Does Sex Sell WordPress Themes?

In what is the first time I’ve ever seen the issue raised, WP Garage brings up the topic of whether scandalous images sell more WordPress Themes? In the examples Rebecca Markowitz provides within the post, there are a couple of images featuring women covered in different colors of paint while barely having any clothes on. The third example shows an image of a topless female and male laying on the floor apparently hugging each other.

Sex Sells Themes

Rebecca’s main concern is showing these themes to clients, especially younger ones where these type of images border on inappropriate. Obviously, for porn themes, sex sells, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a theme on a marketplace that stopped me dead in my tracks because of a demo content image of a naked woman or a naked man or anything close that I would consider to be inappropriate. Have you? Also, is this a legitimate concern amongst other WordPress consultants?


25 responses to “Does Sex Sell WordPress Themes?”

  1. Those examples – some of theme are tame or norm compared to what i see in print media (the print media that’s in the newspaper or grocery store shelves). Someone’s attempt at not using the same 20 stock photos perhaps.

  2. That middle photo looks like it came from Awkward Family Photos.

    I’m sure sex can help sell themes. It sells just about anything else. And sure it can be inappropriate for a younger audience, but have you watched TV in the last decade?

    I personally don’t think it’s been much of a “problem” with themes. At least, it’s pretty low on the list. People can put whatever they want in the demos for all I care as long as the themes have decent code. But alas, that’s asking a lot I guess.

  3. @David Bisset – Good point. Right near the cash registers at the local supermarket where I worked, they thought it was a good idea to put a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition display complete with the magazines in kids reach. That’s much worse than anything I’ve seen in a theme so far.

    @Brian Krogsgard – Over the past 5-10 years, I’d say sex as well as swear words are becoming more and more of the norm. Society is becoming much more tolerant of sex scenes on prime time television and swear words on Talk Radio. In reality, if a kid can make it to the age of 8 and not see a booby or two, I’d be shell shocked.

  4. A smart theme shop might do something like have separate sections of themes entirely, behind a question on the front page.

    Example, Dell has two separate stores, one for “home”, one for “work”. They both sell pretty much the same laptops and such, but with different marketing approaches and packages.

    A theme shop could ask the user for the purpose of the theme right at the outset… for business, for a portfolio, for artists, for a blog, for a community group, for a church, etc. Then tailor the images and presentation on the store for each vertical. Same themes, different photos and marketing approaches. Might be a better way to think about it.

    As long as you’re not too hamfisted about it, it would definitely work better. A church looking for a theme doesn’t need to see pictures of nuns and crosses and such, but they would respond better to more family-oriented stuff: picnics, people in parks, maybe a dog or two, that sort of general christian-ethos thing would be better images for such a page. Similarly, artists and portfolio pages are going to respond more to splashes of color, more chaotic imagery, much like paint girl above. Business and sales oriented approaches work better with blues and greys, statues, buildings and architecture, etc. That sort of thing.

    The general idea here is that you want somebody looking at a theme demo to be seeing what they think their own site should generally look like, and that is going to change primarily depending on the purpose of their site, in their mind. So asking that at the outset is a good idea.

  5. agreed with otto .
    Actually this topic had a good point. Pretty and sexy theme preview may attract users to buy or download the wp theme. like otto mention, separate the preview niche in each demo would be a good idea. if you selling a fashion theme then go for all pretty and sexy image, if for business then some serious and corporate image.

    or stick with the ‘boat’ image only like theme demo :) jk

  6. Thanks for reading my post – I didn’t realize this was the first time this issue was brought up! The thing is.. I kinda meant the “young client” thing as a joke based on the stock photo in one of the screenshots I posted.

    In reality, we don’t have any 8 year old clients, but rather, being located in Israel, we tend to have some traditionally-minded clients from all types of backgrounds and religions, and we often feel uncomfortable showing them themes with racy and provocative photos, that could just as easily be less so.

    Or maybe we are just so used to seeing these images that we don’t even think twice about it anymore. However, it does seem like there are way more racy photos of women than men. Should there be more photos of men splattered in paint, ripping their shirts or pants off? I joke, but is nothing shocking anymore? If that’s the case, maybe we should just stick to shots of normally clothed people, cats, and sunsets.

    I like Otto’s idea of being able to alter the images before showing a theme to clients. Wonder if it’ll catch on.

  7. Most of the themes offered are, indeed, very tame. There are enough themes available specifically designed for sex blogs, for the sex industry, and no reason why WordPress templates shouldn’t cater for this market too.

    In the end, however, with so many excellent themes available, it is the choice of each individual which theme they choose, and I am sure many would think twice before having a template which is too racy.

  8. The third example shows an image of a topless female and male laying on the floor apparently hugging each other.

    That’s inappropriate? For whom? Puritans? Orthodox Jews?

    Seriously, my Newsprint theme is being used by multiple pornography blogs, even though it wasn’t in any way designed or targeted for that market. Conversely, I can easily imagine someone being attracted by a sexy thumbnail even if they want the theme in question for a perfectly work-safe blog. Sex sells, yes, but that’s true anywhere and any time.

  9. @Felix – I had a feminist client that might have rejected such a theme based on that picture.

    Really, that picture has “erotica” written all over it, and while we see much worse on tv, avoiding this kind of pictures when you don’t intend to sell art, porn or woman, is something which should be explained in a marketing 101 class.
    How exactly will those pictures convince me that the theme is the best for my small bushiness site?

    Like Otto said, smart seller should have different show cases for different audiences.

  10. That’s never been a factor for me and I have never really noticed it. I go more for the cute and clean look and none of those really have any photos on them other than cupcakes or babies or whatever. NO idea what YOU’VE been looking at xD Or what I’ve been missing maybe? hehe

  11. Expecting theme designers to solve your own psycho-social hangups is like expecting a stock-car driver to repair your washing machine – it’s possible, but it isn’t their real specialty.

    If your country is one of those that blushes at the mere suggestion of a human being’s skin, then perhaps you should pre-screen the themes you show your clients. After all, there IS some work involved in selling themes other than pointing your clients to some random site …

  12. Yes, sex sells. Welcome to the real world.

    Boobs are amongst the first things we all have seen in our lives. At what point did they become “inappropriate” and why?

  13. @Steven Gliebe – I think “decency” is one of those terms that demands a black-or-white answer.

    Unfortunately the world is not black and white, so what you and I think is decent may vary hugely. How do you regulate “decency”? Every time it’s been tried it has failed, except in those countries where women have to be totally covered-up in public.

    Of course, women are also routinely raped and castrated in those same countries, so you have to ask yourself, “what price decency?”

    We can’t legislate morality, nor should we even try. Besides, the religion racket has a corner on THAT market …

  14. @Mr. Philstivus – People should regulate themselves. Yes, people have different standards. My point is that however tight a particular standard used to be, it’s probably looser today. That’s the trend.

    As Jeffro pointed out, what’s on television today is more bold than what was on ten years ago. The trend is the same in media and marketing in general, which includes theme demos. Some might feel that an increase in sexual imagery, vulgar language and violence does not constitute a decrease in decency. Maybe some even consider it progress. I would disagree.

    I notice a similar trend with professionalism. In general, my feeling is that it is declining.

  15. Yes. That is the way it is, now if you are trying to sell sex no not really it seems that people who are in the market for products aren’t necessarily looking for explicit or racey materials. They catch the eye and spark interest that is distracting enough to gain attention. So if you want to have someone look twice it probably doesn’t hurt.

  16. What sells is the whole idea, I have seen so many themes using wrong images, if you have a good image that helps your theme to shine use it!
    I have to say that in this case sex doesn’t sells, actually sometimes is harder for customers to imagine those themes with other images.

  17. I am sick of all the sex I see. I have worked in the school system, nursing field, and church. SEX IS EVERY WHERE NOW… children having children with no fathers. My county has the highest number of STDs in the nation… OUR COUNTRY IS FULL OF “FEEL GOOD JUNKIES”. I believe sensuality belongs in the bedroom with my husband only. I am tired of hearing little kids saying “WE ARE DATING”, having sex instead of playing innocent games, I am tired of there not being enough food that someone has to come steal from my home… I would gladly shared. I am tired of the perv at the end of my driveway only opening his door to stare at my 11 yr old. I cannot even let her outside for fear of him… I am tired of people preaching condom safety when the only safety is abstinace. I have used gloves made from the same materials as condoms, THEY LEAK!!! I would have to put 3 gloves on to get the protection I needed to do a job to keep from getting a disease. We take chances every day that we should not, but is it not time to open our eyes to the danger we put our children in ?? THEY NEED SUPERVISION/BOUNDRIES… WE NEED BOUNDRIES.

  18. @Heavenbound – Although the media in general uses a lot of sexual imagery, and there are sub-cultures in our society that embrace free-wheeling attitudes toward sex … the public WordPress community & the products they offer are themselves remarkably – even almost startlingly – free of sexual messages.

    So while it’s legit that you have a complaint about what’s going on ‘in the world’ … that stuff isn’t going on with WordPress Themes or in other areas of WP. The public side of WordPress is buttoned-up all the way to the throat, and you would never guess any of these people even know what genitals are, much less have them.

    WordPress is not aiding & abetting sexual liberalization or ‘coarsening’ of society. It is highly asexual, actually.

    … Which means, you should like it! :-)

  19. @Ted Clayton – although I agree totally with what you’ve stated here, I can’t help but wonder where the religious world would be now if their members were all asexual … ;)

    You realize of course that there will always be people that claim that since WP themes are used in porn sites that WP itself is a tool of the Devil … which is as pointless as blaming a gun for the actions of its owner.

  20. @Mr. Philstivus

    You realize of course that there will always be people that claim that since WP themes are used in porn sites that WP itself is a tool of the Devil …

    That’s an important point … and why I specify “public” WordPress.

    For sure, unsavory & nefarious entities across the board are even more likely to reach for WordPress than the average, because they are after a tool or solution that ‘just works’, and lets them get on with their task.

    Terrorists, absolutely. Left-wing and Right-wing malcontents, oh yeah. Domestic and international drug traffickers? All these and more testify to the utility and practicality of the WordPress platform and the themes & plugins that come with it.

    NSA no doubt have an ace WordPress-crew. As do Anonymous.

    There are themes developed for & by pornographers, but these aren’t offered to the public. “WordPress” doesn’t have them; neither the innocent nor the guilty can get them from the WordPress website.


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