Sex Sells #9: Holy Subliminal Phallus, Batman!

What you see above is a textbook example of vintage phallic innuendo. This woman is about to perform fellatio on that lipstick, no question about it. You simply can't look at this ad and not think "blow job".  I know what Freud says: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." But you don't need to be a psychiatrist to know there's something a little dirty going on between the lines. Is it deliberate psychological manipulation? Probably. But, really, what ad doesn't contain some sort of subliminal message?

The image above is extremely phallic, but it doesn't do a good job at keeping the naughty imagery at the subliminal level. Ideally, your conscious brain perceives an "innocent" image, but your subconscious mind recognizes the symbolism. The subconscious mind then will associate this is a desirable product without your conscious mind ever processing a thought!

Thus a spurious association is made between the product and sex, often without you ever realizing it. This tactic isn't just employed by consumer products, either. Album covers and movie posters (which, in fact, are forms of advertising) are also notorious offenders.

So, peruse my little gallery of vintage phallic innuendo. But don't blame me if you suddenly find yourself wanting products you never thought you'd care for. Blame the subliminal dick.

image source: SA Steve

image source: SA Steve

Nice 'n' Easy Haircolor ad.

Here we have a woman with her legs spread and a megaphone at a rather interesting location.

source: fredandpete

The back cover of the Caddyshack soundtrack album is more of a parody of phallic innuendo than a real attempt at phallic marketing.

The Newport cigarette "Alive with pleasure!" ad campaign is possibly my favorite. It's so unbelievably phallic that it almost doesn't look real - like it's a parody of some sort.  Trust me. It's the real deal, folks.

I read somewhere that, in this next ad, even the woman's smile/grimace is perfectly choreographed. The facial expression is actually a recreation of the so-called "primate grimace".  This adds an element of primal seriousness which only our subconscious mind picks up on. What may at first may look like a group of friends innocently drinking from a watermelen may actually be tapping into our primate libido! Sound far fetched? Don't think Madison Avenue is capable of utilizing anthropology in its advertising?  I say, don't rule the possibility out.

No harm in enjoying a refreshing popscicle on the beach, right? Wrong.

source: RetroTrash

Here's a very strange phenomenon: the prevalence of octopus imagery in comic books, adult paperbacks and pulp magazines.  The tentacle as a phallic metaphor isn't too hard to figure out, but it's simply astounding how many covers featured this cephalopod phallic symbol. This site has a huge gallery which more than illustrates my point.

Believe it or not, this is actually from a car ad (Ford 1962). Now, why in the world would there be a chick fondling a trumpet in a car adver-..... oh, yeah, I forgot. My eyes see happy gal with brass instrument; my subconscious sees an attractive female on her back performing fellatio on a giant cock.  My bad.

It simply doesn't get any more suggestive than this, folks. This ad is from 1964.


  1. I feel like I have seen too much. :)

    Richard Wallbank's Organ... Oh my eyes!

  2. If you can find that Sizzler video ad from several years back, it was yanked pretty quick. It actually shows a woman fellating a fork with a tomato on the end.

  3. Looks like old Roy and Dale got tickets for the Pleasure Express. No wonder she seemed so happy. Yippee indeed.

    The 70s were the height of 'subliminal advertising'. It had always been around but it was a major topic then. The book 'Subliminal Seduction' was a best seller and everyone was looking for sex and violence in ads. Some seemed obvious, others seemed silly (A plate of fried clams was claimed to show an orgy, but to me it looked like clams.)

    Advertising has less of the suggested sexual imagery today. If you have one hour infomercials on pills that will make you bigger, harder, stronger, why be subtle? Because there's so much advertising everywhere there's no need to make each ad a trap, make a million ads and beat the consumer into submission.
    You also see less of this because of the ban on cigarette ads. What other product has such a sexual allure and is associated with oral pleasure? Of course a bottle of ketchup after a roll in the hay is good too.

    There's a 'tentacle porn' culture in Japan. Weird stuff. It really put me off my calamari.

  4. I don't know why but I find the sexiest item here the Kathy Keene comic book cover. Not sure abut the octopus but that black one piece swim suit is smokin'

  5. That Lucky Strike girl is VERY excited. Someone's a size queen!

    Is it just me, or are the Newport ads rather unintentionally homoerotic? I mean, it's the GUYS who keep getting popped in the mouth with strong, roaring streams of liquid. But perhaps I've said too much...

    I don't know whether to be patriotically proud or ashamed to know that the Japanese DIDN'T invent tentacle porn after all.

  6. Whoa, that Roy Rogers advertisement is out of control and not a bit subliminal.

  7. This stuff is great - fantastic post, Gilligan! At my blog we also looked at subliminal sexuality in ...comics! Here is our resident expert, Dr. Wertham P. Fredrics, - " Zis schtuff is pure schmut! If you have already seen zese images, you vill most likely become ze sexual prevert, jah! Terrible schtuff - keep posting more, jah?"

  8. I have created a full length documentary on this exact topic. I retract the history of subliminals, I show ad agency documents, and I show hundreds of examples, many just like these. You can watch it free at youtube "The Great Subliminal Message Deception"