Danger of Sex Selling: Anti-Booth Babe Movement

ComicCon 2010 is being followed from the booth babe controversy created last year.  In 2009, EA Sports held a contest to encourage men to “commit acts of lust.”  That raised issues of the contest increase the abuse of booth babes.  Booth babes is a name given to women who work at convention booths.  At ComicCon they wear scanty outfits to help attract visitors to the booth.  Gizmodo filmed a documentary that documents how perverse attendees mistreat the booth babes.  As one booth babe noted,  “It can get a bit overwhelming and there’s always that underlying fear that someone will cross the line. I have been very fortunate, however, and have not dealt with any overzealous fans thus far. I feel comfortable in all of my costumes. Wearing revealing clothing doesn’t bother me.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/newsarama/comicconwrestleswithboothbabecontroversy

Game developer Agetec has launched and anti-booth babe movement with a web site, http://www.antiboothbabes.com/.  Their point is the focus should be on the games not on the women.  The campaign began at the E3 convention http://ds.kombo.com/article.php?artid=1951. Another issue is whether or not the revealing costumes are appropriate for the younger attendees.  ComicCon banned the erotic models from the Suicide Girls.  Suicide Girls is a web site that posts softcore pictures of goth, punk, and indie-style women. 

The counter view is that the women are part of marketing and it is all harmless fun.  The problem is not with the booth babes but with overzealous fans.  As one booth observed, “It’s just a great social experience to do this sort of work.  Most of these events are pretty easy to do so long as you’re personable, and many are handing out free samples, which tends to put a smile on people’s faces… You might have to be willing to stand out in the hot sun, or put on a costume, but if you can handle that, then it’s the best gig around for someone who likes to be social and bubbly. And you never know who’s going to show up.”

Still purest wonder what is happening to what should draw people to the booths-merchandise.  “My biggest issue with booth babes is that all the parties involved end up feeling dirty,” Ian Cooper, a tech blogger for CodeBetter.com, “Male customers feel cheapened because the sellers assume they purchase based off some illusory promise of sex. And the ‘booth babes’ end up dirty from using sex to sell in the first place. Appeal to me through the quality of your product, that’s what I am buying – not your booth babe.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/newsarama/comicconwrestleswithboothbabecontroversy

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you consider booth babes a reputational threat to ComicCon?  Explain your answer.
  2. What are the ethical implications of a company using booth babes?
  3. What recommendations would you make to ComicCon about developing guidelines for booth babe costuming and attendee conduct?
  4. What does Agetec have to gain from creating the anti-booth babe movement?
  5. What are the risks and rewards of using booth babes?  Consider that over 40% of ComicCon attendees are women.
  6. What role might PR play in the booth babe issue?
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