The Lynx Effect: Rape culture in action

Lynx. The perfect Secret Santa gift for the male colleague you don’t know and/or don’t particularly like. The heterosexual male equivalent of one of those Baylis & Harding “looks vaguely like Molton Brown but totally isn’t” bath sets. The year before last, I received the latter, my partner got the former. What this says about us as colleagues is something I’d rather not consider.  

Having had some Lynx in our household within the recent past, I can say at least this with certainty: the Lynx Effect doesn’t work. One whiff of Africa, Cool Metal, Excite or Fever does not provoke unstoppable horniness. It provokes, first, amusement because it smells so fucking awful, second, vague memories of some really creepy lads in Year 10, and, finally, a migraine. Only the first of these is even remotely fun.

Back in the 1980s there was, sort of, a female equivalent to the Lynx Effect, when Impulse used the “men just can’t help acting on it” tagline.

That’s right, ladies, when a man you’ve never met before gives you flowers, you’ll know he’s acting on Impulse (which obviously makes it totally reassuring and not at all stalkerish, or so my 11-year-old self used to think). As ever, the expectations placed on men in response to female body spray were considerably lower than those placed on women in response to Lynx. Women detect a little Lynx Apollo and they’re whipping their bras off to reveal ample, if somewhat artificial looking, tits. Men get a noseful of Impulse Chic and the most they’re expected to do is proffer some limp Gladioli (tip: most women would rather have booze. Or even a book token, to be honest). To make matters worse the ball is then back in the woman’s court (he’s bought you some flowers, you say? Time to whip your bra off to reveal ample …). It’s not great, is it? And all this is before we get into the deeply disturbing overtones of a tagline which suggests men can’t really control themselves anyhow.

It’s bad enough that the ads play on the idea of male pursuer, female pursued (always in a deeply heteronormative context). These days Lynx are taking it one step further. Consider this delightful ad:


The Lynx Effect. Encouraging Involuntary Seduction, that is, making someone who doesn’t actively want to have sex with you become more “amenable”. A bit like too much alcohol, or Rohypnol, only cheaper. “Involuntary” because, let’s face it, choice always gets in the way. Clearly Lynx understands what a young man wants: not any form of sexual interaction, but someone, anyone, into whom to stick his cock. Sod giving them flowers (that’s so 1980s). Let’s drug them (or let’s at least kid ourselves that a lungful of Lynx Rise will do anything other than repulse).

Sometimes it’s really difficult to explain the concept of rape culture to the unconvinced. Some people still believe there is rape – which bad people commit – and a surrounding environment which does nothing to condone it. If they do nothing else, Lynx adverts, with their jaunty sexism and teenage bedroom fantasies, make it that little bit easier to show how distorted concepts of seduction feed into a belief that consent doesn’t really matter. The word “involuntary” should never be used in adverts aimed at young men at a stage when they need to learn what enthusiastic consent really means. If sex involves anything that is not voluntary, it needs to stop.

It’s not that Lynx actually works. Of course it doesn’t. Everyone, even those using it, knows it doesn’t. But spreading the notion that it is reasonable to get people to whom you’re attracted to do things they don’t really want to do – that can have an effect. This is not selling seduction; it’s legitimising fantasies of assault.


Sometimes women need feeding, too

In my household I am outnumbered. On the pink side there’s only me while on the blue there’s my male partner and our two sons. Obviously this causes no end of troubles when it comes to purchasing food, but thankfully our kitchen has plenty of cupboards. Once the weekly shop is done we tend to use our space wisely to maintain an appropriate level of gender-based food segregation.

In my cupboard (painted pink) we have: Galaxy bars (for when I’m sad / wistful), Maltesers (for when I’m up for Loose-Women-style japes), Ryvita (for miserable lunches with unfunny friends) and the full range of Special K products (for when I fundamentally hate myself). Meanwhile, in the men’s cupboard (blue), we have: Yorkies and Snickers bars (the only chocolate straight men are permitted to eat), extra thick-cut crisps (since Skips are way too effete) and various Big Soups (since, unlike women, men are presumed to eat because they’re hungry – and to want to consume something genuinely substantial, as opposed to some deceitful “fuller for longer” salad nonsense). We used to have a shared cupboard for things we were both allowed to consume (it was painted yellow, obviously). Alas, it mainly contained carbs, which are now men-only and thus belong in the blue cupboard (although I’m considering creating a neutral shelf in the fridge for cheese and bacon – except I think the new rule is that women can only have these if they have nothing but these. And I’m not giving up my Galaxy – I might get all weepy and need it). Continue reading

Weird tips for achieving a tiny belly (honest!)

Here are some weird tips for achieving a tiny belly:

  • eat less food than you need in order to function as a healthy human being
  • think about all the food you’re not eating all the sodding time
  • feel cold, exhausted and miserable every minute of the day (and night, since hunger is giving you insomnia and when you do finally sleep, you dream of food you didn’t even like until all this started)

Eventually you will get a tiny belly, albeit one still covered in excess skin and stretch marks. By the time you get to this point, you won’t be able to stop shrinking, but you will no longer care. The person who would have had the capacity to enjoy being thin – or indeed being anything – will no longer exist. Continue reading

It doesn’t count if… The parts they edited out

Don’t you just hate it when you’re all set to have a grumpy, humourless feminist moment and you happen to find the thing that was meant to annoy you vaguely amusing instead? That totally pisses me off – but not enough to put me in the grumpy, humourless feminist mood I was aiming for to begin with. Pah! (That is about the level of it – a wry smile, then a “pah!”. Where’s the Sturm und Drang in that?)

In case you’re wondering I’m referring to that new “viral” ad for KFC. In It doesn’t count if… a young woman runs through various situations in which eating “forbidden” foods is permitted, all of them ridiculous (it doesn’t count if you drink green tea afterwards, it doesn’t count if you’re wearing gym gear etc. etc.). Ha, thought I, yet another food company making a massively unfunny joke out of women’s shitty relationship with food. I will not find this amusing. But then I did, a bit. It actually is what some women – myself included – do, and as such it’s very well-observed. I suspect the only thing some viewers might miss is that when women say these things, they already know it’s a lie; this is their sad, wry joke, not KFC”s. Continue reading

Five complete and utter lies about women and food

Many of the jobs I’ve done have involved a degree of marketing. This usually means crowding anxiously around a table, thinking about one’s “target market”, and pondering the “positioning” and the “message”. Eventually, at some point or other, one person will ask, portentously, “but what’s the actual benefit?” Whereupon we will all ask ourselves just what it is that our product is offering to those who buy it. You’d think that by this time we’d already know. To be fair, we generally do, albeit in a long-winded, wordy manner. The difficulty is translating this knowledge into a snappy message that will speak to the customer straight away i.e. a message that patronises the hell out of said customer while simultaneously looking as though it respects his or her intelligence. Such a task is, in my professional opinion, a complete and utter bugger. Now and then I relish it as a creative challenge. However, on the whole it just makes me feel like a knob. Continue reading

Mummy tummies, jelly bellies and other cutesy ways to describe post-natal self-hatred

Mummies! You know how it is – you’ve just had a baby and sure, it’s the miracle of life and all that, but just for one moment (during nap time, once you’ve set the washing machine to ‘delicates’) let’s all take time to consider your tummy – that tummy which, for the past few months, has been glorious and drum-tight – and let’s now focus on how terrible it’s looking. One big mass of shapeless, useless flesh, brimming over the maternity pants you thought you’d never be wearing by now. Urgh. ‘Baby weight’ is far too cutesy a term for something so repulsive, is it not? Look, I’m not asking you to feel ashamed. On the contrary, it’s far better just to be honest. Say it loud, say it proud: “I look shit! And I hate all those women who snap back into shape in five seconds flat! The bitches!” Come on ladies, out with it! It’s the perfect post-feminist rallying call. No longer do we have to rely on men for misogyny. Independent and resourceful, we’ll make our own! Continue reading

P&G: Not in my name

Being the type of person who’s always up for a freebie, I’ve always thought I’d like nothing better than a sponsorship deal. Imagine my surprise when one finally comes along and I find out that actually, these things aren’t remotely as good as they’re cracked up to be.

Along with all other mums, for the last few months I have been “sponsored” by the company Procter and Gamble. I don’t remember signing an official contract ; perhaps we have a named “spokesmum” who’s done it on behalf of the rest of us. Anyhow, turns out someone didn’t read the small print. It’s actually a rubbish deal. I for one haven’t seen so much as a branded T-shirt. Continue reading

Some serious shit

If you were an actor, what would be the job you’d dread most? (Not counting porn. Besides, if you discount all that exploitation stuff, porn looks a laugh a minute.) Now, I’m not an actor myself (shocking, I know), but I reckon that one of the most feared roles has to be “that woman from the laxative advert”.

You know the woman I mean. The one who frowns, rubs her “bloated” tummy a bit, then emerges later all “happy inside”, as the Senokot slogan goes. Can you imagine being the director on that shoot? “Come on, baby – do your I feel great cos I’ve just had a shit look again!” (do you reckon they have sessions on that at RADA?). While you don’t actually see the “having a shit” bit – instead you get some nice senna leaves twiddling about in the breeze – it’s what’s left to the imagination that’s the worst. And what’s particularly painful is the contrast between said woman flicking her hair and trying to be all glamourous (in the most recent ad she’s getting off a plane like some movie starlet) and the knowledge of what she’s just meant to have done (ie had a massive dump in a tiny plane toilet and released it onto the world below).

In addition to not being an actor, I’m not a doctor. Even so, I suspect that young, healthy, apparently affluent women such as the one on the Senokot ad do not form the segment of society most prone to suffer from constipation. I imagine it’s the elderly, those on specific forms of medication, and those who can’t afford a varied diet. Therefore I find it quite odd that Senokot choose someone who you’d assume isn’t their target market to represent their product (I mean, you don’t see 100 metre sprinters advertising Stannah stairlifts.) What do you think the reason for this could be?

It’s not just Senokot who do this. Do you remember Dulcoease with their bizarre Sex and the City-style add for stool softeners? What was THAT about? Four well-dressed women meet up for a bitch about men interspersed with personal confessions regarding bowel movements. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? I mean, WHAT THE FUCK?

Is just me, or does it not feel a tinsy bit like all these ads are aiming, not for the constipated, but for the mildly (or not so mildly) bulimic amongst us? Get rid of all that “bloating”! Stop feeling so “heavy”! Think of all that food inside you – you need to get it out, NOW!

In case you’re still having trouble getting unscientific neuroses into your fat head, think about an advert that was on UK screens a few years ago. A woman was seen pouring piles of stodgy food into her handbag and carrying it around everywhere, indefinitely, because that’s just what your stomach’s like! There’s no such thing as using food for nourishment, ladies! Thankfully by the end of the ad said woman took some laxatives and was “allowed” to empty her heavy load in a nearby bin. Got the metaphor, girls? Was I the only person to be totally freaked out by this?

Perhaps you can also remember the Surefibre ad that included, somewhat bizarrely, the Altered Images track I could be happy. A group of very “happy” women jump around – float in fact – because they’re light, light, light! There’s fuck all in their intestinal tracts! (I’ve a feeling Surefibre itself went down the pan, presumably because it’s just fibre rather than a full-on, gut-wrenching, killer-spasm-inducing laxative. I mean, what’s the point in that? That’s not going to make you “happy!”)

Do you ever wonder what percentage of the profits drug companies make from laxatives comes from laxative abuse? I’d hazard a guess that it’s not insignificant. And while such companies might argue that they’re not responsible for the proliferation of eating disorders, I’d suggest that the marketing strategies they use can indeed tip vulnerable women over the edge (and given the cultural shit that surrounds us, we’re all pretty vulnerable). On top of that, it’s all based on such a lie. Because OVERDOSING ON LAXATIVES WILL NOT MAKE YOU LOSE WEIGHT.

Or rather, it will, in the same way that having a piss, or cutting your hair, or biting your nails will make you “lose weight”. There will be less of you for a bit but you’ll have just as much body fat as before. Then you’ll rehydrate only to become more bloated than you were previously, so you’ll take more laxatives etc. etc., inflating and deflating like a fucking concertina but being essentially the same old you. The same old you, only more at risk of shitting yourself in public. One thing’s for sure, you will not be dancing about like the happy Surefibre women.

But still, I don’t like to offer criticism when it’s not at least constructive. So on behalf of the laxative manufacturers, here are some replacement marketing strategies:

1. The blunt approach:

No shit? You need to take …

Plus the follow-up ad:

You bought a different laxative? Well, that’s just tough shit …

etc. etc. Shit puns are ace, they just run and run.

2. The cosy approach: nice, plush-looking bathroom, with magazine rack next to the loo:

There’s nothing better than taking a good ol’ dump. Trust us to help you get there.

3. The retro-humorous approach: get permission to reuse the “who does number two work for?” scene from Austin Powers 2:

That’s right, buddy. You show that turd who’s boss.

4. The enigmatic approach: just one word in big, bold letters:


Plus your brand name down below, in tiny, just-legible lettering (look, this one might not be very effective. But I reckon it’d be cool nonetheless).

Anyhow, take your pick, pill-pushers. Just no more glamorous I’ve just had a shit women. Our bloated stomachs can’t take it.