Not only or ever. Most men are only able to concentrate on one thing at a time, though. That’s why when men are watching TV, they don’t hear what people say.

A brief experiment: after you have read this sentence, close your eyes and imagine any object you want – except a fluffy pink elephant.

What was the first image that popped into your mind? I’d bet Bill Gates to a Mars bar that it was a fluffy pink elephant. That’s because our brain is like a car with no reverse gear: it can only head towards ideas, never away from them. Your brain processes the command: ‘Don’t think of a fluffy pink elephant’ (from here on, an FPE). It understands that it has to avoid something; but to know what it has to avoid, it has to picture that thing. In picturing that thing, it has failed the challenge. It imagines the object it was trying to avoid.

Of course this is necessary: to avoid something, you have to know what it is – looks/ sounds/ smells/ feels/ tastes like – so you can avoid it in the future. Nonetheless, as soon as you think of an FPE, you’ll think ‘No – don’t think of an FPE!’ But you’re reinforcing the idea of the FPE; the object you’re trying to avoid.

Let’s say that every place you went you were confronted with fluffy pink elephants (FPEs): at the beach, in the city, at the gym, walking along the street. If this weren’t enough, you see pictures of them on the TV, on billboards, at the movies, on the covers and in the pages of magazines, which were on the front counter of petrol stations, video stores and newsagents. You see them advertising products and services … even themselves. These ads tell us how desirable these FPEs are, and, by connection, how desirable the objects they advertise are. They even tell us how we can get an FPE of our own, or as many as we want. In that environment, how difficult it would be to keep FPEs out of your mind?

Now in the place of FPEs, put YAW – Young Attractive Women. These YAW are usually dressed – for want of a more apposite word – in tight, short or otherwise revealing clothes. Does anyone think that YAW are interested in tyres, hammer drills, computer games (think Lara Croft) or extractors? However, many men are interested in those things; and what better way to draw a man’s attention to one particular brand by putting them that brand next to a YAW? The next time you go into a newsagent, count how many magazines for men there are that have YAW [1] in revealing clothes on the cover and in the pages.

So why are men so easily aroused by visual images of YAW? Sex, obviously. Men are sexually stimulated primarily through vision. Girls, engrave this on your mind: if you never remember anything else about men, remember this. The sight of an attractive woman’s curvaceous body – whether naked or in tight or otherwise revealing clothes – will sexually arouse a man. [Initiate rant.] This response isn’t perverted: it’s the way men are wired. What is perverted is how society – that is, you and I – allows pictures and videos of naked women to be freely available and displayed everywhere; and when men respond naturally, tells them that they are depraved, with sex on the brain.

If society truly is run by men, is it astonishing that we, particularly those in the advertising industry, allow this unhealthful overindulgence in personal pleasure? Yes, women have the right to wear whatever they want. (And what, or who, is the source of that right?) Wear that décolleté top – but don’t expect our undivided attention to what you’re saying. Your cleavage is like sport on TV: when it has our attention, we don’t notice anything else. Just don’t blame us for responding naturally: when it comes to what you wear, you’re the one with the control.

To expand on this… women have the right to pose naked for men’s pleasure – and be paid a lot of money for doing so. Just know that pornography undermines the work of others who are trying to gain greater respect for women. Those who support porn or the use of the female body to gain male attention are sacrificing what is best – greater respect for and better treatment of both women and men – for what feels good – sensuality and consumerism.

If we are concerned about women’s rights, what about a woman’s right to be treated with respect rather than as a focus of impersonal lust? And what about male rights: the right of a man to keep his body, mind and heart pure? His right to be around women without his eyes being dragged to their cleavage? [Terminate rant.]

On a slight tangent… women can be aroused by sight as well, the direct road to a woman’s sexuality is through her emotions [2]. That’s why most ads for women don’t rely on images – they use emotions and feelings. When you go to a newsagent, you won’t find magazines with CHGs (Cute Hot Guys) for women. What you will find is romance novels of the Mills and Boon/ Barbara Cartland ilk. I’m given to understand that these, with their formulaic but evocative descriptions of seduction and sex and tumultuous relationships, perform a similar function for women that pictures of scantily-clad women do for men.

Our society is saturated with sex. As we already have everything we need to satisfy our more basic needs (food, shelter, friendship et cetera) we are free to pursue pleasures and luxuries. We believe that sex is the highest pleasure we can have, so that’s what we focus on the most. There has been so much focus on enabling us to have this pleasure that the older we become, the more desensitised we are to it. However, there are always young people growing up.

The problem with desensitisation is that we need greater amounts or more intense stimulation to give us the same pleasure. That’s why people who are addicted to drugs need to take more to achieve the same effect, until they take drugs not to give them a high, but to help them feel normal. That’s why people who start with marijuana are likely to move on to use more powerful and destructive drugs. With sex, a bare shoulder curl of hair at a girl’s ear could once attract male attention. Now, we sit in a movie theatre watching bared breasts, backsides and simulated sex: we think they threw the scene in because the movie has no plot and reach for another handful of popcorn. We have devolved from gourmets to gourmands.

So how can we stop our brains being filled up with images of fluffy pink elephants, whatever that elephant may be – sex, sport, shoes, computers, a career, a house? The way to beat the problem is to focus your mind on another object. Mentally, to turn away from something, you have to turn to something else. Close your eyes and think of England.


[1] Incidentally, many of the parts of the body that men and women find attractive about each other are those parts that develop in puberty.
[2] Does it seem that by using the abbreviation YAW I’m objectifying women? This is precisely what advertising and pornographic magazines do.

copyright Troy Grisgonelle 2007.