UK's Advertising Standards Authority takes a stand against objectification of women. Time for Australia to do the same.
A clothing brand Missguided has been told by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to not use advertising that objectifies women in future campaigns.
The retailer aired an ad during the TV show Love Island that “showed models on a beach with their legs apart in seductive poses, a woman running her hand up her inner thigh, a group of women in thong bikinis and another woman posing in a bikini with her legs astride on a motorcycle”, the ASA said.
The ASA received a complaint that the ad was “overly sexualised and objectified women”.
The brand argued that the ad showed "empowering, confident women" in bikinis.
While the ASA acknowledged that swimwear was to be expected in a summer advert, it concluded that the advertising was "irresponsible" and the way the bikinis were presented “invited viewers to view the women as sexual objects”.
'The scene of the four women in thong bikinis leaning against a wall exposed a lot of the buttocks and hips of three of the women. The very next scene showed another woman in a similar thong bikini sitting astride a motorbike and leaning back with one arm bent above her head.
'While we acknowledged that the heads and faces of the women were often shown, in many of the scenes the women looked seductively at the camera with their lips parted and their poses were sexually suggestive - in particular in the scene of the model sprawled out over the bike which presented her as merely a decoration to the bike."
The regulator banned the ad from appearing in the future.
Collective Shout commends the ASA for taking a strong stance when it comes to the sexual objectification of women. Sadly the excuse used by the retailer sounds very similar to that used by Ad Standards when dismissing similar complaints about sexualised advertising in Australia. It sounds like the UK is light years ahead of Australia when it comes to regulating advertising and keeping the community safe from harmful marketing.
We have documented the failures of Australia's self regulated advertising industry here.
The harms of sexually objectifying portrayals of women are clear. This meta-analysis states that:
Sexually objectifying portrayals of women are a frequent occurrence in mainstream media, raising questions about the potential impact of exposure to this content on others’ impressions of women and on women’s views of themselves. The goal of this review was to synthesize empirical investigations testing effects of media sexualization. The focus was on research published in peer-reviewed, English-language journals between 1995 and 2015. A total of 109 publications that contained 135 studies were reviewed.
The findings provided 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.
Huffington Post here
Daily Mail here
The sexual exploitation of young girls on Instagram must stop nowRead more
We were recently contacted by a small, anonymous and dedicated group tackling image based abuse. This guest blog post is written by one of their members to help shed light on the insidious world of non-consensual sharing of sexualised images on the internet.
Guest blog post by the Truffle Hunters
When the smartphone was launched about ten years ago, some schools saw the danger straight away and banned such devices in schools. Others allowed students to wear their sports gear to school on sport days, in order not to be changing close to a trigger-happy ‘friend’. In other environments, separated couples found themselves at war over ‘Who Kept Which Photos’’ and the dark bi-product was image-based abuse, more commonly known as revenge porn.
Thus, revenge porn became a ‘thing’. Kids taking sexualised pics of other kids without their consent in order to harass them online and share the visual spoils. Adults taking shots of partners in bathers and sharing on social media without permission. Partners posting naked pictures from a ‘fun’ session that was always meant to be ‘just between us’.
The landscape has changed, and the new image-based abuse sites don’t always contain naked pictures. Some contain fully-clothed images of women and girls, and let the captions do the talking.
“Check this fat slut. What would you do with her?! PM me with suggestions.”
“Rate my hot wife and her friends from 1-5 stars.”
“I love dance classes. Check the new leotards on my dau and her friends…”
"Looking for cam or mic comments abouts my dau."
"Looking for chat with guys who'd fu*k this fat slut."
"New dance costumes on my dau and her friends. Don't you just love tiny titties?"
"DWM looking for no-limits taboo chat." (Divorced White Male)
"Camel toe fan seeks pic swap."
"NY state guys seeking yng fans."
"48(m)bipervforUSphonechat about my fat slut colleagues. This redhead's now a lez. Group fuck anyone?"
"Timid boi for no-limits older"
"Bi panty slut sharing pics. PM for private room."
These are actual phrases which have been used to encourage commentary on wives, ex’s, girlfriends, daughters, nieces and colleagues.
The sad fact is that around the world, many thousands of men, often on a daily basis, are sharing photographs of their female relatives and friends, without their knowledge. The internet makes it so easy.
Meet the Truffle Hunters. They hunt nasty people online. Truffles are dark and hide underground. Metaphor established. It’s also an easier name to use with police, IT people, etc. ‘Troll Hunters’ has already been used.
This group started as a duo in the early-90s, when the Net was a new and wonderful thing that would allow communication and understanding like never before. One of the founders, *Chris, discovered that a colleague had been stopped after an overseas trip with some questionable images of children in his possession. He was charged with possession of suspicious magazines containing images of girls of unclear age but got off. A few weeks later, he started bragging in the office about being accepted as a trainee scout master. After a brief morning coffee chat with concerned female colleagues, Chris called the scout movement from a payphone, and reported the trainee who appeared to be getting ready to groom young boys.
Cut to 1996 and a new type of website emerged: The Chatroom. One of the first worldwide adult chatrooms was Bianca’s Smut Shack. Bored, and needing a laugh, Chris’ colleague *James started chatting online to people from around the globe. James found to his amazement that many of them posted porn images from other sites, which encouraged others to pile on more porn, engage in commentary and compare professional porn performers with wives, girlfriends and colleagues.
Guys started turning up at Bianca’s Smut Shack. Guys who would not always post pics, but make comments about females in their lives, encouraging other men to comment. One guy turned out to be in the same Australian city as James. He was also keen to engage in conversation, about his wife, her body, their love life, and finally, their daughter. It turned out that she was the man’s stepdaughter, however had been raised as his biological child, in order to “keep things quiet”. Her body was also discussed.
James made one of the great realisations of the internet age: that some people will happily give away details of their nearest and dearest when they are anonymously online.
So, the chat continued, and the man continued to happily talk about his wife and stepdaughter.
Over the course of several weeks, he gave away his occupation (metallurgy), email address, city of origin, PO Box number, Asian work trips, daughter’s name, school and description. He was then easy to trace and a full profile was jotted down by James. After a chat with a colleague who had founded one of the first cyber-security degrees, James decided it was time to stop the potential abuser in his tracks.
How to do this?
An email was sent to him the following week:
“You have been part of a university cyber-security investigation for the past four months. Your chats have been watched on a large screen. Please stop making crude comments about your daughter (name) and your wife. You should know better. If this happens again, we will contact the police.”
He was not seen again.
Over the next two decades Chris and James met five more kindred spirits, and the group widened into a network of seven, spread across Australia. They are made up of teachers, psychologists and parents. All have seen the effects of sexual abuse at school and in other workplaces. All are motivated by the ‘Ones They Couldn’t Save’. They communicate by secure email, and have their own ‘territory’ to patrol. These territories comprise chat rooms, Facebook, Appear.In.com, and other sites useful to pedophiles and sexual abusers.
One of the most notorious chatrooms is Chatropolis. It has supposedly been around since the early 90s, and contains over 25 rooms. Each is named with a different “theme”. Pics are shared, comments sought, and suggestive comments made. Most photos are not hard to trace. However, some are, and are stored on sites where they auto-delete after 24 hours. While Chatropolis has some rules on its front page concerning what can and can’t be posted, most have been broken on a regular basis. The site regularly has revenge porn photos, and occasionally child exploitation material.
Fortunately there are other groups around the world who do this type of work. Some invite a suspected offender to a public place to meet the person they think they have groomed, and publicly humiliate them. Some notify the workplace, as this has been found to be very effective.
The Truffle Hunters have a simple code:
- Spot the abusive person
- Engage them in chat
- See what information they will freely give
- Find as much as possible
- Try to identify the victim AND offender
- Report back to the group with a request for official ‘file status’
- All members investigate
- Spouse, workplace or police are notified
- Sometimes the offender is notified that they have been tracked
- Close file
This work has continued for two decades and shows no sign of being less important.
Recent cases include:
- Man from Melbourne who urged chatters to ‘wank-over-my-oz-wife’, complete with photos of her by the pool, unwrapping Christmas gifts, dining in a restaurant.
- Man from Sydney who urged chatters to comment about his ‘German MILF wife’. This was one of the most chilling cases. The man posted photos of his wife in a variety of social settings, in a variety of clothing. He was so fulsome in his description that a quick right-click and Reverse Image Search revealed the woman’s name, email address, mobile number, Facebook page (with photos of her two small daughters), and profession. If she was complicit in his games, she could have been struck off.
- Man from the UK who tried to embarrass his ex-wife online, by giving details of her relationship, sex life and church membership, for all to see.
And so to one of the most recent and worrying cases. “Gladiator” was a daily contributor to Chatropolis. He posted photos of his colleagues, mostly taken from Facebook (they were friends) with a few taken at work behind their backs. Six women were talked about in the most disgusting way, for a period of six months. How they’d spurned him, how they taunted him, how one was now a lesbian…. He included photos of one woman’s two-year-old daughter in the bath. He talked of the kind of violent sexual fetishes he had for another woman.
Gladiator was very careful not to give away any identifying information about the women. Oh, except their place of work (electrical discounter in a southern US state). Image searches, contacting the workplace, nothing gave away a name. The store never replied to emails, and the local police gave a lukewarm response.
Gladiator also had an account on XHamster, a known porn-sharing site. On this site, he put photos of himself in ladies’ underwear, along with videos. In his videos, he would cover an ipad with plastic-wrap, and masturbate over images of his co-workers, friends and niece. This is known in the trade as “tributing”.
Gladiator finally gave away one woman’s surname in a moment of extreme vitriol about his colleagues. This one slip allowed the Truffle Hunters to identify the women on social media, and warn them. ‘OMG I feel sick’ was the common response when they discovered what this man, their colleague and friend, had been doing.
The six-month operation culminated on Friday September 13. The women targeted by Gladiator were able to watch live on social media while Chris chatted with Gladiator and recalled all his victim’s names and best features. Screenshots were taken, and the police (who had known about this man for a month) were notified.
Gladiator has gone quiet, and is ‘retired’ from his Xhamster account kolnats.
Who are the victims of revenge porn?
Largely white, middle and working class women who have been in a relationship with a man who is given to hatred and envy. Photos that are posted are highly varied, but are mostly from holidays (= bikinis), dining out, or in suddenly revealing moments.
Also prominent are photos of girls in sports outfits, bathers, dance costumes and the like. They range in age from 7 to 18.
This type of image based abuse, rarely contains nude images. It is the words, comments, and suggestions that are dangerous. The women are also unwittingly forced to be in company they’d rather not keep. It is often easy to track women’s identities from these images. The goal of the men posting them is to get other men to contact women at work, or on social media, in order to embarrass them.
The Truffle Hunters are just one group.
(*Names have been changed for privacy)
Collective Shout is grateful for those individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes to tackle this problem of image based abuse. But why should they have to do this in the first place? In a society that sexualisates and objectifies women and children they are reduced to ‘things’ to be used and exploited.
Collective Shout is campaigning for a world free of sexploitation where women and girls are valued. Join us! Sign up here.
If someone has shared an intimate, nude or sexual image of you without your consent, you can take action now. Click here to visit the eSafety website for more information and support.
Collective Shout's Caitlin Roper quoted in 10 DailyRead more
The sexualisation of girls for profitRead more
We recently wrote to 7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay about the harmful sexual harassment mags sold in their stores. These magazines not only include pornographic images and descriptions they even encourage up-skirting which is a crime in Australia.
These magazines are classified as 'Unrestricted M' meaning they can be sold to anyone regardless of age. 7-Eleven is well known as a destination for kids with their popular Slurpees brand and partnerships with Krispy Kreme and Chupa Chups.
Yesterday we received a response to our letter from the 7-Eleven head and it is even more pathetic than we expected.
Dear Ms Tankard Reist
Thank you for your letter regarding the sale of Picture and People magazines in 7-Eleven stores.
As you are aware, the magazines you refer to are classified 'Unrestricted M' by Australian Classification, which is part of the Australian Government's Department of Communications and the Arts.
These magazines are sold in a wide range of outlets such as newsagencies, supermarkets and convenience stores across Australia and we understand some people may be offended by images displayed on the covers and within these magazines.
I can confirm 7-Eleven Stores Pty Ltd no longer includes Picture and People magazines as part of the product range we recommend / offer to our franchisees. However, under our Franchise Agreement, individual franchisees are able to stock products beyond those recommended / supplied by 7-Eleven.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this matter.
CEO, 7-Eleven Stores
In yet another display of inconsistent decision-making, the Ad Standards Community Panel has dismissed community complaints against a porn-inspired Honey Birdette ad. ‘Belinda’ features a series of close-up, head-to-chest shots of a woman wearing sheer, blue, mesh fabric. Despite the ad featuring graphic, sexualised imagery, the Community Panel made several unsubstantiated claims to ultimately conclude that the ad treated “sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience” – one that includes kids.
With references to the length of time the images are shown for, the effects “lighting” and “framing” have on the ad, statements about featured body parts being relevant to the product being advertised, and an announcement that “most members of the community would not find the level of nudity in the advertisement confronting or inappropriate in the context of advertising a mesh bodysuit”, the Community Panel gave the green light to this public display of porn-themed imagery to an all-age, non-consenting audience.
Portions of the report state:
The Panel considered whether the advertisement was in breach of Section 2.4 of the Code. Section 2.4 of the Code states: “Advertising or Marketing Communications shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience”. The Panel considered whether the advertisement contained sex, sexuality or nudity.
The Panel noted the Practice Note for the Code states:
“Images which are not permitted are those which are highly sexually suggestive and inappropriate for the relevant audience. Explicit sexual depictions in marcomms, particularly where the depiction is not relevant to the product or service being advertised, are generally objectionable to the community and will offend Prevailing Community Standards.”
The Panel noted the complainant’s concerns that the advertisement featured highly sexually suggestive images which resemble porn and which were inappropriate to be seen by children. The Panel considered whether the images depicted sex.
The Panel noted the dictionary definition of sex most relevant to this section of the Code of Ethics is ‘sexual intercourse; sexually stimulating or suggestive behaviour.’ (Macquarie Dictionary 2006).
The Panel considered that the depiction of a woman in revealing lingerie is not of itself a depiction of sexual intercourse, sexual stimulation or suggestive behaviour and that the advertisement as a whole did not contain sex.
The Panel considered whether the advertisement treated the issue of sexuality with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
The Panel noted the definition of sexuality includes ‘sexual character, the physical fact of being either male or female; The state or fact of being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual; sexual preference or orientation; one’s capacity to experience and express sexual desire; the recognition or emphasising of sexual matters’. The Panel noted that the use of male or female actors in an advertisement is not of itself a depiction of sexuality.
The Panel considered that the style of lingerie being promoted was sexualised and that this did add an element of sexuality to the advertisement. The Panel considered that the depiction of the woman wearing this style of lingerie was relevant to the product being promoted. The Panel considered that although it is reasonable for an advertiser to depict the product being promoted, the depiction should be treated with sensitivity to the relevant audience. The Panel determined that the advertisement did contain sexuality.
The Panel considered the meaning of ‘sensitive’ and noted that the definition of sensitive in this context can be explained as indicating that ‘if you are sensitive to other people's needs, problems, or feelings, you show understanding and awareness of them.’ (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/sensitive)
The Panel considered that the requirement to consider whether sexual suggestion is ‘sensitive to the relevant audience’ is a concept requiring them to consider who the relevant audience is and to have an understanding of how they might react to or feel about the advertisement – the concept of how subtle sexual suggestion is or might be is relevant to the Panel considering how children, and other sections of the community, might consider the advertisement.
The Panel noted that this image appears in store windows and considered that the relevant audience includes retail and service workers, people shopping in the Honey Birdette store and people who are not shopping at Honey Birdette but who are walking past the store, and that this last group would be broad and would include children.
The Panel considered that the flashing nature of the images may give the impression of a peep-show and added to the sexualised feel of the advertisement, however there was no focus on nudity or the woman’s body and the overall impression of the advertisement was not strongly sexualised. The Panel considered that the woman in the advertisement was not posed in a sexualised manner and that the wording on the advertisement was not sexual. The Panel considered that while the flashing images may attract the attention of children and people walking past the store, the images themselves were not overtly sexual. The Panel considered that the advertisement did treat the issue of sexuality with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
The Panel noted the complainants’ concern that the sheer material meant that there is a hyper focus on the woman’s bare breasts that this is a level of nudity which is inappropriate for a public space where children could view the advertisement. The Panel considered whether the advertisement contained nudity and noted that the dictionary definition of nudity includes ‘something nude or naked’, and that nude and naked are defined to be ‘unclothed and includes something ‘without clothing or covering’. The Panel considered that the Code is intended for the Panel to consider the concept of nudity, and that partial nudity is factor when considering whether an advertisement firstly contains nudity and secondly treats that nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience. The Panel noted that the bodysuit worn by the model in the advertisement was sheer and that her nipples are visible through the fabric in the images. The Panel noted that the lingerie worn in the advertisement is available for purchase at Honey Birdette, however considered that products must still be advertised in a manner that is suitable for advertising on the front window of a store that is located in a shopping centre.
The Panel considered the Practice Note for the Code which provides:
“Full frontal nudity and explicit pornographic language is not permitted. Images of genitalia are not acceptable. Images of nipples may be acceptable in advertisements for plastic surgery or art exhibits for example.”
The Panel considered that in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth images the woman’s breasts and nipples can be seen through the sheer fabric of her lingerie, however considered that the woman’s nipples appeared to have been pixelated.
The Panel considered that the depiction of women’s nipples does not in itself amount to an unacceptable level of nudity. The Panel noted that it had previously determined that advertisements which featured female nipples in a way which is discreet and not the focus of the advertisement (0543/18, 0134/19, 0157/19, 0174/19), when advertising to a restricted audience (0097/17, 0086/15, 0145/17) or when advertising a non-sexualised product (0290/14, 0103/12, 0276/10) and therefore did treat the issue of nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
The Panel considered that a large sector of the community are uncomfortable with images of mostly naked female breasts however the Panel considered that the brief display of the woman’s nipples were not the focus of the advertisement and were partially obscured by pixilation and were not the focus of the advertisement. The Panel considered that most members of the community would not find the level of nudity in the advertisement confronting or inappropriate in the context of advertising a mesh bodysuit.
The Panel determined the advertisement did treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience and did not breach Section 2.4 of the Code.
Finding that the advertisement did not breach any other section of the Code, the Panel dismissed the complaint.
What do you think? Does this recent Community Panel decision reflect your community’s standards? Tell us in the comments below.
Read the full Case Report here.
Popular culture bombards us with hypersexualized images of women and men, conveying powerful images that help shape our sexuality. Dr. Gail Dines, recipient of the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America, sociology and women's studies professor, and porn industry researcher and writer, explores how masculinity and femininity are shaped by pornified images that spill over into our most private worlds.
In Dr. Gail Dines' compelling talk, she exposes the effects of porn culture on pop culture and the impact on children and young adults growing up in a pornified culture today, addressing how nonprofit organization Culture Reframed is "solving the public health crisis of the digital age".