"Advertising and promotion of liquor that promotes or tolerates a culture leading to the objectification of women, or an idea that a liquor can (or is necessary to) promote sexual success, cannot be condoned."
The Victorian Liquor Commission has issued a banning notice for alcoholic beverage Wet Pussy shot following complaints - and it took two years.
In September 2021, a Collective Shout supporter made a complaint to Ad Standards after the following ad appeared unsolicited in her Facebook feed as a sponsored post.
In her complaint, she wrote,
Both the name of the drink and the accompanying slogan, referencing women's vaginal lubrication during sexual arousal, are sexist, demeaning and disrespectful to women. They objectify women by reducing women to a single sexualised body part ("pussy") and dehumanises them in reducing them to a sexual function. The ad encourages discrimination and sexual harassment of women.
Ad Standards upheld the complaint, and the company responded that they had deleted the ad. But it didn’t end there. A few months later, the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Scheme determined the name and packaging was in breach of ABAC standards. When the company didn’t respond, the case was referred to the Victorian Liquor Commission.
"Not in the public interest", says Victorian Liquor Commission
More than two years later, the Victorian Liquor Commission has agreed, finding that advertising and promotion of the product is indirectly sexual or sexist and therefore not in the public interest. The ban includes using this name on its labels and on any website used to promote the product.
The report included claims from the Licensee (Wet Pussy) that the term is “not sexualised within the overall context of its current advertising” and that the website and social media did not include content that would be considered offensive.
The Commissioner rejected these claims, citing highly sexualised imagery on the company’s Instagram page, as well as the company tagging Sexpo, and comments like “[handle] loves wet pussy” and “Tag a mate who needs some wet pussy”.
The Commissioner concluded,
I consider that the advertising and promotion of the Product (including its name, label and on the Website) is particularly explicit in its sexual connotations. It suggests objectifying women is acceptable in the context of drinking liquor, suggests sexual arousal from the consumption of the beverage, promotes or tolerates a culture leading to the idea that liquor can (or is necessary to) promote sexual success, and is likely to be seen as offensive to a significant portion of the community. These are matters that harm the community.
I do not consider that the claimed absence of a large volume of complaints or a public outcry, or the Licensee’s submission that the Product evokes positive and nostalgic views, changes that ... The interests involved in the advertising or promotion of the Product are broader than only those of the Licensee’s target market or consumers.
Advertising and promotion of liquor that promotes or tolerates a culture leading to the objectification of women, or an idea that a liquor can (or is necessary to) promote sexual success, cannot be condoned. There are obvious harms that can flow from such a culture, including unsafe, irresponsible or unwelcome sexual activity.
This means that Wet Pussy will no longer be permitted to use this name on its labels and on any website used to promote the product.
The Commissioner considered that the Licensee had likely invested significant funds in the product, but the financial interests of the Licensee was outweighed by the public benefit of banning it. We hope Corporates are paying attention – sexism will cost you money.