You Asked It

Go Ask Arfin

Does sex sell?

This is Matthew Lesko, also known as "that question mark guy." He will be our "You Asked It" mascot here at Rookie.

Do you really think that sex sells, and why?
—María, Barranquilla, Colombia

Dear María,

You know what? I do think sex sells. I think romance sells and I think “love” sells too. But who’s buying?

Everyone wants to believe they can buy a fantasy, and certain advertisers would like us to believe we can buy it from them, but we can’t, because it’s a big fat capitalist lie! Don’t believe it, María!

In the end, corporations make a lot of money while the rest of us are stuck with a bunch of unrealistic ideals. Sex is not Sookie and Bill in the middle of a misty forest under the full moon sucking each other’s blood. It’s not that nervous chick and the hot dude from Twilight either. It’s not (usually) silk sheets and fine wine, and it normally doesn’t happen on the beach (rolling around in the sand is not ideal for sex).

That being said, I love True Blood and watch it weekly. I love all kinds of rom-coms and sexy things. I like fantasy. It’s fun. But it’s just that. I have to make sure I remember that it’s not real life.

I started smoking cigarettes because I thought it looked cool (sex). I wanted the popular jock to fall in love with me, the weirdo, in high school, because that’s what happened in Pretty in Pink (romance). Now I just smoke cigarettes and can’t quit and spend $13 on a pack and might die from them. When I made eye contact with the popular jock in high school he laughed in my face.

The good news is that even though “sex sells,” the real life, non-fantastical version of it is better. Yes, it makes us nervous, awkward, wear the wrong things, sweat too much. That’s the real feeling of something that no one can buy or sell.

Real romance doesn’t take place under silk sheets while you’re listening to R. Kelly or whatever. Real romance is when maybe you accidentally spill your water all over the sheets and feel stupid. It happens when you trip over your words, or a crack in the sidewalk, and you blush and feel embarrassed and vulnerable and the guy or girl you like still likes you anyway. Actually, it makes them want to kiss you more. Then you feel crazy rushing feelings in the pit of your stomach that you don’t know how to explain. That feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies; it’s a scientific fact. So let me ask you this: do you think that’s something you can buy?

I hope that answers your question.



  • Chimdi September 6th, 2011 11:07 PM


  • freejuliet September 6th, 2011 11:10 PM

    this is so wonderful and true. and i think the part about what romance is real romance is the best. shy girl romance, i think, is always pure like that.

  • Dani September 6th, 2011 11:17 PM

    Quite insiteful if I say so myself.

  • Bella September 6th, 2011 11:18 PM

    Interesting post. I thought it was rather grand! Thankyouohsoverymuch.

  • littlemiho September 6th, 2011 11:20 PM

    That guy with the question-mark suit — he lived in my town growing up and his kid went to my high school. They drove a purple mini van with yellow question marks all over it. That kid had a rough/awesome four years.

  • ferrris September 6th, 2011 11:22 PM

    ‘That feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies; it’s a scientific fact.’ Best thing I’ve read all year. Thanks.

  • asleeptillnoon September 6th, 2011 11:22 PM

    this is wonderful!
    especially the part about tripping
    I’m accident prone so it’s lovely knowing I have someone who thinks it’s adorable instead of intolerable :)

  • Hazel September 6th, 2011 11:23 PM

    Love this. Shy awkward romance is the only romance to me. Sometimes the unsexiest moments are the sexiest moments. Except for sand in your vagina. Sex on the beach, do people actually DO that?

    p.s. Lesley, I never thought you would be the type of girl to have a crush on the popular jock in school. Surpreeeesed!

  • Tavi September 6th, 2011 11:28 PM

    littlemiho, WHY did you not see into the future that i would bug you to get his autograph for me years later??

  • Jenny September 6th, 2011 11:29 PM

    The only heart I have is beating with love for your romantic advice, Lesley!

  • fullmetalguitar September 6th, 2011 11:36 PM

    I love this post because it made me smile and it made me feel good and it made me remember every time my love has smiled at me for general awkwardness and yes this was wonderful. <3

  • Ty September 6th, 2011 11:44 PM

    I hardly think many are in the notion of silk sheets, fine wine, or walks on the beach. The mindset many have when considering fashion is typically “Hmm does this make me look good?” So it’s not as much a question of sex sells, but rather sexy sells.

  • mariani September 6th, 2011 11:45 PM

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh you are sooo cool Lesley Arfin.

  • Alexander September 6th, 2011 11:47 PM

    Matthew Lesko both asked and invited questions during his stint as a high school health teacher.

  • Stephanie September 6th, 2011 11:55 PM

    Um where was this advice when I was fourteen. I needed it so bad. Glad I finally found the boy who loves me for who I am though and it’s definitely romantic when he smiles at me after I do something totally klutzy like spill water everywhere, which I definitely do. A lot.

    Also agree with ferrris, ‘That feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies; it’s a scientific fact.’ is one of the best lines I have ever ever read!

  • kwhite4 September 7th, 2011 12:11 AM

    This. This. This.

    Thank you.

  • iWantLovely September 7th, 2011 12:12 AM

    “that feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies.”
    You guys are going to kill me–death by laughter. This just totally made my day, and perhaps my entire life.

  • Maimiae September 7th, 2011 12:15 AM

    Okay, I used to have long highlighted blonde hair. It was nice at first but then I realized It wasn’t me. Cut it all off in the summer and died it dark brown! I love my hair now. But I was worried that guys wouldn’t like me if I had short hair, soo silly. I stop sulking and became proud and confident. And guess what? If a guy wants me to act and be different he is NOT the guy for me. thank you for posting a motivational article. Real confident booster.

  • LoversSaintsSailors September 7th, 2011 12:20 AM

    “Then you feel crazy rushing feelings in the pit of your stomach that you don’t know how to explain. That feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies; it’s a scientific fact.”

    Wow. You really do learn something new every day.

    I’m glad that’s what today’s new thing was.

  • MrPhoenix September 7th, 2011 12:22 AM

    I remember being smaller and watching Gilmore Girls with my Mum, there’s this episode where a character, Lane, describes losing her virginity on a beach. And she says “Crabs! The real kind!” and ever since I’ve had a terribly unromantic idea of sex on a beach and a terribly comical idea of what genital crabs look like.

  • Angie Bitchface September 7th, 2011 12:41 AM

    This is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. Sex sells, but love can never be purchased.

  • acatfollowedmehome September 7th, 2011 1:25 AM

    siiiigh. I’d buy this.

  • Sarah Woolley September 7th, 2011 3:34 AM

    There is a wonderful sexual education resource online for teenagers but it’s useful for everyone. It can be found at Scarleteen.

    My advice? You don’t have to be super in love but if there’s no joy and laughter in your early encounters (or any of them): kick it to the curb.

    You can have sex without love but you can’t have sex without *soul*.


  • Rabia September 7th, 2011 4:09 AM

    Don’t we all need to constantly remind ourselves that shows are not real life? lol

  • eccho September 7th, 2011 7:49 AM

    butterflies having sex with butterflies <3 excellent

  • stoneflamingos September 7th, 2011 8:12 AM

    Butterflies having sex with other butterflies pretty much sums it up. Oh and the smoking thing… really hope I don’t get addicted as it really just seems like a relaxing thing to do at the moment, what with the nerves of going back to school and everything.

  • cancercowboy September 7th, 2011 8:15 AM

    damn, this is so true. and what better to use (and thereby kinda profane) as a vehicle to sell stuff than something almost everybody longs for and likes?

  • wavyjacks September 7th, 2011 9:11 AM

    I could die reading these words: “Then you feel crazy rushing feelings in the pit of your stomach that you don’t know how to explain. That feeling is actually butterflies having sex with other butterflies; it’s a scientific fact.”

    Hilarious and undeniably true! Well-said, Lesley :-D

  • Palmetto September 7th, 2011 9:21 AM

    I really hope that capitalist thing was a joke. Capitalism is the reason this website can exist in the first place!

  • judYth September 7th, 2011 10:41 AM

    Sex made me read this article.

  • AlyssaAnne September 7th, 2011 2:16 PM

    This is a fascinating article if I must say so myself! “Butterflies having sex with other butterflies”? Genius! And I would definitely be lying if I said that my addiction to true blood hasn’t given me fantasies that make it difficult to seperate reality from fiction. But stating my opinion, real world sex is much better. I mean it isn’t perfect, No you will never have your own personal eric northman or bill compton to fill your every sexual fantasy and desire but, atleast what you do have is REAL. Personally though, my boyfriend is enough to fill every fantasy and i’d take him over the media’s idea of “sex” any day. I loved this and I love this site! Thanks for the post :)

  • db September 7th, 2011 2:37 PM

    sex sells to who wants to buy it.

    real love is not always sex, much as sex is not always real love. real love you cannot buy. it is awkward, is nervous, it comfortable and instinctual.

    take a break from the media and experience love in the real world around you. it is everywhere. and it doesn’t have to come from another person to feel meaningful.

  • msj September 7th, 2011 3:09 PM

    Finally something realistic for teens to chew on! Let’s leave those fantasies on screen, paper, and in your mind. Besides nothing beats sharing your first times stories w/ your group of pals years later. Trust me, however silly, embarrassing, or lame it is; you will be laughing and trying to top each other with the best worst story. lol!

  • serena September 7th, 2011 3:36 PM

    Thank you for this. I have the worlds biggest Girl Crush on Lesley Arfin.

  • Hunter September 7th, 2011 4:20 PM

    I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot in life because there hasn’t really been anyone crush-worthy in my four years of high school. Other than a certain teacher….

  • happyjoy23 September 7th, 2011 4:51 PM

    I LOVE THIS!!!! theres this guy that i like and im pretty sure he likes me back but every time something happens to either one of us we turn all red and i get all giggley. lol. but i love this becuz this is the honest to gosh truth.

  • Claire September 7th, 2011 5:41 PM

    This reminds me of a particularly awesome Don Draper quote: “What you call ‘love’ was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” While romcoms and Valentine’s Day are all perfectly fine (actually, just kidding about the latter), they’ve fooled so many girls into believing a false concept. And I realized I would never fall into a Pretty in Pink scenario in junior high, when a heavily Abercrombie-scented fellow asked me for the answers to a homework assignment and proceeded to be totally rude to me during the ballroom-dancing unit in gym class, so, you know…

  • madpie September 7th, 2011 9:31 PM

    All very true- but sometimes those storybook moments present themselves as well and you have to roll with it. The other day my ex rode six miles in the dark and rain to my house to ask for me back. We hopped my neighbors fence and went swimming in their pool at 3 am.

    Those sort of things can happen, too. If you’re open to it.

  • Luceisms September 8th, 2011 12:44 AM


  • devon September 8th, 2011 11:45 AM

    That last paragraph kills me. I find myself coming back to this page to read it again and again. Brilliant. Well done, Lesley.

  • xxxHannahxxx September 8th, 2011 1:34 PM


  • Wallis Kate September 8th, 2011 7:06 PM

    this is so true and beautiful.

  • JJ September 9th, 2011 12:58 PM

    Lovely..I need a little romance but I’m too caught up in my own little world to let anyone in.

  • Joey September 9th, 2011 11:23 PM

    I’m from the DC area and one time I saw Matthew Lesko in H&M wearing the question mark suit.

  • michelle_belle_de_jour September 10th, 2011 5:08 AM

    It’s so true about how when we were younger we thought that love was kisses on the cheek, sex on the beach, and heart shaped candy boxes. Yeah, sex does sell but now days I would like to think that there are young girls who actually don’t care about marrying Justin Bieber or actually believe in all that fake hollywood happy endings. it’s nice to want romance but there are so many other things we want to explore in this world. I love this website and the article was great.

  • jennifer23 September 11th, 2011 9:49 PM

    Do we really need to inject politically-biased undertones in a column about sex? Teens are impressionable. Let’s teach them to study and learn about both sides so they can make their own political decisions (hint: big, fat corporations and capitalism shouldn’t be blamed for all the ills of the world). Otherwise, neat web-zine.

  • banatee September 14th, 2011 12:26 PM

    ^ What is wrong with having political undertones in an op-ed? With all due respect, by saying “Teens are impressionable,” it implies that we don’t necessarily have our own political opinions formed already, and that we shouldn’t read neat articles about the objectification of women in advertising and the materialism associated with sex in our society because that would means that we would want to criticize the holiness that is capitalism! Or critically engage in issues that affect us!

  • anahirookie September 15th, 2011 1:10 PM

    nom nom nom nom nom