The Lipstick Phallus

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I love lipstick. It’s a necessary staple and no made up face is complete without a daub of lipstick and interestingly enough, the most common color that appears in advertising – throughout history- is the color red.

Red lips signify a lot of things, but sexual arousal is the most common symbol. Even though the sexual innuendo has been constant, it’s only toward the later part of the twentieth century that we see the phallic/oral connotations associated with lipstick. Earlier advertising for lipstick tends to focus beauty. It’s all about sophistication, prettiness and, looking pretty, with many ads -up to the late 60s – featuring illustrations over photography. Then photography makes its entrance, as do certain social movements such as feminism and the sexual revolution from the late 60s onward, and advertising begins to change or become more sexual.

Take the advert above for Chanel (circa 80s) . Why would lipstick be positioned like this? Then there is the positioning of the cylindrical shape against the mouth, as in the advert below for Germaine Monteil lipstick in 1966:

It’s quite fun to see the phallic connotations within advertising but truth be told: the shape is practical. It’s a hassle to use a brush to apply sticky lip glosses.

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