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The inescapable fact is that sex sells

By George H. Gurley

My daughter and her family were vacationing in the Pacific Northwest when they came upon a sign advertising “Bikini Espresso.” Without giving a thought to the innuendo, they stopped behind a long line at the tiny shop. When it was their turn, they were greeted by a cheerful young woman clothed only in a neon-green bikini top, thong bottoms and fish net stockings.

“After she took our order she asked if we’d understood the nature of the establishment,” said my daughter. “She probably thought we were creeps for taking our kids to such a place.” Gill added that she’d always thought of herself as someone who shocks others, “but I admit that I was a little shocked myself.”

“Welcome to adulthood,” I said. “This is what happens when you reach a certain age. You become stodgy.” Her older sister muses about how dreams change with age.

“I used to dream about guys,” she says. “Now I dream about things like a new washing machine.”

It turns out that the bikini espresso phenomenon has been around for a while. “Bikini Baristas” are defined as persons “who prepare and serve coffee drinks while dressed in scanty attire such as a bikini or lingerie.” The “marketing trend” is sometimes referred to as “sexpresso” or “bare-ista.” Bikini expresso shops often have titillating names such as “Peek-A-Brew,” “Grab n’ Go,” and “Knotty Body Espresso.” A sign inside the shop my daughter visited employed a double entendre involving “two cups.”

It’s not surprising that vice squads have caught bikini baristas selling other things than coffee. The girls have been known to let customers touch them, photograph them and even watch them licking whipped cream. There have been cases of prostitution. Thus has the humble “cup of Joe” been transformed into an X-rated vice. By the way, the bikini made its debut at a Paris fashion show 60 years ago. It scandalized everyone, including French fashion models, who refused to wear it. The designer had to hire a stripper to show it off. The bikini was named after the atoll where the USA was testing the atom bomb. Attractive women were called “bombshells” at the time, thus the slender connection. 

How far we’ve come and how fast. In the Victorian era, table legs were covered lest they arouse lascivious thoughts. At the turn of the 20th Century, female swimmers wore voluminous tent-like costumes to conceal their bodies. Hollywood codes in the early 1940s permitted 2-piece bathing suits on the screen, but prohibited the exhibition of navels. “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking,” according to the song. “Now heaven knows, anything goes.” In this topsy-turvy world, the French — who were appalled by the skimpy bikini — are now trying to ban “burkinis” for covering up too much.

The inescapable fact is that sex sells. Good-looking girls, quaintly called “pin-ups,” have been used for years to sell bass boats and motor cycles. What shocks await us old-fogeys – Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima in g-strings and pasties?

— George Gurley, a resident of rural Baldwin City, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.

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