End Demand: the B movie

KNXV prostution billboard in Phoenix_1440736368256_23312196_ver1.0_640_480

It has all the earmarks of a tearjerker. The billboard erected in Phoenix, Arizona, by anti-prostitutionists looks like artwork for a 1940s paperback cover or poster for a low-budget movie. I wish I knew what specs were given the artist. I wonder if End-Demanders in the Cease network (Cease – get it?) consciously evoke out-of-date style in hopes that viewers will associate the message with Ye Olde Nuclear-Family Values.

liptearsExamples of the classic posture can be found in two seconds of searching, because Sad Women abound, including with hand to forehead. Like pearl-clutching, forehead-clutching is a classic. But with a man as subject? Not so easy, no siree. Men look solemn, fierce, outraged. The only readily-available male face looking this sad (minus the B-movie forehead business) is in Brokeback Mountain publicity, where the theme was Have Sex – Lose Everything, rather than buy sex. It seems that only sex can make men feel truly sad – or is it only men who have sex with men?


We do not know whether Lose-Everything man is sad because he has to lose all the sex he would have bought, if he had been permitted to, or because of all the sex he might have had with his wife and will now never have. Because obviously the wedding ring is going to go.

But besides the hilarious picture we have notworthit.org for those curious to know more. Could any domain-name be sillier? I feel someone may be attacking End Demand from within. A few years ago we saw a roving billboard in London that does not have the making of a B movie. The message was Buy Sex – Pay the Price, but the male figure portrayed looked more like a Cainesque Bad Boy than sad.

Sure, moralists who wish everyone would keep their sexual tastes under wraps are easy to mock. But the Phoenix billboard moves into the realm of self-parody, providing an object that will maybe strike ordinary people as too wacky to even think about. That’s a good thing.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

5 thoughts on “End Demand: the B movie

  1. Frans van Rossum

    This billboard is an extraordinary achievement, I think. The designer deserves only praise. A lot of thought went into the richness of suggestive but ambiguous metaphors, meanings, messages and implications. It resonates on subconscious levels and makes us stop and think. It’s not about sex but about a moment of mental weakness, triggered by the sex urge. The moment that the flesh may be stronger than the will.

    What strikes me most is that, on the surface, the text is neutral about sex or sex work. It states it as a given. It is neither moralizing or derogatory. It’s not talking victims or abuse. It is not talking guilt trip, being a good or bad boy. It just seems to recognize that the best and most solid (family)man has weak moments, and the billboard hits you with the consequences right in your social achilles heel where this materialistic society will kill you if you give in: you will lose everything. It states it like it’s a fact, a foregone conclusion.

    So it hits you in your and everyone’s greatest weakness: fear.

    The ambiguity in the guy’s expression is worth a million, too. Is he about to buy sex but pondering the risks? Is he having regrets returning from an encounter and living in fear of being found out? Is he a regular wondering how to get rid of his ‘addiction?’ Nothing is clear.
    He seems such a decent, normal, serious, sober, nice, educated, law-abiding guy. A good husband and father. Nothing sleazy about him. Could be a lawyer, a doctor, a professor or an upscale businessman, A Here-Comes-Everybody like the everyone who sees this billboard sitting at the steering will. You can’t think of him with a police record except maybe a speeding ticket.

    To me, the message seems matter of fact : be aware of this human tricky condition inside you (the flesh), deal with it, let the urge and the fantasies pass, but don’t risk losing everything. Sex isn’t worth it, let alone buying sex. Which from an objective point of view is a defensible truism.

    I think the billboard is especially effective because it can be used for any ‘lethal cause’ with ‘weakness,’ ‘immorality,’ ‘crime’ or ‘addiction’ connotations, like drugs, alcoholism, gambling, etc., everything that, depending on your personal opinions, could be said to be not worth ‘it’.

    1. Alistair

      I think there might be something in what you’re saying, but I nonetheless think the overall impact of the billboard is comical. Whether you’re aware of it or not, and whether it was intended by the designers or not, you’ve perceived the New Testament in the picture. The suggestion is most definitely of a momentary lapse by someone who would seem to be generally a decent, ordinary man, albeit one with a lot to lose. This brings in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. As you say, “the most solid family man has weak moments” is a message of the picture.

      It is this presentation of something related to sex that might make the billboard comical for some people. Because we’ve all seen this before. And most of us have grown out of it. It’s the failure to avoid masturbating by boys at Christian schools (not girls, of course, because ladies don’t do that sort of thing). It’s the failure to avoid looking at naughty pictures. And it’s the failure to avoid the temptress. Because in actual fact the billboard does most definitely position sex work, or more specifically sex workers. Do they come from the Devil to temp decent family men into sin? That might have been an older version of the idea. But wherever they come from, and whoever or whatever they might be, the idea is much the same.

  2. Richard Girard

    The prohibitionists are completely insane, by Einstein’s definition: they keep repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a different result. Women are not owned by men, or even society: they are independent agents, capable of making their own decision about their bodies. to quote Maggie McNeill, “And how many of the prominent women parroting drivel about ‘choice’ ever own up to the fact that a woman’s right to choose the REASON she has sex with a man [or a woman–RJG] is at least as important as birth control or abortion?”

  3. Pingback: End Demand: Il Ritorno – Al di là del Buco

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.