Johannesburg – The Advertising Regulatory Board has ruled that a Sex Expo advert, which depicted a woman with long legs with panties down her legs, was sexually suggestive, portrayed women as sex objects and was in contravention of the advertising code.
The regulator received the complaint about the outdoor advert from Celeste Govender, who charged that the advertisement was inappropriate as it showed a woman’s legs with her underwear halfway down.
“It is unacceptable for children to be exposed to such advertisements. Any advertising portraying women or men as sexual objects should be prohibited.
“Just having the name ‘Sexpo’ exposed like that is extremely upsetting,” Govender complained.
The advertising regulator ruled in the complainants favour and since the Sex Expo was over, the organiser was told to “keep in mind the principles of this decision in preparing future advertising”.
The Sex Expo had sought to defend their advert by saying they had over 3000 ads – some on billboards and some on street poles – and only one complaint was received.
“Although every instance should be considered, it is important to note that over 3 000 of the same adverts have been placed on street poles around major roads in major cities, and no other negative feedback has been received.
“This clearly demonstrates the acceptance of the normal healthy nature of the expo and the advertising campaign by the community as a whole.
“The expo is a health and sexuality expo, providing adults with an educational, fun shopping and entertainment experience.
“The expo’s target market is females over the age of 18.
“The image used in the advert for the expo is focused on an item of female underwear, which is similar to items sold at the expo.
“The image represents the underwear being pulled up the female’s legs, and no sexual body parts are visible,” they said.
The directorate dismissed the complaint about the name of the event and noted that though there were some who would experience discomfort at the name Sex Expo, it was a legal event that was entitled to be advertised.
However, on the complaint that the ad portrayed women as sexual objects, the ARB ruled that the way that the item was promoted raised concern.
“The woman in the advertisement is portrayed as only legs and hands that are pushing the promoted underwear down, without a face or a body.
“The directorate believes that the depicted image of a female form undressing an intimate item is intentionally suggestive, and goes further than just promoting a lingerie item.
“The fact that the advertiser is promoting a sex expo, where the emphasis is, as indicated, on health and sexuality, and uses such an image, further emphasises the positioning of the depicted woman as a sexual commodity that has no face or body, rather than a multi-layered human being,” the ARB said.
It said the main purpose of the lingerie in the advert was to be removed, and this portrayed the woman in a way that objectified her, depicting her as a sexual object and not as a fully formed human being.
“In the circumstances, the directorate finds that the advertisement contravenes clause 3.5 of section II of the code by demeaning and objectifying the depicted woman in the manner defined in the code,” the ARB said.