*Update* A prominent city strip club has been ordered by City of Adelaide to remove an offending advertising screen following complaints
South Australian MP Frank Pangallo has called out a porn-themed video advertisement being broadcast in Adelaide’s CBD.
The video, which was broadcast during the day in the CBD, is an advertisement for strip club The Firm.
Mr Pangallo said the advertisement should be banned or moved from public view:
"Council seem to jump immediately on traders who may have inadvertently breached outdoor or indoor seating/dining regulations but here they are turning a blind eye to blatant sexploitation and soft porn on one of our most prominent boulevards and tourist precincts."
City of Adelaide associate director of planning and development Shanti Ditter said that the council does not approve advertising content, and recommended complaints be directed to Ad Standards.
However, Ad Standards continually fails to be effective. Ad Standards regularly dismisses complaints against sexist and sexually objectifying advertising because there is "no explicit nudity", and permits sex industry venues to advertise pornography and prostitution to children on the basis that the advertising is "relevant to the product". The advertising industry has proven time and again it cannot be trusted to regulate itself. This is what industry self-regulation looks like- a strip club broadcasting video in the CBD during the day to an audience that will likely involve children.
In previous years, sex shop Honey Birdette Christmas shopfront ad campaigns have typically featured Santa Claus. One depicted the beloved children’s icon on his back being straddled by a lingerie-clad model, another with him tugging at a model’s underwear, and another BDSM-themed scenario shows Santa bound and gagged alongside a model in red lingerie.
It’s safe to say that our expectations for 2018 were low.Read more
Ad Standards has upheld complaints over a prominent Kittens Car Wash billboard in Melbourne, where sleazy men pay women in g-string bikinis to feign interest in them wash their cars.
A complaint made to Ad Standards read as follows:
It’s sexist and degrading to women. It encourages the notion that women’s bodies are for the sexual gratification of men. It’s in a highly visible area where families with children (including myself) pass by every day. It’s also primarily there to promote the associated strip club and as such is advertising sexual services in a prominent public position. It is demeaning and overtly sexual for a company who only wash cars. The workers wear bikinis to wash your car but the billboard is also to promote the strip club also called Kittens. It is on a prominent corner of a high traffic area.
Ad Standards considered the complaint, noting that the woman’s body was being used as an object to advertise the service. The panel found that the advertisement was in breach of Section 2.2 of the code which states: “Advertising or marketing communications should not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.”
The panel also considered the woman’s pose was “seductive and highly sexualised”, finding it was in breach of Section 2.4 of the code, which requires advertisers to treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
Kittens Car Wash has a long history of using sexist and sexually objectifying imagery to advertise their sexist business. The ‘Kittens School of Striptease’ bus advertisement sat on the corner of a major intersection in Melbourne in full view of traffic parked next to a bikini carwash. After Ad Standards upheld complaints against it in 2010, Kittens continued to use the same image on a number of different vehicles. Read more.
Ad Standards Board bans Kittens Carwash Striptease bus ad
Kittens Car Wash comes under fire from feminists for paying its female workers to clean vehicles wearing nothing more than bikinis and g-strings- Daily Mail
This is why we need legislation against Wicked Campers.
Ad Standards has upheld complaints against a Wicked Camper van emblazoned with the slogan “Nothing says romance like choking on a d*ck because you’re choosing his penis over air. Now that’s love.”
According to Mumbrella, complainants argued the vans were “highly inappropriate for children”, “damaging for under age children” and “vulgar”.
One complaint said: “They keep showing a disregard and just change the slogans to something else vulgar or offensive. When will people and children’s rights be protected from marketing material put out by this company. They do it with intention. That is proven.”
The Panel upheld complaints on the basis that the advertisement contained an explicit sexual reference and did not treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and was therefore in breach of Section 2.4 of the code.
This slogan, however, is not merely referencing a sex act- it is trivialising an act of sexual violence against women.
To date, Ad Standards has upheld more than 80 complaints against Wicked Campers, yet Wicked Campers refuses to comply with rulings.
Tasmania, ACT and Queensland have passed laws to deregister Wicked Camper vans if they do not abide by Ad Standards rulings. Collective Shout has called on Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia to do the same.
MPs in South Australia will gather on the steps of Parliament house on Wednesday, 5th December at 9.30 am to speak about the need to take action against Wicked Campers. We encourage our South Australian supporters to attend.
Wicked Campers are notorious for their sexually explicit slogans and imagery, even advocating rape and murder. Ad Standards is powerless to enforce rulings against them, and as a result, Tasmania, ACT and Queensland have passed laws to deregister Wicked campervans that do not abide Ad Standards Rulings.
We are calling on MPs to enact similar legislation in other states, so we have written to the following ministers:
Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Victoria
Michelle Roberts, Minister for Police and Road Safety, Western Australia
Stephan Knoll, Minister for Transport, South Australia
Melinda Pavey, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, New South Wales
The Hon. Luke Donnellan, MP
Minister for Roads and Road Safety
Level 22 1 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
We are writing to draw your attention to the passage of legislation in two states and territories preventing the company Wicked Campers from advertising sexist, misogynistic and racist slogans and imagery on their camper vans. It is our hope that you will do what you can to ensure that Victoria follows suit.
For many years, Wicked Campers has attracted widespread criticism for its normalising of violence against women. The vehicles are notorious for their sexually explicit slogans and imagery, some advocating rape and even murder. The company has also been criticised for its anti-gay and racist slogans. Images of these vehicles can be seen at https://www.collectiveshout.org/wicked_campers.
To date, Ad Standards has upheld almost 80 complaints against the company. However, the panel has no powers of enforcement and there are no penalties for non-compliance. As a result, Wicked Campers has ignored all rulings against it. Given the advertising code is voluntary, there is nothing to stop Wicked Campers from promoting content that vilifies women.
In 2015 the company released a sarcastic media release mocking complainants, stating, “We employed a team of highly-intelligent, socially-conscious super monkeys to closely monitor the subject matter featured on our vehicles and scream loudly when offended.”
Given Wicked Campers’ refusal to comply with Ad Standards rulings and its ongoing disregard for community attitudes and research demonstrating the harms of objectified portrayals of women (J Sex Res. 2016 May-Jun; 53(4-5):560-77. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1142496. Epub 2016 Mar 15.Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995-2015. Ward LM)) state governments must take urgent action to bring the company into line. Queensland, Tasmania and ACT have all taken legislative measures to force compliance.
In 2016 Queensland passed the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) (Offensive Advertising) Amendment Bill enabling the Department of Transport and Main Roads to cancel a vehicle's registration if the owners did not remove offending slogans within 14 days of an Ad Standards ruling.
Under the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2000, in the ACT, the Road Transport Authority can refuse the registration of a vehicle in the ACT if it has previously been cancelled and suspended in another jurisdiction. ACT Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Shane Rattenbury, stated that vehicles de-registered on this basis in other states would will not be eligible for registration in the ACT.
Similarly, in 2017 a spokeswoman of the Northern Territory, Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics minister, Nicole Manison, said:
“The Northern Territory’s Motor Vehicles Act allows the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to cancel registration of vehicles which are ‘a source of annoyance to the public’, which likely includes vehicles displaying sexist, discriminatory or otherwise offensive advertising.”
In 2017 Tasmania also took action against sexually explicit and discriminating slogans and imagery featured on Wicked Campers vans in response to complaints about slogans displayed on the rental vehicles.
On behalf of our thousands of supporters, we are asking that you move to implement similar legislation. We note that Victoria has taken a strong stand to address violence against women and commend your state’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. It is our strong view that moving to outlaw sexist and degrading slogans such as those features on Wicked Camper vans would further demonstrate the commitment of your government to addressing sexism in all its manifestations.
Thank you for your urgent consideration. We look forward to your response.
3 October 2018
At the time of publishing these letters, we have not had a response from any of the ministers. You can contact them on Twitter @LukeDonnellan @MelindaPaveyMP @StephanKnoll @MichelleMidland
Sign our petition: Drive Wicked Campers off the road
Honey Birdette is a serial sexploitation offender. The sex shop, located in shopping centres around the country, has attracted hundreds of complaints for its sexist advertising. Ad Standards has investigated complaints over almost thirty separate advertisements, upholding half, but Honey Birdette continues to sexually objectify women.
Last year, father and Collective Shout supporter Kenneth Thor launched a petition calling on Westfield shopping centres to stop Honey Birdette’s porn-themed advertising, but to date Westfield has failed to take any action. Enough is enough- Westfield must act on Honey Birdette sexual exploitation of women.
In this blog, we’ve compiled responses to some of the more common defences of Honey Birdette sexism.
1. "You see more flesh at the beach"
In response to Kenneth Thor's petition to Westfield, Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan claimed, “You see more flesh at Bondi at 10 am.” Monaghan has clearly missed the point.
The presence of female flesh alone does not constitute sexual objectification. The inclusion of attractive women in an ad campaign does not constitute sexual objectification.
Sexual objectification occurs when a person, often a woman, is treated as a body, or series of body parts for others’ use and consumption, when her physical attributes and sexual capabilities are regarded as representative of her whole self or seen as determining her worth.
Commenting on Honey Birdette advertising, Australian researcher Dr. Meagan Tyler said:
"These are not just images of women's breasts, they are sexually objectified and commodified images of women's breasts in public space. These representations of women, that reduce us to consumable body parts, reduce our recognition of women's full humanity and make it more difficult for women to participate in public life."
As Dr Linda Papadopolous stated in Sexualisation of Young People Review:
“Although sexual objectification is but one form of gender oppression, it is one that factors into- and perhaps enables- a host of other oppressions women face, ranging from employment discrimination and sexual violence to the trivialisation of women’s work and accomplishments.”
Honey Birdette routinely promotes the sexual objectification of women in their floor to ceiling porn-themed advertising, featuring hyper-sexualised depictions of women’s bodies or even just parts of their bodies. The women in Honey Birdette advertising are portrayed as though they are for men’s pleasure, defined only by their sexual appeal and availability. The message is that women exist for men’s enjoyment and entertainment.
Objection to the sexual objectification of women is not an objection to women, nor is it an objection to women’s bodies. It is an opposition to sexism, to corporates who profit from the sexual exploitation of women and have the audacity to claim they are empowering women in the process.
2. "It's just women expressing their sexuality"
If Honey Birdette advertising is an expression of female sexuality, “for women, by women”, then why is it indistinguishable from the content in men’s softcore porn magazines?
Honey Birdette promotes a very narrow view of female sexuality, one in which youthful, slender, and typically white-skinned women are depicted as passive objects of male desire. Female sexuality as represented by Honey Birdette entails women being sexually appealing to men, exposing their bodies and mimicking porn-inspired poses and acts. How does this differ from the sexually objectifying depictions of women for a male audience? Essentially, it doesn’t.
In her TED talk about growing up in a ‘porn culture’, Professor Gail Dines encouraged the audience to critically analyse porn-inspired depictions of women in media and advertising. Pointing to a hyper-sexualised image of a female model, she said:
“Look at her clothes, look at her face, look at her posture, and look at her gaze...who is she speaking to? Because the notion is that every image has a reader in mind. Before you answer, do you think she’s speaking to her mother, saying, ‘Let’s go for a cup of coffee after the photo shoot?’ So who is she talking to? Who is she speaking to? Men. And what is she saying? ‘F*ck me’.”
Who is the ‘reader’ or the intended audience in Honey Birdette ads? And what is being communicated to them?
Note the differing treatment of men and women in Honey Birdette ad campaigns. Lingerie clad women are posed alongside fully clothed men. What does this unequal treatment represent? Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth said, “Cross-culturally, unequal nakedness almost always expresses power relations.”
It is in Honey Birdette’s interest to reframe their commodification of female bodies and sexuality as ‘female sexuality’ or ‘empowerment’. “For women, by women” may be a great marketing hook, but the promotion of sexist stereotypes and sexually objectifying imagery of women does not become an ‘expression of female sexuality’ simply because a company with vested financial interests says so.
3. "You're just easily offended"
This is not an issue of offence or personal taste. Our opposition to Honey Birdette’s constant sexually exploitative depictions of women is not on the basis of offence, but documented evidence of harm.
Representations of women that reduce women to mere sexual objects, as sexually available and existing for men’s use are problematic not because some people might be offended but because they cause harm, primarily to women and children.
Researcher Rebecca Whisnant distinguishes between offence and harm. Offence is “something that happens in one’s head”, whereas harm is “an objective condition, not a way of feeling; to be harmed is to have one’s interests set back, to be made worse off, to have one’s circumstances made worse than they were...Whether a person is harmed does not depend on how she feels.”
The harms of sexually objectifying portrayals of women are well established. A review of twenty years of research, from 109 publications containing 135 studies found:
“consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.”
Honey Birdette’s attempts to paint those who object to their routine sexual exploitation of women as easily offended, prudish or even religious fundamentalists is a deliberate tactic to silence those who might threaten their profits, and to avoid engaging in meaningful discussions about the harms to women and children from the very sexual objectification they promote.
4. "It has no impact on kids"
Some people believe that children are unaffected by floor to ceiling soft-porn advertising in public spaces, such as Honey Birdette shopfront advertising. This view is not supported by the international research into the sexualisation of children and its corresponding harms.
Sexualisation of children refers to the imposition of adult models of sexual behaviour and sexuality on to children and adolescents at developmentally inappropriate stages and in opposition to the healthy development of sexuality. It encompasses sexual objectification and representation of children in adult sexual ways and in ways that imply the child’s value is dependent on conforming to a particular appearance, sexual display or behaviours. Children may also experience secondary sexualisation through exposure to sexualised advertising material and products aimed at adult consumers- like Honey Birdette shopping centre advertising.
Pic credit MTR/Caters Media
The harms of sexualisation are extensive. In its 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls the American Psychological Association concluded there was “ample evidence to show that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains including: cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs”.
Harms from exposure to sexualised content
There is a “growing body of evidence” of the harms to children from exposure to adult sexual content. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted that premature exposure to adult sexual images and values has a negative impact on the psychological development of children, in terms of self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships.
The objectification of women in media and advertising puts pressure on girls and women to conform to stereotypical sexualised beauty ideals. According to RANZCP, exposure to sexualising messages contributes to girls defining their self-worth in terms of sexual attractiveness, and the “excessive focus on appearance and narrow definition of attractiveness” contributes to the development of abnormal eating patterns and lack of positive body image.
Links between sexist advertising and violence against women
The NSW Government acknowledged the links between media and advertising reinforcing sexist and stereotypical gender roles and men’s violence against women in their 2016 report on sexualisation:
“The exposure to media representation of genders...can provide templates for what it means to be a boy/man (equated with sexual conquest and entitlement to access women’s bodies) and girl/woman (sexually available).”
“The NSW Government further maintains, in line with the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, that such stereotyping contributes to attitudes that support or justify violence against women and girls.”
Honey Birdette targets kids
So far, complaints have been made against 28 Honey Birdette advertisements, with rulings against the retailer on 13 occasions. Children around the country are exposed to Honey Birdette advertising every day. Honey Birdette is well aware of parents' concerns for their children, as outlined in frequent complaints, but it is clear the wellbeing of children is not a priority for them.
In addition to their standard sexually objectifying advertising material, Honey Birdette have gone out of their way to attract the attention of children in their advertising in public spaces. Several Christmas ad campaigns have included imagery of beloved children’s figure Santa alongside lingerie clad women, in various BDSM themed scenarios. One advertisement even addressed children directly, with the slogan ‘Sorry Kids! We gave Santa the night off.’ Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan dismissed complaints about the “fun” Santa campaign, commenting, “You can’t please everyone.”
The retailer continued to put profits before the rights of children, refusing to take down the ad even after Ad Standards had found it was in breach. “Nobody tells Honey B’s when to take down her signage”, the brand posted on their Facebook page.
The harms of sexualisation of children are well established and significant. We know that sexualisation presents a threat to the health and wellbeing of children, yet Honey Birdette arrogantly and repeatedly breaches the AANA code of ethics, showing a complete disregard for the most vulnerable members of our society.Read more
Mike Tyson UltraTune ad was #3 most complained about ad this year, but Ad Standards dismissed complaints anyway
Ad Standards has released a blog post naming the top ten most complained about ads so far in 2018. The list includes serial sexploitation offender UltraTune (#3) and the trailer for BDSM themed film ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ (#6).
From the post:
Community concerns about sexually suggestive content in advertising headlines the top 10 list of most complained about advertisements to 30 June. Concerns about violence are also highlighted.
So far this year Ad Standards has processed over 4,000 complaints, an increase of over 1,000 compared to the same period in 2017.
UltraTune have a reputation for sexually objectifying women in their advertising, depicting them as stupid and incompetent drivers- and they did so here. According to them, the vilification and humiliation of women is hilarious. Predictably, Ad Standards found that the women’s outfits were “not overly revealing” and they are shown to be “confident and in control”, and dismissed complaints.
The commercial, featuring convicted rapist Mike Tyson, attracted a whopping 134 complaints. Despite the overwhelming number of complaints over yet another UltraTune commercial that depicted women as brainless yet sexy, Ad Standards dismissed complaints.
It is clear that Ad Standards view of “community standards” is not in line with actual community standards.
Ad Standards uphold complaints against sexist NGU Real Estate video, but fail to grasp harms of sexual objectification
Earlier this year, Ad Standards announced long awaited changes to the AANA Code of Ethics regarding the use of sexual appeal in advertising.
We welcomed the updated code as a step in the right direction, hoping that the change would result in more complaints against sexist and sexually exploitative advertising being upheld. We continue to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the updated code to determine whether there has been any meaningful change in the advertising content that is permitted. Here is the latest example we’ve come across.
NGU Real Estate Ad
Complaints against NGU Real Estate have been upheld by Ad Standards. The ad for the Brisbane company was dubbed sexist, objectifying and dehumanising by complainants.
The real estate company’s three minute YouTube video showed bikini clad women, often headless or faceless, in a multi-million-dollar mansion, partying on a boat and swimming in a pool. The video featured gratuitous slow-motion shots lingering on specific body parts as well as sexual innuendo between women, with one woman suggestively sucking on her finger.
A still image from the video.
Ad Standards considered possible breaches of the following industry codes.
AANA Code of Ethics, Section 2.1: Advertising or Marketing Communication shall not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.
The advertiser, NGU Real Estate, claimed the sexist ad did not discriminate against women because “there are no acts of inequity, bigotry or intolerance against women”, adding that the models are portrayed “in a position of power and confidence” as a justification for sexually exploiting women’s bodies and sexuality for profit. Ad Standards agreed with the advertiser’s assessment:
“The Panel noted that the women in the advertisement were depicted as comfortable and confident and did not appear to be in distress or at the property against their will.”
Ad Standards determined the advertisement did not breach Section 2.1 of the Code.
AANA Code of Ethics, Section 2.2: Advertising or Marketing Communication shall not employ sexual appeal: (a) where images of Minors, or people who appear to be Minors, are used; or (b) in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.
The Panel referred to a specific scene which shows “women as being similar to cattle” and considered that this particular scene in the advertisement did employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative of women by portraying women as commodities or objects to possess.
The Panel found that the ad was in breach of Section 2.2 of the code.
AANA Code of Ethics, Section 2.4: Advertising or Marketing Communication shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
According to the case report:
“The Panel considered that there is sexual innuendo in the advertisement in the form of licking/sucking fingers and trailing fingers along shoulders but that this is only innuendo.
“The Panel noted that there is no actual nudity depicted in this advertisement. The Panel considered that the women in the advertisement are scantily clad, but that there were no nipples or genitals visible.”
The Panel found that the ad was not in breach of Section 2.4 of the code.
Ad standards is still failing women
While in this case, the complaints were upheld, it is clear that Ad Standards does not understand the nature of sexual objectification or why it is harmful. Treating women as sexualised props and defining women by their sexual appeal harms women as a whole, even if advertisers portray them as confident sexualised props. Sexual objectification may occur with or without nudity, with or without the presence of visible nipples or genitals. Ad Standards ongoing failure to grasp such concepts is alarming and indicates the current system is severely lacking.
What’s more, the many weaknesses in the code embolden advertisers to disregard Ad Standards rulings, as outlined in the final comments by NGU Real Estate:
Legal counsel advice confirms the following:
- NGU is not required by law to remove the ad or any part of the ad.
- NGU voluntarily elected to remove the instances of concern identified by the panel
and the complainant.
- The advertising standards and code are guidelines.
- Advertising is self-regulated.
- NGU did not act unlawfully.
While the revision to Section 2.2 of the AANA Code of Ethics is a step forward, we still have a long way to go.
We are very pleased to report that we have successfully defended our movement against legal threats from Sexpo, with the Federal Court in Brisbane dismissing an application brought against Collective Shout by Sexpo Limited. Sexpo Limited was also ordered to pay Collective Shout’s costs.
It was in May 2017 that we were alerted to public buses servicing school routes in Perth that featured advertisements for Sexpo. The ads included the web address for one of their sponsors, a broadcaster of live streamed sex shows.
Ad Standards dismissed complaints and rejected our request for a review. Case Manager Nikki Paterson claimed that advertising live sex shows on the side of a bus was not a breach of the code. Our petition to prevent similar ads on Brisbane buses, due out the following month, attracted over 5000 signatures.
Sexpo’s lawyers threatened to sue Collective Shout for damages for “misleading and deceptive behaviour” under consumer law, citing social media posts by two staff members.
Sexpo claimed that Collective Shout was misleading because the bus ads promoting MyFreeCams.com did not share a url, and only included the words ‘My Free Cams’ with no .com to follow. They also denied that the image existed on a bus or any other physical medium. Take a look at a range of photographic evidence that proves otherwise:
In the weeks following the release of our petition, the ‘.com’ from the following billboard was blacked out:
Last month, The Honourable Justice Reeves dismissed Sexpo’s application against Collective Shout, concluding:
I do not consider Sexpo has established that it held a reasonable belief that it had suffered any harm to its commercial reputation as a consequence of Collective Shout’s alleged representations such that it may have a right to obtain relief in a claim against it. Sexpo’s application under r 7.23 must therefore be dismissed. I will order accordingly.
Justice Reeves also noted that Sexpo provided more than 500 pages of affidavit material in connection with their application, yet only three paragraphs were directly devoted to the existence of Sexpo’s belief about its right to obtain relief from Collective Shout, an argument ultimately rejected by the judge. Real the full judgment here.
The ruling against Sexpo is a significant victory- not just for Collective Shout and our supporters, but for all those who support the rights of children to live free from pornography. The sex industry in Australia has been permitted to target children with advertising for pornography and prostitution in public spaces for too long, and we are more committed than ever to stand up for the rights of children.