Manscaping your junk

A tv spot ad (only 15 seconds long) for the Gillette Intimate Manscape Kit (Gillette Intimate Pubic Hair Trimmer, Gillette Intimate Pubic Hair Razor, Gillette Intimate Pubic Shave Cream + Cleanser), released at least twice, under different titles:

— ‘It’s Not Junk, so Treat It Right’  [apparently it’s your “pubic region” instead], published 10/31/22

— “Respect Your Junk!”, published 3/11/23

Two matters of linguistic interest here: the noun manscaping and verb manscape; and the noun junk ‘male genitals’. The material I’ve collected on these is extensive enough that I’m not going to try to cram it all into one posting, but will split things in two, in follow-up postings on the noun junk and on the noun manscaping / the verb manscape.

Here I give credit to Victor Steinbok, whose e-mail query to me on 8/31 about junk ‘male genitals’ (citing the Gillette ads) focused my attention on this item, which I use a lot (men’s genitalia frequently being topical to my postings) but hadn’t thought about analytically for some time, and introduced me to the parade of manscaping products on the market, some of which VS had photographed on store shelves. The Gillette ads were especially interesting to me, because they doggedly refuse to recognize ambiguity — “It’s not junk” (as if junk can only, ever, mean ‘trash, waste’) — or, at least, they affect to do so.

Now, the usual complaint about contamination is that a new, negatively viewed, referent for some existing (but affectively innocent) word contaminates that word; the junk story is essentially the reverse of this, with a new, negatively viewed, word for some existing (but affectively innocent) referent seen as contaminating that referent. In the usual complaint, a new word-thing pairing contaminates the old word (gay ‘homosexual’ dirties the word gay); but in the junk story, a new word-thing pairing contaminates the old thing (junk ‘male genitals’ dirties — well, insults — men’s genitals).

The position in both cases is that it’s wrong to use the new word-thing pairing, because negative affect from one member of the pair contaminates the other. But in real life, the new pairing co-exists with the old; there is ambiguity (and ambiguities are all around us, no big deal). The real worry about the new word-thing pairing is that its negative element will drive out the old pairing — will drive out the old meaning (in the gay story, the word has indeed contracted enormously in its old meanings) or will drive out the old word. But in the junk story, I see no evidence that the words genitals, package, and the like are in any way threatened by junk ‘male genitals’. Nor do I know of parallel cases. The old words persist, but with new meanings.

What we’re left with in the junk story is the claim that genital junk is somehow an insult to the genitals. Which I suspect is just a hook for advertising manscaping products.




2 Responses to “Manscaping your junk”

  1. Mike McManus Says:

    Oddly enough, the first reference to the genitals as “junk” that I recall was in connection with the Cat Scan Contest, in which the object was to send in feline photographs made with a flatbed scanner. The rules stated, “We don’t want to see Fluffy’s junk up close and personal.” After that, I didn’t hear “junk” used much in that context until we moved to Seattle from Rochester, NY.

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