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.
Andrew Gregory CEO: Maccas is pushing soft porn to kids. What will you do about this?
These pics were part of a music video playing within McDonald's family restaurant.
According to their website Maccas claims their values are
- We place the customer experience at the core of all we do
- We are committed to our people
- We believe in the McDonald’s System
- We operate our business ethically
- We give back to our communities
- We grow our business profitably
- We strive continually to improve
We're #NotBuyingIt - the harms of sexually objectifying images are well documented here.
We call on Maccas to exercise corporate social responsibility and immediately remove all soft porn from Australian in-store screens. Implement national guidelines on what content can be shown on in-store screens.
Let's pressure Maccas to act. Add your name below.
We will keep you up to date with this campaign.
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".
Not sexually suggestive, but is sexually suggestive. Just two women posing in their underwear, but also two women in sexy lingerie expressing their sexuality.Read more
Objecting to the sexualisation of girls is not the same as objecting to sexuality: a response to false claims
The shame is not with young women’s sexuality but with a culture that teaches them that is their only value
Everywhere girls turn they absorb messages which tell them their value and worth is in their sexual allure and their ability to attract sexual attention.
Messages from media and popular culture tell them that it is baring their flesh and being publicly sexual which bring attention and value.
Young women are being socialised and conditioned to see themselves as sexual service stations for men and boys. Many feel they have to ‘perform’. Sexuality isn’t so much about intimacy or connection but sexual performance. Did he enjoy it? Did he get off? Did she provide PSE, the Porn Star Experience?
Some people with vested interests claim that those of us who are critical of the sexualisation of girls, and who cite a growing body of global literature detailing a raft of negative physical and mental health outcomes, are somehow against the expression of female sexuality. This is a deliberate tactic to try to silence reasoned argument. My colleagues and I experience it most days.
Opponents of our work collapse sexualisation and sexuality as one and the same, when they are not.
We believe girls have the right to healthy sexual development and to knowledge which equips and empowers them to make healthy decisions about sexuality their bodies and relationships.
But imposing a limited and limited version of sexuality, often inspired by pornified themes and messages and reducing girls to what they can offer sexually, is not good for them.
I speak to thousands of girls in schools a year. Many feel pressured to act in highly sexual ways. Many feel they have to give boys what they ask for. Many are engaging in sexual practices they don’t actually like or enjoy, but think they are meant to. Many are experiencing sexual harassment on a daily base. Many are experiencing coerced and unwanted sex which they rarely report.
Boys receive a message from the culture that girls are up for grabs. They are conditioned to thinking they have a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls. That women and girls exist for their gratification and pleasure. They are reduced to plastic sex dolls with open mouths.
Even primary school aged girls are absorbing and acting out the messages they take in about their bodies and sexuality, which is deeply concerning to their parents, teachers and child development authorities more broadly.
Objecting to the sexualisation of girls is not the same as objecting to sexuality. No one I work with in this area is involved in ‘shaming’ girls for being sexual. I’ve seen it claimed that we do, but there are never any sources to prove it, never any direct quotes. It is a deliberate strategy to try to shut us up.
The shame is not young women’s sexuality, but with a culture that teaches them that is their only value. That nothing else really matters.
Our critique has always been cultural. Dissecting the cultural messages girls get. In my talks I show 200 images from clothing, toys, games, magazines, music video clips, advertising etc which reduce girls to the sum of their sexual parts. The response is significant. Girls start to join the dots and recognise their objectification. Many are rising up in resistance. Collective Shout for example, has many young women in its ranks and is attracting many more who are rejecting the dictates and stereotypes imposed on them by culture. They are encouraging other young women to do the same. They will be the ones who turn this thing around.
Melinda Tankard Reist a writer, speaker and co-founder of Collective ShoutRead more
Yesterday I took two of my children into town for ice cream. This is what they were exposed to on a busy Perth street.
Ad Standards has previously dismissed complaints over this same venue’s ‘Miss Nude’ billboards, on the basis that “based on the location of the building, the audience likely to be frequenting the area are generally customers of the venues and that... this is the relevant audience.”
But the “location of the building” is a busy street in Perth- one with restaurants, ice cream stores, a bookstore, library and Time Zone, and the audience is everyone. Why do sex industry interests trump kids rights? If public spaces include adult venues, do they become off limits to children Ad Standards? Are children not welcome in public spaces?
The harms from everyday exposure to sexually objectifying imagery like this are well-established. With twenty years of empirical research, 135 studies found across 109 publications, there is no shortage of research into the negative effects of sexual objectification. Consistent evidence found that:
"regular, everyday exposure to [sexually objectifying portrayals of women] 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."
What is the message being communicated to my daughter about women and girls? What do images like this teach her about how her body should look, where her value lies and who she should aspire to be? What do these images teach my son about what women are for? How does this near constant backdrop of sexist and sexualised images of women’s bodies prepare them for adult life and relationships? This view of women as endlessly sexually available is so normalised and accepted it is routinely broadcast on billboards and shopfront windows and nobody even blinks. How does this perceived acceptance of women as sex objects impact young people’s understanding of women and their place in the world?
Ad Standards consistently allows the sex industry to target children.
This photo of a billboard advertising a strip club was taken from a Brisbane boys school. Ad Standards dismissed complaints, and ruled the strip club ad treated sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience- school children.
Ad Standards gave the green light to Honey B’s strip club billboard outside a school:
Ad Standards allowed sex industry exhibition Sexpo to advertise on school buses, including one emblazoned with the slogan "The most fun you can have with your clothes on" and others complete with URLs to hardcore live-streaming pornography.
A life size poster of this image was located on a busy Adelaide street. Ad Standards ruled this outdoor advertising was not in breach of industry codes and standards because "the image is relevant to the advertised product". The product was women, for men's sexual use.
Our current system of ad industry 'regulation' is broken. The harms of sexualising children are well-established, but the commercial interests of advertisers are time and again prioritised above children's rights and wellbeing. The ad industry was put on notice 8 years ago that they had one last chance to turn things around. The industry has proven that it cannot be trusted to regulate itself. It's time for a change.
General Pants has a long history of using sexist and sexually objectifying advertising to sell its merchandise. Their latest ad campaign, in store windows across the country, shows that nothing much has changed.
This is not the first time General Pants has sexually objectified women, or used topless women to promote their products. The youth retailer first came to our attention after featuring pole dancers in their shop window display in Melbourne's Bourke Street store.
In 2011, General Pants management instructed underage staff to wear “I love sex” badges that made them feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.
General Pants then displayed large images of topless women being stripped from behind by an unseen man. Some of these images were framed as large keyholes to suggest the women were being spied on.
A short time later, a supporter alerted us to the store’s change room wallpaper, featuring an array of images advertising pornography and prostitution.
In 2014, General Pants window displays featured sexualised images of young, bikini clad women in the bath alongside the slogan ‘Wet Dreams’.
In 2016, their advertising featured topless and semi-naked women alongside fully clothed men.
The research is clear- exposure to these sort of everyday sexualised images of women has a range of negative impacts, including greater body dissatisfaction and self-objectification in women, greater support of sexist beliefs and a greater tolerance of violence against women, as well as leading both men and women to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity.
The ongoing sexualising and objectifying treatment of women by companies like General Pants contributes to real-world harms for women and girls- why is this advertising still permitted?
Ad industry self-regulation in Australia is a failure. In the lead up to the election, we are calling on supporters to contact their local candidates and ask them to support a new regulatory regime to ensure public spaces are free from sexualised and sexually objectifying images that harm women and children.
Three years ago we reported on the extreme amount of hypersexualised imagery on display at Chadstone Shopping Centre. A popular hangout for teens after school, it was hard to walk from one end of the centre to the other without being exposed to the harmful ads.
A recent visit shows that not much has improved.
We know from two decades of research that "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."
Grant Kelley, the CEO and Managing Director of Vicinity Centres, who owns Chadstone Shopping centre, was appointed a Male Champion of Change in 2018. One of their goals is "ending everyday sexism". They even have a whole 18 page document dedicated to it. So what exactly is Mr Kelley doing to ensure that this everyday sexism is stamped out of his shopping centre?
Contact Vicinity Centres CEO and Managing Director Grant Kelley via his LinkedIn here
Tweet Vicinity Centres here
Send them a message via Facebook here
"A form of pornography"Read more
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