Desire and Capitalism–and Sexual Ethics
If you know a teenage boy, or have ever been around a group of teenage boys in school, mall, or church, you’ve probably smelled Axe Body Spray. You’ve probably wrinkled your nose, and moved back a step or two. And moved on.
But as this article shows, the phenomenon might be worth more than a thought or two. It’s kind of terrifying, actually.
In the current configuration of Catholic discussions, sexual morality and the morality of capitalism are often thought to be on two different sides of things. But the hallmark of our capitalist society is the generation and manipulation of desires to make money for other people.And there is no desire more powerful, or more subject to manipulation, than sexual desire, except maybe for food. It seems to me that one thing Christianity has a lot to say about is how to think about human desires. And some of that might be helpful in thinking about advertising and capitalism. Manipulating others’ desires to make money ought to be very suspect to both liberal and conservative Catholics. Shouldn’t it?
It’s easy to think, oh, well, that’s just teenagers. They will grow out of it. But if you bought yourself a new iPad without quite knowing why, when your old iPad was still perfectly good (cough, cough, adsum), you might want to consider the problem.
Maybe the relationship of desire, advertising, and ethics would be a conference that First Things and Commonweal could cooperate in putting together. What do you think?