Friday, December 6, 2013

How to Develop Sex Appeal!

Sex appeal! Do you have it? If not, then read on to discover how Girls' Romances suggests you get it!

"Make a note -- but not an issue -- of whether
your man loves blue (most men do), hates sugar in his coffee,
digs the Rolling Stones, and so on." 

Essentially, it boils down to having self-confidence, moving and living with grace, developing a sexy voice (no mumbling!), being a good listener, getting to know his likes and dislikes, and practicing good grooming habits.

"How to Develop Sex Appeal"
Girls' Romances #158
(July 1971)

With sex so infrequently discussed in the romance comics, I immediately take notice at anything that mentions it. Though it has a "sexy" headline, this advice is definitely tame and age appropriate for all romance comic readers of the day.


  1. Arrrgggh! It’s amazing that women coming of age in the early 70s and reading these books got out of there with any shred of self-confidence. I'll go along with asking a friend what’s great about you (because you probably don’t know), but then practice being graceful, work on your voice, smell good, but above all learn to submerge any thoughts of your own as he prattles on and on about himself. And the prize at the end is his decision to kiss you, rather than a natural outcome of what you both want. These comics are such a sad, funny and fascinating look back at our not-so-distance past and culture.

  2. I had a pretty different take on the column than Sara, above. (Admittedly, I'm not a woman, so what do I know?) :) I didn't read the column so much as being about "change everything you are because you're flawed"; rather, it seemed like advice about making the most of your assets and building self-confidence. I'm sure most boys/young men could use similar advice, but there was not a forum like the romance comics or teen magazines for them to receive it. And the advice about not talking about yourself applies equally to men and women (i.e., the man shouldn't spend the whole conversation talking about himself, either!)

    Maybe I'm naïve, but I see the advice columns in romance comics as basically good-hearted, even if we may see some of the advice as dated today. There are lots of reasons why the traditional romance comics aren't really suited to young readers today (I know you've addressed that issue in various ways in many of your earlier postings, Jacque), but I think it's kind of a shame. Something has been lost.

    On a lighter note: I love the guy who described sex appeal as "something in the way she moves." Obviously a Beatles fan!

    1. The question at the heart of all these comics and letters to the editor and advice columns is: How do I get a boyfriend? A perfectly reasonable question for an 11-15 year old girl to ask. The sad part about these columns, which were mostly written by middle-aged men, was that the premise of the question was simplified to ‘sex appeal’ which, at least in this case, limited the discussion primarily to a girl’s physical appearance and her behavior towards boys.

      These mags could have talked about how to find a boyfriend by looking for someone with similar interests, who treats girls well and respectfully and who finds a girl appealing simply because of who she is. Those boys were out there then and they’re out there still!

  3. Thank you Sara and David for engaging in a really thoughtful discussion. This is one of the reasons I love the romance comics so much! They trigger thoughts and feelings in us that promote discourse such as this. As for me personally, I always try to look at the romance comics in a historical light (and not necessarily always through a feminist or women's studies perspective -- though those disciplines do of course come out in my writing just because of who I am). I feel like in this case the headline and subsequent use of the specific tagline "sex appeal" was used to promote sales and interest and admittedly, was done so in a sensationalistic manner. On the whole, I have to agree with David on this one. But that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Of course I do. I love the romance comics and I couldn’t run this site if I didn’t. In my eyes, the shortcomings of the romance comics are worth understanding and are not exclusive to the romance comics, but of the culture and other forms of media at the time.

    This is a few years old now, but this post (by Sequential Crush reader and fellow blogger)) brings up a few things from this discussion and may be of interest:

    1. Interesting blog post! Yes, if one squints one can look past certain aspects of those stories to find redeeming messages of equality and acceptance. Although, as a lesbian born in the Silver Age and who came of age in the Bronze, I can tell you that had I come across the ‘That Strange Girl’ comic back in the day, it would have added to my own feelings of shame and devastation. We had no role models for LGBT teens; rather we encountered a relentless barrage of images and messages that reinforced that what we were worthy only of whispered innuendo, humiliation and disgust.

      I think we likely have a generational difference of opinion about these comics. I adore them now for the pop-art brilliance of so many of the covers. The frothy humor of some of the women as they pursue a husband; the chuckle-worthy cardboard cutout depiction of almost all of the men. No one really gets out unscathed when you think about it.

      But mostly, I collect some of them now because they represent progress that benefitted me and that I have been able to carry forward. When I was 13, my mother wasn’t legally allowed to have a credit card in her own name. My aunt was legally barred from buying a home because she was a single woman and couldn’t get a male to co-sign the loan. And our neighbor opted to stay in a bad marriage rather than risk the social and financial implications of divorce. Those concepts were the backbone of the romance genre: Social, personal and economic well-being for women can only be attained through marriage.

      Yes, the comics gave a head-nod in the 70s to the women’s movement and the social tidal wave that was upon them. But, in my limited reading of these books now, it was sporadic and often cynical -- the infamous ‘Marc’ columnist in DC being the most egregious example I can think of. And to get back to the Sex Appeal column one last time; I think of it this way: A 40 year old man is telling a 13 year old girl to be graceful, lower her vocal register, smell good and listen intently to boys. All when said 13 year old girl is in the throes of puberty and gracefulness is all but impossible; many struggle with body odor issues for the first time; and critical listening skills are made more difficult by the emotional tumult of hormonal changes. It’s as if they were writing to an imaginary 19-year-old woman rather than the pre- and tween girls who bought their books. So, yes…they are of their time and they were usually well-intentioned. But what I see when I read them is a powerful reminder that we move forward!

      Great discussion, Jackie -- many thanks!