Image Description: Image is a full-page magazine ad depicting a white, hetero couple in underwear only making out on a bed. Across the top third of the ad is the text “He’ll Scream Your Name. He’ll Forget His.” The images of the couple run across the middle third of the ad, in triptych form. Across the bottom third of the ad is the product information for something called “Masque: Sexual Flavors.” The information reads:
Masque (R) is first product proven to conceal any unpleasant flavors associated with pleasuring your man and his subsequent climax. These orally-dissolvable flavored gel strips will take the intimacy between you and your partner to the next level. Consider it a little extra magic while you work yours.
Hanna found this ad in a Marie Claire magazine at the hairdresser’s a couple of weeks ago, and insisted I tear it out and bring it home to share with a group of friends over dinner. Because, yes, this is the sort of thing we like to share with our friends.
A couple of things strike me about this product. The first is, obviously, the inherent amusement in all advertising around products that involve sex of some sort — they have to be explicit enough to get across that their product is about sex, but not explicit enough that they’re actually saying shit like: “If you don’t like the taste of your dude’s semen, we have the product for you!” Which, let’s face it, is what this Masque shit is all about: masking the taste of humans.
And, okay, stuff to make sexytimes smell and taste non-human has been around for a while. We’ve got scented douches to make our ladyparts more like flower gardens, and we’ve got chocolate you can paint on your breasts (yum!), and so on. So none of my observations here are particularly novel. But here’s what a room full of mostly queer gals observed about the marketing of this “sexual flavors” thing.
First, setting aside a small number of people for whom I imagine the taste of their love is a real and otherwise insuperable barrier to enjoying sex, I’d argue that coding the taste and smell of human sexuality as “unpleasant” in order to schill your product is not cool. Bodily fluids are not, it’s true, the sort of flavors you generally go looking for in your ice cream, but that’s not really the point. The point is that (most of the time) people think their lovers taste good because they associate the taste of their lovers with pleasure. It’s all one giant feedback loop. We like the scent and taste of our lovers when they’re aroused because that scent and taste tells us we’re doing things right, that it’s all going well. Over time, you get to learn what different scents and tastes tell you about a person’s stress levels, where they are in their hormone cycle, etc. All of this is valuable information, and pushing us to think it’s icky and that we should cover it up with artificial flavors means you lose the chance to learn how to read and respond to that data.
When you go to the website (yup, of course we did), you find out that this product is basically one of those little sheets of dissolvable gel you put on your tongue (like a breath mint strip), and it supposedly works to block your flavor receptors for bitter and salty tastes. The available flavors are mango, strawberry, watermelon, and chocolate — all with a slight menthol aftertaste, we’re told (ew!).
“So now you can have literal beer-flavored nipples!” One friend quipped (we all snorked into our chocolate stout).
“They should totally be making this shit in more earthy flavors — like beer and coffee,” another person suggested.
“Yeah,” I responded, “But do you seriously want a Pavlovian response to those flavors? Like, you’re standing in line at the coffee shop waiting for your morning latte and suddenly your panties are getting soaked?”
I don’t think I have a whole lot more to say about these sexual flavor strips, except that I feel sad that there’s a market for this product that’s being so explicitly marketed not as something that’s just a fun accessory — but something that will actually make the “unpleasant” parts of sex less icky. By purchasing a product to obscure what’s actually going on.