THEY SAY sex sells - to men, at least. Men, after all, are the wild-oat-sowing, fast-girl-seeking, do-anything-for-a-cheap-thrill half of the gender pool.

Our collective reputation as sex-obsessed hounds is well-earned. We like women of all ages, shapes and sizes. In fact, we like anything with buns. That's why Tastykake is such a big hit with guys. They're just like women - sweet, soft and they hurt you in the end.

Of course, that doesn't stop men from eating Tastykakes, and it certainly doesn't stop men from chasing women.

The fact is, everything men do is about women, which is why men don't spend money for anything that doesn't work toward that ultimate goal. For that simple reason, purveyors of guy stuff routinely use female images to sell their products. If this were not the case, beach volleyball would not survive as an actual televised sport.

Can you imagine advertisers plunking down money for a complete hour of fully clothed, highly trained athletes hitting a ball over a net? No? Neither can I. But when you strip the whole thing down to some sand, a ball, a net and bikini-clad women, you have instant audience, a TV network and advertisers out the wazoo. Heck, even George W. Bush will come. If you don't believe me, ask the chicks from the Olympic beach volleyball team.

None of this is new, of course. Men have always been drawn by the lure of scantily clad women and the promise of something for nothing. We've always believed that a fancy car or expensive clothes could make us chick magnets. In recent years, however, there has been a shift in the sex-as-marketing tool strategy. Companies are now using sex to sell products to women.

I'm not talking about the romance-novel folks who've prospered by hawking a shirtless, rugged Beauregard and his forbidden love with Miss Scarlett. I'm not talking about the erotica novels that have taken off in recent years, either. No, I'm talking about everyday items that used to be sold to women using colors and scents. Those items are now being sold using hopes.

To be fair, the way they're selling sex to women is far more complicated than the way they sell it to men. For us, all you really need to do is show us a woman who looks like she might be accessible, and it's pretty much a done deal. For women, selling sex involves selling the dream of elusive love, too.

Sephora's got a perfume, bath, shampoo and shower gel set from a company called Philosophy. The scent is called "Falling In Love." If you wear that scent, perhaps somebody will fall for you. If, not, you can go for something a little more secure. Simply purchase Philosophy's "Unconditional Love" set, and your man will stay with you no matter what. And don't worry. If you get a little flabby while enjoying his undying adoration, the set includes a firming body emulsion to take care of that pesky cellulite.

Of course, there's always that guy who just refuses to do right. When you run across him, you should use "Touch Me Then Try To Leave," by Benefit Cosmetics. And if you want to be flirty and sexy, you can wear their aptly named perfume, "Maybe Baby."

Not to worry. If all this loving and touching and flirting results in a special evening, LunaBoston can prepare you for the aftermath. The Rebecca Minkoff bag they're selling online is called - and I'm not making this up - the "Morning After" bag. The Web site promises that "You won't know how you lived without at least one in your closet." I'd imagine that the ladies who carry them might have more in the closet than some handbags.

But look on the bright side. The proliferation of sexy ads for women means that women and men have indeed achieved equality. Sex now sells for all of us. *

Solomon Jones will read from his Daily News column and his novel "Payback" at the Free Library Festival tomorrow at 3 p.m. The Central Library, Skyline Room, 1900 Vine St.

Solomon Jones' column appears every Saturday. He can be reached at