This question seems to cause more upset and mixed opinion than any I've asked in the world of poker.
As a writer for another site I created a series called The Female Perspective on Poker aimed at understanding how women feel about quarters of the poker industry treating them as sex symbols instead of talented poker players in their own right.
The women I interviewed had very differing views on the use of sex as a marketing tool to attract more players.
Some abhorred it and suggested the media should do a better job of focusing on skill. Some said sex should be exploited if the end benefit is to attract more eyeballs to poker’s little corner.
None Play Golf and They're All Well Endowed
A recent furor over Golf Digest magazine and a social media landscape caked in sex has prompted me to once again lift the lid on this debate.
LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan, and a whole host of female golfers, recently complained that Golf Digest put Paulina Gretzky on the cover of the magazine.
The daughter of ice hockey icon Wayne Gretzky is pictured in a tight pair of white pants and bra, and her only connection to golf is her relationship with pro golfer Dustin Johnson.
In fact the last three women to appear on the front of Golf Digest have been Gretzky, Kate Upton and Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders.
What do they all have in common? None of them play golf and they are all very well endowed.
Interestingly, Whan’s complaints are not centered around the sexualisation of the women but on the fact that it's not the female golfers who are being hoisted onto the front cover.
This is not a view shared by the female golfers, some of whom - Stacey Lewis in particular - have come forward to say that these sorts of covers mean "we don’t get respect for being the golfers that we are."
“I’m guaranteeing you right now, it was not a woman editor who chose that cover,” said former Golf Digest cover girl Juli Inkster.
Golf Digest editor-in-chief, Jerry Tarde, defended his choice of cover girl. He made it very clear that his job is to sell copies of Golf Digest and a photo of Pauline Gretzky will do that.
He added "she also might get some new people interested in the game."
Take a Look at My Lovely Little ... Dog
That last comment got me thinking.
One of the complaints that female poker players have about this hyper-sexualized marketing tactic is that is will stop more female poker players coming into the game. But is that really the world we live in these days?
I have 849 Facebook friends and follow 376 people on Twitter. My social-media streams are awash with photographs of women who work in the industry. And a very high percentage of them post content of a sexualized nature.
There's an argument that this is a male point of view and that my over sexualized eye can turn a seemingly harmless photograph into porn. But I ask you this:
When a woman sends out a photograph with the title "check out this glorious white sandy beach" and all you see in the photo is two grains of sand and two 36DD breasts bursting out of a tiny white bikini, am I missing the point?
"Take a look at my lovely little dog." OK … but why are you in a bikini when you've taken this shot?
"This is what I look like in the mornings. Check out my bed hair."
Well I would if you weren’t standing in front of the mirror wearing high heels, a thong and a teeny-weeny bra.
My experience of sleeping with the opposite sex is it takes me 15 minutes to get through all the jogging bottoms and jumpers if I'm going to get any… but maybe that’s just the cold weather in the UK?
My point is more and more females in the poker industry are waking up to the fact that in order to excel in the game they're going to have to market themselves. And that means, it seems, marketing their bodies.
They're not just OK with this this; the volume of photographs they post seems to prove that they're willing, and they're exceptionally good at it.
Does It Mean More Players in the Game?
So does this attract more female poker players into the game?
Nobody knows if the hyper-sexualized marketing strategies turn more people off, or more people on, but hasn’t the state of the female game become much stronger over the past few years?
It seems that way to me.
Female poker players are getting more exposure, and they are getting stronger. There are more sponsored female poker players than I can remember and it’s starting to be uncommon not to see a female poker player getting to the final stages of a major contest.
And this is all happening at the same time a section of these female poker players are choosing to increase their visibility in the game by using their bodies as a tool.
Is this any different than Vanessa Selbst using her skill as her marketing tool? Shouldn’t we use any attribute in our power to gain visibility, or else we get lost in the crowd?
If we know we have an inferior skill edge to the absolute best players in the game, should we just be martyrs to the cause or do we promote ourselves in other ways?
And isn’t it just common sense that if a women gains entry into the poker industry because of her sexuality that she will eventually gain more skill because that sexuality has afforded her the opportunity to play with the very best players in the game.
That skill then translates into success and more exposure.
The Last Time I Walked Into a Poker Party...
It’s time to admit that sex is just a part of the poker industry and if it irks you that much then find a different job.
The last time that I walked into a poker party I certainly got the message that it was, and I didn’t see too many people complaining about the excess flesh that was thrust into your face with more aplomb than the guys holding clipboards down the High Street.
So has the Rihanna "semi-naked selfie" marketing nuance actually done more good for poker? And if a female poker player continually posts photographs of her puppies, why is the media getting a hard time over covering them?
Why aren’t we seeing more female-to-female debate on this issue? Why will a prominent female poker player attack an article from the media that promotes sexuality over skill, but not direct that same ire at the female who has posted a video of her arse and sent it to thousands of people in the poker community?
So is selling sex a good or bad thing in poker? Over to you…