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Consumer research has recently been confronted by two significant challenges. The common theme across these diverse writings is that consumer research can and should increase its commitment to furthering social welfare. Concurrent with this has come a burgeoning demand to examine sexism as a clear and present danger to the field e.
Framed from a feminist perspective, these latter papers called attention to both omissions and commissions in consumer research that acted to mute or distort women's voices. The present inquiry seeks to address both of these challenges by examining an aspect of the dark side of consumer behavior that is, and always has been, bound-up closely with sexism as a social issue - prostitution. Feminist critiques point out that at the present time as well as in most past eras, prostitutes have been viewed as profane commodities Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry They serve no familial function, and fulfill neither the domestic nurturance nor reproductive roles usually assigned to women.
Instead, prostitutes' social and economic value lies in their provision of a sexual service to men. They are, in modern terms "sex workers" Lewin , B16 , women those humanity is derogated by reduction to their sexual parts Bullough ; Perkins and Bennett In essence, a prostitute is a sexual commodity, a bundle of product attributes whose primary role is to serve as an object or product consumed by men.
In the present inquiry, we examine cultural attitudes toward the commoditization of women as prostitutes in three motion pictures. Following the perspectives of Barthes , , , Metz and Baudrillard , , our research views motion pictures as vehicles of popular culture that carry and communicate consumption ideology.
It is assumed that the beliefs and values semiotically encoded within the narrative are representative of the culture that produces and consumes them cf. Levi-Strauss , This line of reasoning has been well developed in consumer research since , when two articles Holbrook and Grayson ; Mick introduced the method of semiotics to the field.