as Sally defines it. Originally, Sally wouldn’t let “Alarm” be a primary trigger in her test that I helped her implement. Over time, she’s refined the test so it can be a primary- but it one of the hardest to use effectively- without backfiring. Politicians like to use it – coupled with fear, to get people to vote for them. It’s the trigger that can make people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Like it or not- booty shorts’ use of this trigger is like fireworks on the 4th of July- especially to boys your age- and even to men my age. They scream “look at my nearly naked butt” and tease at seeing the rest of it. This isn’t advertising- it’s pandering. It’s saying I’ll let you have a peek, a taste- it’s like giving away a free sample at Cinnabon  (one of Sally’s favorite vices) where they just know that if you have a taste you’ll want to buy a whole one.

Of all the triggers you’d want to attract boys with- is this the one you really want to use? Wouldn’t you rather use prestige, mystique, passion or trust? With Alarm- it only works until someone comes with a louder siren- a thong- and then, naked. This isn’t very difficult- any of your friends can top you in a minute on the alarm scale, it’s as easy as taking off their shorts. I would hope at this point you are starting to understand why I cringe when I see you competing for fascination with this trigger.

There are so many things to love about you, to be fascinated by, to attract boys with. All I’m asking is to ditch the booty shorts and try using a more sophisticated trigger. You want to attract boys who will stick around for more than nine seconds, don’t you? Booty shorts are goldfish bait, you on the other hand- are worthy of a lot more respect and interest.

Let’s try another trigger to fascinate, one that says you’re a unique, interesting, wonderful young woman. Because that’s how I, and the world would see you- unless you’re wearing those stupid short shorts.

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This is an issue with my own 13 year old step daughter as well… hopefully one she’ll outgrow with age. Oddly enough it’s her grandma and biological father (both individuals who have criticized her mother and I for not being religious, strict, or whatever nonsense they can conjure to create difficulties) who bought these ridiculous shorts for her… and her raccoon make up… and her blingy (trashy) looking clothes. Like many girls (and boys) her age she has mistaken being interesting with looking interesting… a point I try to cleverly point out whenever she asks if she can get something pierced or dye her hair all crazy. She gets good grades and seems to think highly enough of herself to recognize that “boys are dumb” so we try not to make an issue out of something the other half of her family doesn’t seem to see as a potential problem. Most importantly we just try and talk to her and not nag, stimulate the intellectual side of her, and create and environment of openness so we know if she has a boyfriend or a crush or something… but at this age it’s all still a massive challenge… and I keep trying to remind myself of what I was like when I was 13.


It’s an interesting conversation, along with the points you’re asking her to consider. However, taking into consideration the significant sexualization of girls at a younger and younger age, the message she is being constantly bombarded with IS considered the norm among the younger generation. Witness the lack of filter among a generation who has grown up never knowing life before Facebook and Instagram and “share it the second it happens.” It’s tragic, particularly for young women, many of whom are carrying their sexuality on display like a loaded weapon, having no idea how to safely handle it. M is a beautiful, talented young woman – you’re right to have this discussion, but you have to admit advertising has played an enormous role in where we are right now.

Pizza Bill

What a mixed message.  While I agree completely with your basic point, how long have you been married to the mother of you “kids”?  You can’t hypocritically discuss these things and expect you point to be taken seriously.  Show us, don’t just tell us (or the kids).

David Lauri

Not having the right to marry, I know that while marriage certainly has its benefits, it’s not a piece of paper, Pizza Bill, that makes a family.
It shouldn’t make any difference to you or others whether David E marries his partner or not.  That’s their business.  They have their own reasons for their decisions and don’t have to justify them to you or anyone else. Doesn’t make their family any less legitimate or valuable.


yeah… have to agree with David Lauri here. Not sure I see how not liking booty shorts & hoping to instill a sense of self worth that goes beyond physicality in an individual (that person being your step daughter or otherwise), and lack of a marriage certificate = hypocritical in any way. I am not currently married to my 13 year old step daughter’s mom either… but we have a son together and are fully committed to one another (unfortunately it makes more economic sense right now to remain unmarried). That doesn’t make the lecture I had to give her last night about how you don’t take things that aren’t yours (she destroyed a skirt of her mom’s for a sewing project without asking) any less relevant or potent, nor the nice family dinner we had earlier in the evening any less familial and nice. The “typical” married with kids scenario isn’t so typical anymore… if it ever was. Like most people in these non-“traditional” families we just do the best we can and try to teach the kids good values that reflect our own and let them know they are loved.


What was her response when you spoke to her about this concern ?


Ok, I am confused. I don’t get on here that much but I never saw a reference to DE having children before. I didn’t know he had two daughters.


you could just start wearing Speedos around the house until she understands.


Somehow, I just KNEW she’d say TL:DR (too long, didn’t read)!!! =)


From my perspective the problem isn’t whether a young girl shows some skin.  The problem is that we presume that all women are selling something–and then we decide what it is based on her attire.

Fact is, I enjoy seeing attractive young women in all sorts of attire, scanty or not.  And over the years I’ve decided that, counter to my puritanical upbringing, there’s nothing wrong and quite a bit right about my current attitude.

I’m informed by this observation: the likelihood of sexual assaults and oppression of women in a society is directly proportional to the amount of clothing she’s required to cover up under.  Ask yourself, in what societies are women regularly raped, beaten, and subjugated?  The ones that require the burka, the shadoor, all of the full-body coverings.  On the other extreme, children raised in nudist colonies don’t commit sex crimes!

Eliminating the “forbidden fruits” aspect, allowing polite looking (not, mind you, oppressive staring), and above all holding men responsible for their actions–those are the things that might protect our daughters.

So David–quit thinking the girl is “selling” something.  She’s just trying to express herself in her attire, just like the rest of us.  If she demonstrates questionable taste, you might try to improve her aesthetics–but not by an indirect reference to the world’s oldest profession. 


“Ask yourself, in what societies are women regularly raped, beaten, and subjugated?  The ones that require the burka, the shadoor, all of the full-body coverings.”
Women are no more regularly raped, beaten or subjugated in Muslim communities than in America… sorry dude. Certain Muslim villages make it an old school community issue… which gets media attention… which shapes an ill informed perspective, because we think we’re sooo much different.
my favorite take on this whole issue… from Dave Chapelle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIw7emJnc8Y