Sex Sells: Women and Guitar Ads

Guitars are sexy.

And manufacturers are going to do whatever they can to get you to notice how sexy their guitars are. Pair a guitar with a nice pair of legs or put it in the hands of a virtuoso, either way, that guitar is going to catch your eye. And, most of you will buy that guitar because of how sexy it looks. But, there’s a point where the ad stops being about how sexy the guitar is and starts just being about the sex.

Decades ago – A simpler time! – guitar ads were innocuous. A player, a pic of the guitar, and a name. That was it.

Here you got Chet Atkins with his hand on a Gretsch. Simple. You got a popular player playing his guitar and a few choice words. Notice that Chet is still fully clothed, and the guitar is in the proper playing position instead of lying across his breasts.

This is probably as sexy as guitar ads would get back in the day. Of course, Elvis is pictured skull-humping your face, but none of his business parts are exposed. Also note that he is actually playing the guitar.

Now let’s jump ahead a bit.


OK. Now, this is still tasteful. Gibson is implying that their guitar is a piece of art and nothing says art like a naked woman. I can’t say that I disagree, and I have been trying to convince my wife of this fact for years.


Gibson is still going with that whole “Gibson = Woman Parts” thing. But it looks like while the previous image was a bit more…um…subtle, this one has the pump-me pumps and the white tight shorts to sort of nail the point home. Note the belly ring which, I presume, is supposed to represent…ah…your guess is as good as mine.


Homina! Homina! I’m not sure where she was hiding that guitar, but it wasn’t there a minute ago. It’s a good thing that she’s wearing gloves. It looks like it might be a bit cold in that studio.

I’ve looked at that last picture at least 20 times, and I’m still not sure what they’re selling. Unless, what they’re selling is illegal in most states. In which case, I completely understand. But, if it’s a guitar that they’re trying to get me to go home with, they should probably try and make me appreciate the guitar in the photo instead of being angry at its inconvenient positioning.

Can you spot where the ads stopped being about the guitar?

These sexy guitar ads don’t really do to well with female players either. We all know that guitar was once thought of as a male-dominated industry, but there are a ton of female guitarists out there. And there are more female guitar buyers out there than ever before.

In reaction to the last image, guitar aficionado The Learned Fangirl probably made my favorite comment about how women are portrayed in guitar magazines:

These kinds of covers sell, point blank. Sad to say, but it’s kind of a bold move for any music magazine these days to feature female musicians, fully clothed and not provocatively posed, on its cover. I can’t even look at a guitar magazine and avoid at least one ad with a bikini clad blonde model. She’s not even playing it! She’s just straddling it! And yes, it’s 2012, and the idea of having a magazine issue devoted to female musicians seems like a step back, not a step forward in some ways. Most women musicians don’t self-identify themselves as women musicians, just musicians. And music is idealized as being gender blind, color blind, egalitarian, universal. But it’s often not in the mainstream music press, and certainly not in online music fandom where female musicians are almost always evaluated by their looks first and their talent later, if at all.

Soon, the naked guitar ad might become a thing of the past. If you have more women playing guitar, do you really want to alienate half of your audience by putting out an add that drives them away?

For the ladies, I wanted to leave you with an example of male sexuality being exploited for the sake of marketing guitars, but I couldn’t find any. So, I lieu of that, I will leave you a poorly Photoshopped pic of Michelangelo’s David sporting a Hello Kitty Guitar over his business.








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Filed Under: FeaturedGuitarsCommentary / Editorials

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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